Ironically enough, one of the biggest concerns
during a flood is having enough fresh water. And since you can only live about 3 days without
water, having a safe supply should be your top priority. The normal sources of clean
water for drinking, cooking and bathing can become contaminated or even destroyed. Heavy
rains can cause safe water supplies to be filled with debris, trash, dead animals, and
even raw sewage inside cities. Floods that are large enough can breach dams and levees,
causing lakes and reservoirs to empty, rivers to sweep across the landscape, and main water
lines to rupture. The two best ways to ensure a safe water supply
during a natural disaster are storing clean water and keeping a water purification option
on hand at all times. Survival experts say that you’ll need at least
one gallon of drinking water, per person per day just for survival, and up to 3 gallons
per person per day if you plan to do any cooking or cleaning that involves water. If you’re
preparing for a family of four, that would be 12 gallons of water to get through one
day, or 84 gallons if your emergency lasts a week. If normal water supplies are cut off
for more than a few days, or if you’re forced to leave your home, chances are you’ll have
to find another source of water besides what you’ve already stored.
The one obvious way to store water is to stock up on commercial bottled water at your local
grocery or big-box store. If you go this route, be sure to purchase your bottled water well
before an emergency happens. When a flood or other natural disaster is imminent, everyone
will be in a panic trying to buy bottled water and the stores will be in a state of pandemonium.
A quick note, with commercially bottled water, it’s a good idea to rotate stocks every year.
Another easy way to store water, suggested by FEMA, is merely to use tap water to fill
washed out, 2-liter bottles. If you prefer a more versatile storage option we’d recommend
Water Brick stackable containers. They come in both 1.6 gallon and 3.5 gallon sizes. They’re
stackable, and they can easily store water in a safe, secure place in your home. It’s
definitely a great idea to keep a Water Brick in the back of an SUV or truck, or in the
trunk of a car to keep you ready not only for floods, but any natural disaster.
If you’re storing tap water in the Water Brick, be sure to cycle out the water every 6 months
or so. Water Brick suggests adding two drops of non-scented bleach to every gallon of tap
water you store, especially if it comes from a well or other water source that is not already
treated with chlorine. This small amount of bleach is safe to consume with water and will
help prevent bacteria from growing in the water while you store it.
A ready-made water source found in most houses is the water heater. To get water, all you
have to do is open the valve at the bottom of the tank to collect up to 40 or 50 gallons.
You can also collect rain water using a rain barrel or pull water from a stream or lake
located on higher ground as long as it hasn’t been contaminated by flood waters. No matter
what source you collect extra water from, if you have any questions at all about its
safety, you MUST purify it. For collected water, you may need to start
by filtering out visible particles. To do this, you can always go with the tried and
true mechanical purification method of running the water through a barrier, such as a coffee
filter, home drinking water filter, or even through a T-shirt. There are also options
like the LifeStraw Personal Filter, which is capable of filtering up to 264 gallons;
or the LifeStraw Family 1.0, which has a flow rate of 9-12 liters per hour for up to 4,700
gallons total. To put that in perspective, 4,700 gallons is enough to supply for a family
of five for three years. While these methods take care of larger particles,
not all methods remove any harmful bacteria, viruses or protozoa; so you should also purify
it using one of the following methods. The most widely known way to purify water
is to bring it to a rolling boil for at least one full minute. This kills any harmful bacteria,
germs or viruses, but also means that some of the water will escape as steam. Be sure
you let the water cool before you drink it. Because the boiling process removes the oxygen
from water, it can sometimes have a “flat” or stale taste afterwards. To remedy this,
simply pour the water back and forth between clean containers to add the air back into
it. Keep in mind that a flood, like other disasters,
can knock out electricity or gas power, making it difficult, if not impossible to boil water
in the usual way. So make sure you have a lighter and windproof and waterproof matches,
like those from Stansport, or a flint firestarter like any of those offered by UST. To make
starting a fire a bit easier on yourself, you might also want to keep a fuel source
in your supplies, like NDur’s Utility Flame gel pack or some sort of tinder. And make
your water-boiling fire outside in a safe location.
As we mentioned before, adding a very small amount of unscented bleach will purify tap
water. However, purifying water that you think may be contaminated requires quite a bit more.
FEMA suggests adding 16 drops of bleach per gallon of potentially contaminated water and
then letting it sit for 30 minutes. If the water doesn’t smell like bleach after 30 minutes,
add 16 more drops per gallon and wait another 15 minutes. At that point, if the water still
doesn’t smell like bleach after the second treatment, throw it out and find a new source
of water. In lieu of bleach, water purification tablets
like the iodine or chlorine oxide tablets from Potable Aqua are another effective way
to purify questionable water. Just make sure that you read and understand the instructions
that come with any purification tablets in order to use them safely. And it should go
without saying that people with Iodine allergies should not use iodine purification tablets.
The quickest alternative to boiling, bleach or tablet purification is to use a UV light
purifier. Hydro-Photon makes a variety of them called “SteriPens.” All of them work
best with water that’s already had the visible particles filtered out, and they kill up to
99.9% of harmful bacteria, viruses and protozoa in up to a liter of water, in 90 seconds or
less. All of the options we’ve discussed are effective,
but it’s worth noting that you should have at least one method for filtering out larger
particles as well as at least one method for purification. And it’s definitely a good idea
to have both stored clean water, and a couple of ways to purify found or collected water
BEFORE a flood or natural disaster happens. Remember, you need clean water to survive
and because water source contamination is one of the most common problems during and
after a flood, solving this issue should be your top priority.