Friday, September 13, 2013

The Countdown: 10 Things You Need to Know How To Do Before You Lose Electricity!

#2: Obtain Safe Drinking Water

Since we are about to hit the active period during our hurricane season here in the US, I thought it would be beneficial to create a 'Top 10 List' of things you should know how to do without electricity. Most of these things will be extremely important if you had to go without electricity for a few weeks (or longer). However, many of them also apply to power outages of just a few days. So, every Friday, until we countdown to #1, I will highlight a necessary skill to keep your house running as 'normal' as possible. Once you learn about these 10 things, you should be able to keep your house running normally during any power outage from a few days to a few months or longer, if that becomes necessary.

I do want to mention, none of these things will include the use of a generator. While generators do work short term, IMHO, there is no way you can store enough gasoline to keep the generator running for a long term outage. My strategy is to use 18th and 19th century skills to keep my house running. I don't even own a generator. 

I created this 'Top 10 List' and the subject matter and countdown order are mine alone. You may not agree with my list. That is no problem! You are welcome to share your ideas in the comments section. We all learn when differing viewpoints are shared respectfully!


How do you get your drinking water? Are you on a well? Do you have city water? Answering these questions will determine if finding clean drinking water will be a problem or not in an emergency. If you are on a well and you lose power, you are going to lose the ability to get water. I know a lot of people with a well, have a hand pump to allow them access to their well water. People who have city water may not have an issue if the power outage is short term. Longer term, there may be a boil water order in effect or you may not have water at all.

I hope this post will get you thinking about what you would do if you turned on a faucet in your house and nothing happened. Not a drop of water came out.  Because this is such a serious issue, FEMA recommends to store some drinking water along with food to get you through an emergency. But, how much water should you store? FEMA recommends families store one gallon per person per day. Well, I know from experience this isn't enough. One gallon won't cover cooking, washing dishes, daily drinking needs, brushing teeth, washing hands, and all other hygiene needs. You will need a lot more than one gallon a day. The problem is water is heavy and takes up a lot of room. So, what do you do? My advice is to take a comprehensive approach. Sort of like a first line of defense, second line of defense and onward. That way, with a short power outage you may only need to use your first line of defense. If the outage lasts for a few weeks or longer (like in a hurricane) you may need to put into place your second and third line of defense, etc. 

Here are some things I have identified:

  • The first line of defense is to store water. Store as much as you can. Try to gather about 100 gallons. (You may want more if you have a big family.) You can do this in a few ways. Quite a few emergency preparedness stores sell 55 gallon drums for water storage that you can put in your garage or basement. Many are stackable. While they are quite heavy, the stackable ones don't have that large a footprint. Select the location wisely because you won't be able to move one of these drums once it is filled. If that idea won't work for you, you can store water in smaller containers. Here is a blog post about storing water in two liter soda bottles. In this blog post, the author discusses the challenges of where to put all those bottles in a small home. I store water in some of the closets of my home. I don't have the space for 55 gallon drums. I have shown this picture before, but here is how I store my water, five gallons at a time. As you can see from the picture below, I filled this box in August 2012. Stored water should be changed out each year. I need to add this to my 'to do' list because it is time to change the water in this container.
  • If needed, another thing you can do to get clean water is to empty out your hot water heater. Make sure you have a manual for your make/model so you know how to draw out the water safely. Be sure to cut the heater off first. You can also open up all the faucets on the second story (if you have a two story house) and then go downstairs and open up a faucet to access the water in your pipes. While this won't amount to a lot of water, it is still better than nothing. When the power comes back on, expect to run the faucets a while to get all the air out. While I wouldn't drink it, you also have access to water in the back of the toilets. This water can be used to wash clothes, clean the house, or just wash your hands if you don't have anything else.
  • The second line of defense should get you thinking about what you would do if you used up all your stored water. What comes to mind for me is a water filtration system. There are a lot of good ones on the market that will filter out the bacteria that cause dysentery. The two common bacteria in lake and river water are giardia and cryptosporidium. Filter systems from manufacturers such as Berkey, Sawyer, Katadyn and Doutlon will all produce safe drinking water. Many will filter out other impurities as well. Do some research to see what price range, filtering quality and filter capacity you will need for your family. Some of these filters can handle up to 30,000 gallons of water. This really should be plenty of water for most emergencies you will face.
  • All the filters mentioned above will eventually wear out. So, if you need a third line of defense, boiling all water is a good one. However, this requires fuel to do so. BTW - I don't list it as a second line of defense because boiling all your water before you use it is a lot of work! I would only do it if I had no other choice. Cody Lundin, in his book When All Hell Breaks Loose: The Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes, talks about using the sun to disinfect water using any clear plastic or glass container (page 177). Alternatively, you can pasteurize water in a Sun Oven. It is easy to do with a WAPI. You can also treat raw water with chlorine. A bottle of liquid bleach will do if the bottle is new - liquid bleach is only good for about six months. Another option is to store powdered chlorine.
  • Be sure to think about where are you going to find raw water to treat. Water is all around us if we look for it. Community swimming pools, rainwater collection systems, a lake or pond, a stream or river are all sources of raw water that you can treat to obtain safe drinking water. Next time you are running errands in the car, look around for bodies of water that are near to your home, preferably within walking distance. Think about how you would get that water back to your house so you could treat it. In his book, Cody Lundin has some great ideas on where to find water in the chapter Wonderfully Wet and Wanted Water.
It is really important that you do your own research on the best ways to treat water for your family. This is an issue that is critical to keeping your family healthy! Get it wrong, and your whole family could get sick! Once you are satisfied with your level of research, create a plan for treating water that you can implement, if needed, in the event of an emergency. 

Here are some website that give even more ideas:

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