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The Most Important Ingredient in Your Emergency Kit

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If you have put together a disaster preparedness kit for your home, you know there are many supplies your family will need in an emergency.  Ready.gov advises keeping a hand-crank radio, a flashlight, batteries, a first aid kit, plastic sheeting, and a three day supply of food on hand, as well as several other items that could be necessary.  It’s important to make sure you and your family are well taken care of in the face of diversity.  One of the most vital components of such an emergency kit is water.  Most experts agree that a person can’t survive for more than three days without it.

     If your water supply is cut off for any reason, you will still need enough water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene.  Plan on at least one gallon of water per person per day for three days.  This formula means a family of four will need twelve gallons of water in their emergency kit.  Don’t forget to include your pets when you’re counting your family members.  Store your water in a cool, dark place in sanitized containers, and replace it every six months to keep it fresh.          

     In the case of a prolonged disaster, you may go through all of the water you have in storage.  Don’t try to ration the water if it gets low; it’s not worth risking your health.  You may be able to find supplies of water right inside your home, such as in the water heater tank and the toilet tank (provided it hasn’t been treated with cleaning chemicals).  The liquid in cans of fruits and vegetables can also be a viable source of hydration.  Outside the home, water can be gathered from rain or snow, natural springs, streams, and lakes.

     If you do replenish your stock of water from any of these sources, you need to make sure it’s safe to drink.  Boiling is the best way to neutralize viruses, bacteria, and parasites that could be in your water.  Bring it to a full, rolling boil for at least one minute to ensure the sanitization process is complete.  If the water is cloudy, it should be strained through a clean cloth or coffee filter first.  Water sanitation tablets and portable filters are available at most sporting goods and outdoor specialty stores, but they may not be as effective as boiling.  Keep in mind that none of these processes will remove fuel or other toxic chemicals, so consider the source of your water carefully.

     Water is a vital part of any emergency kit, and it’s just as critical whether it’s summer or winter.  Follow proper health procedures and plan accordingly when putting your disaster supplies together.  Make sure you have enough water on hand and know where to get more if you run out.  For more information, check out ready.gov or fema.gov/areyouready.