Preparedness On The Fly: Water

Water is the item that you need almost more than any other thing in a disaster. You need clean water for drinking, you need water for washing and decontamination, you need it for cooking — you need it. Period. Yet, far too many can’t seem to handle the water going out even for a few hours.

To be truly prepared, you need three things: water, the ability to rapidly store more water, and the ability to make more potable water. You also need to learn the difference between potable, gray water, and non-potable.

Potable is water you can drink. It is clean, healthy, and what you are used to getting out of a tap, bottle, or other source.

Gray water is waste water that does not include sewage. Gray water can be filtered and purified to become potable. It also can be used to do things like flush toilets or other uses where water is needed for other than consumption.

Non-potable is water that, normally, contains sewage, chemicals, or other contaminants make it unfit for almost any use. It’s what goes into wastewater or other specialized treatment plants that clean it up enough to be released back into the world.

Violating the first rule of preparedness club, I do have both potable and gray water on hand. Part of the stock started with a job I had where I was having to carry in bottles of water to drink during the day as there was not easy access to water (or anything else). We will get into why if Jason Momoa wants to lecture me on the plastic bottles he can buzz off in a bit. Since I prefer to use distilled water for making my coffee, I have a small supply of it on hand. I also have two five-gallon paint buckets full of what is now technically gray water as it has been stored in non-sterile/non-food rated containers. Even though I added bleach to it to prevent microbial growth, it would need treatment to become potable.

The first two give me a source potable water that I can use for drinking, cooking, and other uses. I’ve had the fun joy of the water going out more than once, and more than once while I was in the shower or needing to get clean for work. My stored water has allowed me to get clean, rinse off, cook, and otherwise easily handle the minor disaster of having the water go off. The gray water has given me the ability to flush the toilet during those times. In any emergency, however, keep in mind the phrase ‘if it’s yellow, it’s mellow; if it’s brown, it goes down.” Save your stored gray water until you have to use it.

Now, since some disasters do give advance notice, you also need a way to store as much potable or treatable gray water as possible with such a warning. I have a variety of water bladders for hiking and such, water bottles/canteens, and even some collapsable containers in the car and inside. I would not mind getting several of the tub bags (WaterBob is the brand name I think) that hold 100 gallons each. Thing is, if you have warning, fill every container you can with potable water. Fill the tubs even if you don’t have a tub bag — it will need to be filtered/purified, but it is there when you need it. Use that water first, as you want to hold onto your portable supply in case you have to do the bugout boogie. Face it, your store-bought was designed to be stored, make use of that.

Now, this is a good time to discuss why I don’t care if Jason Momoa or any other celebrity doesn’t like my bottled water. Let’s say we are in a major disaster, and you are having to get into and stay in the shelter we discussed in the Nuclear 101/201 series because there is indeed fallout coming down. Unless you’ve got lots of plastic, tape, and shielding materials, your safe room does not extend to the restroom. So, you need something for that purpose.

As Dean Ing notes in Pulling Through, a five-gallon paint bucket makes a great emergency toilet. Put three garbage bags in it, and you have one you can keep using as you seal up the bags and put them out when the limit is reached. Heck, he even tells you how to make an improvised toilet seat. Allow me to strongly recommend that you only want to use it for fecal matter. Why?

Well, you really need to use any empty water bottles to hold urine. It’s secure storage, and in a really bad emergency you can (and will) drink it. In fact, you can “recycle” that way several times, but it’s diminishing returns each time. It also means you don’t have to leave your secure area to use the bathroom.

However, if you have a filter/purification system, you can process urine back into something close to pure water. The best option for such are to get the systems designed for backpackers and campers. They are light, sturdy, mobile, and very effective. If you have to do the bugout boogie, they are set to go.

You want systems that can both filter and purify, those being two different things. In fact, I mentioned yesterday that I would love to upgrade mine given advances in technology, and I would also add a couple of the large systems so that one could be dedicated to urine and such.

You can also improvise a good filtration system if you have uncontaminated sand. I would recommend getting the directions online (can’t remember if that’s one Dean got into in Pulling Through). A decent sand trap can handle some nasty stuff, and get you by.

It also won’t hurt to have some of the backpacking water bottles that have filtration and/or purification systems inside them. If we hit a fallout situation, the more times things are filtered, the better. That can also be important if you needing to purify water from tubs, urine, etc. If you don’t have one, but do have some of the water purification tablets, use them.

Also, if the taps are still working and the water is safe, refill your water bottles and other containers for as long as the water lasts. It’s when the taps stop working that it’s going to get interesting.

Also, while you are at the camping store, get two or more of those camping showers. You will want one for regular bathing if the water situation is good. You should, however, have two that can be used for decontamination. I’m not going to go into that process today, but you can use one such shower with gray water to do the first rinse of the outer gear so it is safe (as possible) to remove, and the second further in to wash the person.

You can improvise such easily enough, but they are not expensive and if you camp or hike, they are useful outside of a disaster. Just remembered how a member of my World Jamboree troop made bank by improvising one and selling hot private showers during the Jamboree. The official showers were open air (the local girls came and enjoyed the show), and the water came straight (and unheated) from a glacier-fed river (which reduced the show). Yes, he had more business than he could handle.

So, the rule of preparedness club on water is stock as much as you can. Be prepared to store as much as you can beyond that if there is warning and time. Be prepared to “make” more potable water at need. As with food, go to minimum needs at the start so you can make all you have last as long as possible. “Recycling” works, but you really don’t want to and if you do, you want to put it off as long as possible. Again, I’ve used my stocks and gear to handle the minor disasters of life more than once. Well worth the investment even if you don’t camp.


Preparedness On The Fly (Food)


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