Surviving Storms and Natural Disasters – Food and Water Safety

How to Survive Storms and Natural Disasters?

Hurricanes are an annual reminder of the power of water. Aside from the brute-force strength of these storms and natural disasters, a more lingering threat is what they leave behind – sometimes, municipal water systems tainted by sea water, or polluted water sitting in the streets. Disaster preparedness should always include a plan for providing each member of your family with enough safe water and food for at least three days. But if you’re ever caught off-guard, following is what you need to know about safe drinking water and food:

General Precautions for Drinking Water:

Do not drink water that has an odor, appears dark or cloudy or has debris floating in it without taking one of the following precautions:

  • Boil water to kill most dangerous organisms that might be present. First, strain the water though a clean cloth to remove any sediment and carefully pour the clean water into a heat-safe container. Bring the water to a hard boil and let it boil for one minute. Allow it to cool, then store it in sterile containers with lids.
  • If boiling isn’t an option, disinfect available water with household bleach. To clean clear water, strain water, then add eight drops of bleach per gallon. For cloudy water, add 16 drops per gallon. For either clear or cloudy water, allow the water to stand for 30 minutes before using. Never use bleach that has perfumes or ingredients other than hypochlorite.
  • Include a personal water filter such as the Life-straw in your emergency preparedness kit. Personal filters are portable and can be used to make any water safe and drinkable. If you have time to prepare for a storm, fill clean containers with filtered water and store them in the refrigerator. Cold water will help keep the interior of the fridge cold, in the event you lose power.
  • Use water purification tablets according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Do not drink from a private water well that may have been flooded until it has been tested by the state health department or an agriculture extension agent. Your well may need to be disinfected before it’s safe to use again.

Keeping Food Safe:

Everyone knows that power outages can cause food to spoil, but not everyone realizes that food that’s been exposed to flood waters may be contaminated. After a flood there are several steps you can take to ensure your family doesn’t eat contaminated food:

  • Discard all food that did or may have come in direct contact with flood water unless it’s in an airtight waterproof container. Containers with snap lids, pull-top lids, screw caps or crimped caps are not considered waterproof. Food in cardboard containers can become contaminated by absorbing the moisture in the air during the humid conditions associated with hurricanes and flooding.
  • Inspect canned goods for signs of bulging or damage and discard damaged cans.
  • Remove the labels which can soak up flood water and contaminants. Wash the cans in hot soapy water and rinse in clean water (use only potable water for this).
  • Sanitize the cans by placing them in boiling water for 2 minutes or in a solution of 1 tablespoon household bleach and one gallon of clean water for 15 minutes.
  • Air-dry the cans and re-label them with a permanent marker.

When a disaster such as a hurricane strikes, people who live in the area may not have access to potable water for several days or longer. Prepare in advance when possible, and know what to do in case of emergency.

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