Monthly Archives: December 2011

Water, Water Everywhere, but Which Drop Can You Drink?

We discussed the need for water storage as well as the complexities of “expired” water. What should you do if you didn’t store enough water? What if you didn’t purchase a WaterBOB or the like and your bathtub is a little more disgusting for drinking purposes that tolerable? Very clear guidance and multiple, inexpensive methods exist for disinfecting water.

According to the EPA, the very best way to sterilize water is to boil it. Boiling water is the most effective way to remove disease-causing microorganisms. If you are not able to boil your water, there are several other methods available to include household bleach (regular, unscented variety), iodine, and water purification tablets. Regarding the bleach, I have to point out that there is a shelf-life associated with the effectiveness of bleach. The normal shelf-life of bleach is 3-5 months (effected by the temperature of storage). After this timeframe, its potency drops below the level identified as required by the EPA to effectively disinfect the water. Dropping below this strength level negates the ratios of water to bleach as outlined by the EPA and will then essentially leave you guessing. Keep this in mind if you are counting on using bleach as a water purification option. You know this is the beginning of a new year, it is the perfect time to get yourself on an easy to remember rotation schedule for bleach. January bottles get switched up halfway through the year. The purification tablets mentioned can be purchased in the camping section of any common discount store and are extremely inexpensive. And now for our spoiled selves, there is a secondary bottle for water purification tablets that helps remove the taste/smell associated with using the traditional purification tablets.

The EPA makes a really great factsheet regarding water purification for survival needs. All the details discussed here plus more are available via this form. I’ve done quite a bit of research regarding water storage/purification for emergency preparedness and this is the most concise form of quick facts/directions I’ve found. The page can be found at:

One last reminder: These purification methods are not indicated as effective for removing chemicals in water/groundwater. If your water source has been contaminated by chemicals, there is no guarantee that these methods can remove said chemicals.

Questions, comments, or any concerns that we haven’t addressed, let me know.

Long Before You’ll Need to Eat…

We’ve discussed food for emergency preparedness planning, but honestly long before you are going to have to eat, you will have to drink. Water is of paramount importance in regard to emergency preparedness. You need to ensure you consider water storage and sterilization methods for all of your preparedness kits, be it shelter in place or go-kits.

Do some water consumption research and you will be hard pressed not to be disappointed in the H2O waste at the hands of this nation. The numbers are shocking. According to the latest U.S. Geological Survey, the United States uses 408 billion gallons of water every day.  We waste a ridiculous amount of water in this country. Pointing out how much water we use/waste is important given that habits are hard to give up. Depending on who you ask, the average America household uses 350 gallons of water per day.  The recommended ratio for water storage in emergencies is one gallon of water, per person, per day.

I hope this made you stop and think. Let’s take my family as an example. We are a family of four. If we stockpile the minimum recommended amounts of water it adds up like this: Mama, Daddy, Child A, Child B = 4 gallons per day. With the minimum three-day plan, we would have 12 gallons stockpiled for shelter in place purposes. Under an average three-day period, we would normally consume 1050 gallons. During a crisis, IF we prepared in advance according to just the minimum recommended standards, we would have to make do with 1038 less gallons per day.  If we didn’t prepare in advance, we would have to survive off of what was sitting in the pipes in the house, what was in the fridge, any random bottles of water we could find, and if we were thinking tactically what was in the hot water heater.

Have you ever been truly thirsty? And by thirsty, I mean nearing dehydration with no water in site. Most of us have not. We have not grown up in a third world country where water is a valuable commodity. We just turn on the tap and magically delicious water pours forth. It does depend on the source, but basically you can go between 3 days to a week without water before serious dehydration is followed by death. This is a much shorter timeframe than that of food deprivation. YOU ARE GOING TO NEED WATER! I can’t stress it enough.

We’ve covered what you need to store at a minimum (1 gallon, per person, per day) but remember that is for shelter in place and go-kits. “What about shelf life?” you are probably going to ask when considering water storage. We’ve all noticed by now that Aquafina and Dasani and every other company are so graciously putting expiration dates on water bottles now. For the love of God someone please tell me what happens to expired water?! Really?! As a result of my disgust at the notion of “expired” water, I’ve done a lot of research. Keep this in mind, the EPA and the FDA regulate water. (FDA specifically regulates bottled water.) It is recommended that water be rotated every 6 months. However, I’ve got to argue for some common sense. Why does it need to be rotated? What’s going to happen to bottled water? The answer is maybe something…maybe nothing. Do you remember a handful of years ago when folks started to freak out over the carcinogens that plastic was leaching into our foods (and water)? Well, there you have it, that’s what happens to your water after 6 months…maybe. I say maybe because whether or not your plastics leach anything anywhere depends on how they are stored. If you store you water in your garage, it’s going to get hot in the summer and yes, the plastics may leach. If you store it in the basement and it stays cool, then no it won’t. So take some time and do your best with planning storage. But focus on these two things primarily…1) if you are dying from dehydration or watching your children or elderly parents die from dehydration, will you care if the water they drink to save them  has had chemicals leached into it over the last five years which may give them cancer in ten more years? 2) For long-term survival purposes, have you considered all of the things you will want water for besides just drinking? Would you like to bathe? Would you like to continue to flush the toilet long after the water has stopped flowing to your house? Would you like to have water to rehydrate all that dehydrated food you stored up? Me? I want to continue to do all of those things as long as possible. So don’t throw out water that you’ve gone to the trouble to store. It has purposes. And honestly, once you’ve been out for a while and gotten to the point where you are so desperate to drink from ditch, you will wish you had disregarded expiration dates on water.

So what are you water storage options other than buying large quantities of bottled water? First, please do purchase some bottled water as it goes on sale. That is a good avenue. However, also consider that if the crisis is predicted, don’t sit there. Get up and fill every bathtub, sink, cooler, and pitcher you have ahead of time. Do make use of your hot water heater if need be. Consider purchasing a  WaterBOB or something similar. WaterBOBs are polymer bladders that store up to 100 gallons of freshwater inside of a standard bathtub. (This really helps if you can’t readily identify the last time you gave that thing a good scrub!). Consider storing the water that the good Lord sends us pretty regular…get a rain barrel for your downspout(s).

There are many, many ways and even more reasons to store water. And it is essential to your survival. Look for a follow-on post where I will discuss water purification methods during an emergency event.

Donner…Party of Four? Your Table is Empty.

So yesterday we talked about your shelter from the storm, how ’bout we make sure you’ve got something to eat while you are there.

I wrote a post a few days ago entitled “How Long Could you Survive”, in that post is a poll asking how many days you could survive in your home with no electricity or water. Check it out for the responses. About a dozen of you have responded and I have to say, I’m impressed by the ratio of folks who are in the 30 day range. Good work. If you took the survey and didn’t quite reach the category that you would have liked, then let’s talk about what all you can store up for sustenance during an emergency.

First of all let’s talk about some of your options for food storage. If budgetary considerations are your biggest concern (and trust me, that I understand!), then one option is canned goods.  They are most certainly inexpensive in comparison to other options; however, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the shelf life of canned goods is not optimal for long-term storage. They can be rotated out according to their  shelf life, but keep in mind that this can be a serious pain. Tracking the expiration dates and replacing them can be time-consuming.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t go this route, but if you do, be prepared to rotate them frequently. Also, consider the weight and bulk of a large stockpile of canned goods! Lastly, it would be a real shame to have a vast amount of food that you couldn’t get access to…i.e. have a hand-crank can opener!

Another choice for food storage is food ration bars. Some folks refer to these as calorie bars. Now these are not energy bars. I’m not talking about power bars either. These are literally edible bars of calories. They are shrinked wrapped and have a five-year shelf life. They come in several varieties based upon calorie content. You can find unflavored or a couple of other varieties (such as apple cinnamon). I’ve gotta be honest. I’ve eaten one of these and unless I’m on my deathbed and someone (who obviously wants to punish me) stuffs one into my dying mouth, I won’t do it again. I can think of a lot of scary, disgusting things I might eat in the end times to survive, but these wouldn’t make the list. Having said that, the price point for these is reasonable and if we are honest if you’re hungry, you’re hungry. They also don’t take a lot of room for storage. They can be a bit heavy but hey, it’s a whole day’s worth of food in one bar. So, these may be your best option. Only you can decide what works best for you and your family.

Now, let’s talk about MRE’s. These are Meals Ready to Eat. Anyone whose served in the military has had the opportunity (or misfortune depending on who you ask) of trying these. My hubby for instance is in love with the cheese sauce in MREs. Can’t get enough of it! I wouldn’t say that MREs are ever going to be something I’d crave, but seriously, in a crisis these are not a bad option. You can buy these at military surplus stores, some sporting goods stores, and of course via the interweb. Officially the shelf life of an MRE is about 10 years. This varies occasionally a little bit between companies. Essentially though the actual shelf life of MRE’s has to do with how long they have been in storage in combination with the temperature of that storage. The hotter you store them, the shorter the shelf life. There are numberous sites online that discuss MRE shelf life. There are charts that show a ratio of time to temp. and the resulting shelf life. However, this chart has been updated, so make sure you are looking at the most recent version. The price point of MRE’s in my opinion, for what you get, is reasonable. Again, you need to do your research and make choices based on your budget and/or your long-term emergency plan.

Lastly, I want to discuss freeze-dried and dehydrated meals/foods. The name says it all for what these constitute. These are actually my preferred method of food storage. There are many brands to choose from, they are very lightweight, and the shelf life is AMAZING!!! Try 25 years for some varieties. Be sure to verify the shelf life of the brand and type of food you purchase. Also keep in mind that some folks easily confuse freeze-dried with dehydrated. Some brands of emergency meals actually combine them both. Either work, but their shelf lives can vary, so just pay attention. You can actually choose between full meals (like lasagna) or separate food items (such as just chicken, potatoes, blueberries, yogurt  bites, etc.) If you are interested in certain brands, let me know. I can vouch for those that I’ve tried.  For me, the light weight, often waterproof packaging, huge selection, and awesome shelf life make these the best option. You can find small individual servings anywhere you buy camping supplies but honestly the price point is much better to buy in bulk via the interweb. Who knows maybe I can walk us through some taste tests for future postings.

Essentially, these are all viable options. No one knows what you can afford or store but you. Maybe you can have a short-term, cheap option of canned goods while you save for the ultimate of food storage pantries consisting of one of the more expensive but longer lasting options. Good luck. Any questions or concerns. Drop me a comment and let me know.

Shelter From the Storm

Alright, here we go. As promised, let’s talk about what you need to fill your shelter in place and go-kits. Let me caveat this by saying that there is no way that I can cover all of the possible items that you might need in one entry. The goal is to demonstrate the types of things you need to consider when designing your shelter in place and/or go-kit and to give some examples as well. We will cover this topic over multiple postings.

Now, lets review the types of kits: 1) Shelter in place kits (home, work, car, church, wherever you spend the majority of your time) 2) Go-kits (home, work, car)

So what do you need for each? Think about things in categories such as shelter, sustenance, medical, communication, and protection.

Shelter: When thinking of shelter in place there are many considerations for your shelter needs. What will you do for heat? Do you have a fireplace? If so, what kind of wood stockpile do you have? How long will that last you? If you don’t have a fireplace do you have sleeping bags that will tolerate your climate? Or is it time to consider a generator? If you do begin to consider a generator, what’s your fuel storage situation? If we have any type of radiological or biological event, consider that guidance suggests you have the ability use plastic sheeting/tape to seal off your home. Be sure to have enough plastic sheeting to do the job. Dont’ scrimp and buy the cheap stuff for these purposes, a heavy mil is needed to be appropriate. And enough tape to achieve good quality seals. I once received a great suggestions from a friend to have these sheets pre-cut and labeled for windows, doors, etc. In the heat of the moment, under extreme duress, I wouldn’t want to have to accomplish the task of effectively measuring and cutting plastic sheeting to seal off my home!

Also, be sure to strategize against the threats that are pertinent for your area. Are you at risk for earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding? These all present unique circumstances regarding what areas of your home will be safe during an event. Will you have access to all of your home or just some areas? Where are all of your emergency supplies stored? Can  they be safely accessed during the event? Keep your utilities in mind. It is possible that you to need to turn off any of your utilities. Do you know where and how to manage the shut-offs? Some utility shut-offs require special tools? Do you have the right tools and are they accessible or buried deep in the garage or out back in the shop? Did you know that if you turn off your gas, you need a professional to turn it back on? Do you have carbon monoxide alarms in the home? Do they run off of AC or do they have battery power in case you have lost electricity? When is the last time you checked the smoke detectors? Are they in working order? As with the carbon monoxide monitors, what is their power source?

Sanitation can be a major issue for any long-term type circumstances if you are sheltering in place. First of all, we will get to water storage issues later for shelter in place, but keep in mind that you can flush a toilet (even if your water is off) if you manually fill the tank with water. Waste issues can be a problem during a shelter in place event. Carefully consider how you are going to handle this issue. Do you have enough water to continue to flush? Or can you go outside? Even outside, there are considerations to be made. Do you have enough toilet paper? I’ve seen blogs that mention alternatives to toilet paper. Research this carefully because disease will eventually become rampant and much of it will center around improper waste disposal. Be careful of contaminating your water sources outside. Sanitation is not an issue anyone likes to deal with now, but it will be a major concern in a catastrophic event. Know your options and plan accordingly. Be ready to stick to strict, self-imposed rules regarding hygiene during these times.  

Now, for go kits. What would you need to constitute “shelter” outside of your home? If you have to leave your home due to a fire that is strictly localized to your home or area, your home owner’s insurance will be your source to put you up in a hotel, but what if the event is large-scale? If your whole local area or God-forbid worse is affected, where will you go? Are you aware of what your county/state offers for local shelters? You should know how to get to several local shelters in case overcrowding becomes an issue and you are not the first to arrive. Check your county’s website to verify their local emergency plans. If things get to be catastrophic and we have a total breakdown of basic social services, what would you need to survive outdoors? Do you have adequate sleeping bags? Any solar blankets? Solar blankets are great when measured against their cost (basic one man unit for under $5.00) and required storage (will fit in a pocket prior to the initial use. After that, maybe larger – these are like re-folding maps!). But still, great bang for a few bucks. However, if you live in an area where winters are bitter cold, a solar blanket will not cut it.

Fire. Do you possess the ability to make fire for warmth? (Also needed for outdoor cooking circumstances, but we will cover food in another session.) There are lots of options create fire, but think ahead. Consider waterproof matches, a basic flint, etc. Practice, by the way, if you are planning on utilizing flint to build a fire. Consider a fuel source. In the case of snow or flooding, what exactly are you planning on burning? Is it too wet to ignite? Again, plan in advance and practice.

These are just some considerations for shelter. We will talk about the other categories in successive posts. If you have particular questions, concerns, or comments…drop me a note.

Is Your Keep Ready?

Maybe this should have been the first entry for this blog, but I wasn’t led that way. Today it seems right. What do I mean by The Keep? Honestly, the idea of a blog (given the amount of interest I encounter on this topic) has been bouncing around my mind for a while now. And even on those days where I would really come close to sitting down and pulling the trigger, there was one lingering issue. A name, a name, a name. I struggled with this for some time and repeatedly gave up. The name isn’t just for you readers, it’s for me as well. I don’t want to just inspire you but to feed my fire of inspiration too. After every preparedness presentation I do, there are numerous in-person and email conversations. They always inspire me. I always learn from my audience. It drives me to continue. Hopefully I do the same for them as well. Point being, I wanted a name that would be a  call to action. Hence The Keep. Once it popped into my head, there was no getting it out. And now here we are.

So…what does it mean? In my mind I was originally thinking of a castle keep, which to me is the last stronghold within the castle. This would be the place for the last stand. The keep is where you would retreat to when it got so bad that hunkering down and burrowing in would be the only avenue left. It would be your option of last resort. And you would keep it stocked and prepared for such an event, just in case. I can just hear that old score from the Robin Hood movie from when I was a kid (Kevin Costner version?) Anyway, go Google “Keep” and give it a read. It’s interesting and hopefully you will hear your own music.

But just so you know Webster’s Dictionary gives us the following:

KeepVerb – To protect, guard, to preserve, to provide for support, to maintain a specified state or action etc., to hold for the future, to hold and not let go, to continue, to go on        (the music is getting even louder!)

Noun – care or custody, food and shelter; support, the inner stronghold of a castle       (crescendo!)

And that’s it. That’s the story. Are you ready? Is your keep ready? If not, are you ready to get there? My keep isn’t perfect, but it exists. It is growing and with every step I take closer to preparedness, my peace and confidence grow as well. It feels good to be unafraid and ready.

Hunker down or hit the road?

We’ve had some talk about perspective and why preparedness is universally applicable…now let’s get down to business.

What types of scenarios should you consider when you begin to plan or decide bulk up your current plans? Essentially no matter what scenario you consider, it can be placed into two categories: shelter in place or evacuation.

Shelter in place is just a formal term for “hunker down”. Under any of these scenarios, you either can’t or wouldn’t want to leave your home. Maybe you are snowed in. Maybe radiological  fallout has you thinking twice about setting foot outside. Whatever the scenario, you’ve made the decision that you can’t/won’t leave for a certain period of time.

Evacuation is self-explanatory. Get the heck out! Maybe you have time to calculate and make at least some decisions about what to take vs. leave (hurricane warnings equal planned evacuations). Maybe you are in immediate danger and you have to literally flee at a moments notice (house fire or flash flooding).

Preparing for these two scenarios can be quite different. What you would collect and have on hand for days on end during a shelter in place circumstance would be far more exhaustive than a “go-kit” for grabbing on the way out the door in the middle of a crisis. Shelter in place kits have usually offer more in terms of supplies, but then again they can cost more and take up more storage space. Go-kits by design have to be portable so they simply can’t contain as much weight or bulk as your shelter in place supplies.  

We can further break down these two categories into other types of specific kits. Think about where you spend most of your time. The answer will be different for everyone but there are some commonly accepted schools of thought regarding types of kits. Under shelter in place, we’ve discussed planning for the home, but what about work? Have you considered that your workplace is planning for emergencies as well (or they should be at least! You might want to verify that your employer is adequately addressing these issues). There could be circumstances where you would shelter in place at work. If that happened to you next week, what would you have access to? Food? Water? Medicine? First aid supplies? You can’t assume that your employer is going to anticipate or supply everything you would require.

Also consider that you should plan for situations that could occur while you are in your vehicle. This could be a shelter in place situation (winter weather – DON’T get out of your car in a snow storm to walk to safety. Safety in that situation is the car!). However, in a heat wave, you definitely wouldn’t want to hang around in the car. Then you would need a go-kit for the car.

So begin to consider these differing scenarios and types of kits. It is recommended that these kits supply for your needs  for a minimum of 3 days. Ideally, it is recommended that they protect you for 7 days. In upcoming posts I’ll discuss what these kits should contain in greater detail. Take care!

How long could you survive?

This poll is just food for thought. You know one of the biggest roadblocks to preparedness planning is the notion that “it won’t happen to me.” Most folks don’t believe that they will really find themselves in a situation that will require emergency preparedness plans. I can understand the perspective that this is all overkill “Chicken Little, the sky is falling” stuff.

But keep in mind that emergency preparedness doesn’t just support you and your loved ones during catastrophic end of days events. What about a fire in the home? What about the winter storm survey scenario? What about a tornado or hurricane? Are we at risk for scary life-altering terroristic events? Sure. We all witnessed the tragedies of September 11th. But have you internalized what the hurricane Katrina or tsunami victims really endured? Have you thought about what good ol’ Mother Nature can do on a whim?

Think about your answer to this poll. What category do you fall into? Which one would you prefer to fall into? Is it worth some effort, planning, and strategizing to get yourself there? I sure hope so.

Let me know what you think…