Tag: Lifestraw

Disasters in the News

Newspapers with burning headlines showing disasters
Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash

Just a week ago I was sweeping up the last remnants of 2019 and getting set for 2020. Remember? I ended 2019 with some entertaining books and movies with disaster themes!

Well, that easy start was obliterated by recent 2020 REAL disasters in the news.

In just the last 7 days we’ve seen headlines like: Assassination — Missile strikes – Earthquakes — Raging Wildfires – Retaliation — Plane Crash – Deepfakes – Drone Swarms – Power Grid Cyber-attack — and of course, Harry and Meghan.

(I added that last item just to lighten things up a little.)

All the turmoil was enough to cut through any complacency I was feeling and bring me sharply back to reality.

Above all, it prompted me to once again make sure that I have basic emergency supplies at the ready – in the house, in the car, and in the office.  Supplies I can tap if I’m  stuck at home, and supplies that are packed up (or could be quickly packed up) if I have to leave and head somewhere safer.

The following list of emergency supplies is the most basic I can come up with.

I hope and trust you are familiar with everything I write about here!

In any case, here it is for your review. I am adding a few details that might encourage you to refresh or add to your supplies.

If you do see something that’s missing from your list, don’t delay! If one of the disasters in the news comes to pass in YOUR neighborhood, you  may NOT have the opportunity to get any of these essentials!

LifeStraw personal water filter for emergencies

Water in an emergency.

Earthquake, cyber-attack, flood, accident – any of these could interrupt your supply of clean water. Be sure you revisit your long-term supply. And if you haven’t yet, get a LifeStraw personal water filter for everyone in the family. Cheap, pretty sturdy, and easy to use. Even a child understands how to use it. (Click on the link above to check pricing at Amazon, where we are Associates. This LifeStraw was on sale when I grabbed the image!)

Keeping warm.

As I’ve mentioned many times, it doesn’t take actual freezing temperatures to create an emergency; a few hours at 50 degrees may be enough. Do you have blankets in the house and in the car? What about emergency sleeping bags?

We all are familiar with Mylar space blankets, costing less than $5 each. I’ve talked about the advantages of buying them by the dozen, so everyone in the family (or the neighborhood group) has several in every backpack.

Mylar space blanket with tarp, perfect for creating outdoor shelter

Lately I’ve noticed some better quality space blankets. Some are larger sizes. Others are gold/silver reflective. Still others, like this one, have Mylar on one side and a waterproof tarp on the other. (See the grommets? Meant to help turn it into a shelter.)

You can get this version in orange/silver and in green/silver (from other manufacturers). Again, click the link in the text above — not the image — to compare prices and styles at Amazon.

And in this Mylar category I have to include — again! — the Bivy Bag. Here’s the whole description of this WATERPROOF bag:

Life Bivy Emergency Sleeping Bag Thermal Bivvy – Use as Waterproof Emergency Blanket, Mylar Sleeping Bag, Survival Sleeping Bag – Includes Nylon Bag with Survival Whistle + Paracord String (Orange)

Wondering about that word “bivy?” (Also spelled “Bivvy.” I assumed it was from the French, bivouac  – “a temporary camp without shelter.” Actually, after writing this I then had to look up the word. I found what I had expected. I also found “bivvy sac” – a waterproof bag meant to protect a sleeping bag. Eh, voila!)

Something nourishing to eat.

I am sure you have snacks, hard candies, and some pop-top cans of fruit in every survival kit. These will work for a day or two. But if the power is off and the emergency continues, particularly if there is damage to your environment, you’ll need more than snacks! The easiest things to buy and to count on to be there when you need them?  MREs.  Delicious? Maybe not. Nutritious and comforting?  Yes. (In this case, both the image and the link will take you to Amazon so you can compare MRE packages — sizes, menus, etc.) (While we’re on vocabulary, MRE = Meals Ready to Eat.)

Western Frontier 2021 and up Inspection Date, 2018 Pack Date, Meals Ready-to-Eat Genuine US Military Surplus with Western Frontier’s Inspection

Light in the dark.

You know our attraction to emergency lanterns. (I have one of the Vont pull-ups right here on my desk as I am typing this.) Don’t overlook extra batteries for lamps, lanterns or flashlights. In addition, you may want to consider a solar-powered battery charger.

Likewise, you may want to take a look at this new gadget. (New to me, anyway.) It charges 11 sizes of batteries that fit in your lanterns, your flashlights, and your emergency radio. Click on the image and read all the details carefully to be sure this will work for the batteries you’re using. I have not personally used this charger, so I’d welcome any comments!

Emergency radio.

I notice that some of the emergency radios are on post-holiday sales, so don’t hesitate. What to look for? Sturdy. Powered by solar, battery and hand crank. AM/FM and probably NOAA. What you want to know is how the disasters in the news are developing. Everything else — flashlights, etc. — are extra.

This image shows an emergency radio from RunningSnail. The company makes a couple of versions — I like this one because it can store more power than the less expensive model.

Actually, consider getting several radios (perhaps with different features). You’ll want one for the house and one to keep in each car.  (Our radio reviews are being updated right now for the New Year.

Emergency communications.

Your cell phone will be the first thing you turn to when you hear about disasters in the news. Be sure you have a car charger plug. And get a power bank and/or solar charger for the phone, too. Remember, TEXT messages may get through when a phone call won’t.

(Do you know the number of your emergency contact? In your phone does run out of battery, you won’t be able to look up a number. You need to know it by heart!)


Stock up on toilet paper NOW!  The shelves in the grocery store will be emptied within hours of a storm announcement! (You can always use extra paper supplies for bartering.) Same with baby wipes and antiseptic wipes. And be sure you have some sturdy plastic bags in the car, packed in a plastic container (with lid) big enough to serve as an emergency toilet. Messy but better than getting out of the car in the blowing sleet — or having an accident IN the car . . .!

First aid and medicines.

Only you know what you need. The trick is to actually have your pills and/or drops with you at all times. Not so easy, actually. You’ll need to find the right size plastic containers, label them, and hoard enough extra pills so you can pack up a couple of week’s supply. Really, do it.

Now I wear contact lenses, so one of my emergency challenges is to have extra lenses and a packable size bottle of lens fluid ready. (I have to search to get the 4 oz. sizes – necessary if you fly, too. Actually, even my 4 oz. bottle was confiscated at the airport last year, so I had to board without anything other than a tiny bottle of artificial tears. NOT good for a 15 hr. flight . . .!)


The recent national study by FEMA reported that most people who have set aside money for emergencies have less than $500. If disasters are threatening in the news, and you have to leave home, that money isn’t going to take you far.

Talk to friends and family about being ready to take in someone when disaster hits the news. Maybe you could get a bulk deal on blow up mattresses! (I borrowed a mattress over Thanksgiving. These days nearly all mattresses have built in electric pumps – fantastic! – and most are at least 18 inches high so they are like a real bed, not like camping on the ground. I figure you know about what a blow up bed looks like. Here’s a link to a positively reviewed queen sized mattress that’s actually 22 inches high, so you can get an idea of prices!

Intex Comfort Plush Elevated Dura-Beam Airbed with Internal Electric Pump, Bed Height 22″, Queen

How can you afford to stock up on emergency supplies?

Now, as I look back over this list I see that many of the items cost less than $25! A few are more expensive, of course. All these items are readily available. And many are on sale right now, when merchants want to clear the shelves for spring and summer items.

Push back against the negativity of disasters in the news by taking positive action.

Please, make up your own shopping list and get started checking things off as soon as you can. And share this list with friends, family and neighbors.

We all need to bolster our feeling of confidence in the face of so many disasters in the news. Knowing you’ve taken basic precautions will make a big difference in your outlook.

But don’t be foolish! As you shop, watch for these dangers.

In the aftermath of the holidays there are still lingering sales promotions. And, of course, some people prey on the fear and concern that comes with negative headlines, and they offer deals you “need to get before it’s too late.”

So while I encourage you to shop, I also urge caution. Here are three reminders about sales scams to avoid:

  1. Don’t click links in emails that go directly to products. These products could be counterfeit. Get the name of the manufacturer and go to their website or to a trusted retailer where you have some recourse if the product isn’t what it was advertised.
  2. Don’t open ads or click on product pop-ups on your computer or smartphone. Not only could you be being scammed as far as the product goes, you could be inviting malware onto your computer. Again, go to the source or to a trusted retailer.
  3. “Free” or “introductory” offers are always suspect.  Watch for “shipping and handling” costs (Often that’s where the seller is making his or her profit). And be particularly careful to read “the fine print” which might reveal you will be charged “the regular price” starting two weeks from now!

Whew, that should be enough for today! So I wish you well with your shopping — and getting started in this New Year!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

Safe to drink in an emergency?

Drinking water from puddles in an emergency

OK, we know. Get your flu shot. Wash your hands. Cook meat thoroughly. Only drink water you are sure is safe.

But no matter how careful we are, people get sick.

Once we were camping when my son – then in his 20s, tall, strong, healthy – started violently throwing up. We decided to cut our trip short. We had to stop a couple of times along the road because he was still throwing up.

At home, he lay quietly on the couch but couldn’t keep anything down, not even water. His voice became hoarse and his eyes seemed sunken.

Finally, we took him to the emergency room. They whisked him into the hospital where he stayed for 4 days! Test after test was unable to identify a clear-cut villain. Finally, the doctors treated him for giardia because he’d inadvertently swallowed some mountain stream water!

When I was a child, we purposefully drank water from mountain streams. But that was long ago. These days, we know to stick to water from a reliable source. The problem?

In an emergency there may be no immediately reliable sources.

In an emergency, it will be up to you to be sure your water is safe. If you can, you’ll turn to water you’ve stored. But even without that, if you are prepared, you’ll be able to make “found” water safe.

Look again at the photo. Imagine you have no other water and are desperately thirsty. Would it be safe to bring that cup to your lips?

The answer? Probably not. Let’s take a look at ways to make water safe to drink in an emergency.

Before we begin, please note this warning: water contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals will not be made safe by boiling or disinfecting. You’ll have to filter out these contaminants. So as you consider the following recommendations, think about what kind of “contamination” you are likely to encounter in an emergency: dust and dirt, sewage, fuels, agricultural runoff, etc. It will help you decide on what equipment you need.

Boil water – For how long?

As I am writing this, people in a community in San Diego county are operating under a Boil Water Advisory. (It’s already lasted 6 days!) Why? During recent heavy rains an overflow drain in the city water system didn’t operate as planned, and dirty water flowed into the clean water reservoir.

In a disaster you may not receive an official Advisory. But if your water is green or yellow, smells bad, has visible particulates or a colored sheen, it is likely contaminated. And drinking it could lead to serious stomach problems!

So your first thought regarding water probably ought to be to consider boiling it — keeping in mind the warning in the green box above.

You can pre-filter the water by pouring it through a paper towel or even a clean shirt. Then pour the clear water into a clean pan and bring it to a rolling boil for 1 minute. (Let it cool before you drink or store, of course.)

If you’re at higher elevations, say over 6,000 ft., boil for 3 minutes.

A nuisance? Maybe. But it could keep you healthy.

Disinfect water so it’s safe to drink – But what with?

After boiling, or if boiling isn’t feasible, a second option for cleaning questionable water is to disinfect it. There are a couple of common disinfecting agents designed to make water safe to drink.

Household bleach – the right amount of the right kind

You know to use only liquid unscented plain bleach, right? The amount of bleach to use depends on how much sodium hypochlorite it contains.

I just checked in my own cupboard. I have “regular” blue-label Clorox bleach – with 6.25% sodium hypochlorite. There’s another bottle from Clorox there, looks very similar but has a green label and is called “Cleaner and Bleach.” It has only 1% sodium hypochlorite – and who knows what else?! 

So you have to look carefully.  Then, add plain bleach (with 6.25%) to your water as follows:

  • For one quart water: 2 drops
  • For one gallon: 8 drops or 1/8 teaspoon
  • For 5 gallons: 40 drops or ½ teaspoon

Stir, then let it sit for a half hour before you use it for drinking or cooking. (If you pour it back and forth between clean glasses the chlorine taste will lessen.)

Tip: When using Clorox to disinfect water: write on the bottle with permanent marker how many drops you used and the date they were added. Use and refresh as appropriate.

Water purification tablets or drops

Tablets and drops are convenient and relatively inexpensive (some less than $10) and can last for several years. They work against bacteria, viruses, and parasites, although they may not protect against a particularly nasty parasite called cryptosporidium. I’d recommend having a bottle or two of disinfectant in every Survival Kit, as a back-up to whatever other method you’re using to make your water safe to drink. (Click on the links in the next paragraph for details.)

The disinfecting agent typically comes as tablets with iodine or as drops that contain chlorine. CLOSELY follow the instructions as to how much to use, how long to wait for them to work, etc.  (I’ve read horror stories of people practically popping the tablets like pills, which of course makes them very sick.)

Important: the length of time necessary for the disinfectant to “work” depends on the ingredients in the tablet and what you’re protecting against. For example, if you are concerned about the water containing giardia, you will have to let the tablets work for longer than if you’re only trying to protect against bacteria.

Filter water – You can do this all the time!

With a portable water bottle with built in filter, you have a valuable tool during ordinary times and during emergencies.

Today, these bottles are inexpensive and handy. The filters are made of activated charcoal that absorbs all the bad stuff. Naturally, after a number of uses the filter will be full and will need to be replaced. (Read the fine print on the bottle description. Some filters last 3-4 times as long as others.)

Even inexpensive filters can be extremely effective, but the very best ones filter out debris, bacteria, viruses, and parasites – including cryptosporidium.  Their ultimate effectiveness depends on the “pore size” of the filter. The very best are the very smallest – i.e., filters with an “absolute” pore size of 1 micron or less. (You won’t find many with a pore size that small.)

Protect yourself and the planet.

If you are carrying a filtered water bottle to make regular tap water taste better, and to avoid adding single-use plastic bottles to the environment, ordinary filter bottles are probably all you need. Get friends and colleagues to avoid single-use plastic, too!

In an emergency, where your needs may be greater, check out some of the bottles below. And remember, you can always add a disinfectant to filtered water for extra protection. (Click on the image or on the link to get current prices. There may be some holiday deals.)

Some of the best water bottles with filters.

Top of the line.

Let’s start with the bottle that seems to appear at the top of every reviewer’s list: the Grayl Geopress.

The company declares it “Safe for any adventure!”

It operates a bit differently from others you may have seen or used. I liken it to making French press coffee. That is, you pour water into the body of the bottle, then press the filter down through it. The filter “captures” the contaminants – silt, sediment, chemicals like benzene and chlorine, metals such as arsenic and lead — as it passes through the water.

Here’s a picture and link to Amazon, where we are Associates. This model comes in a couple of different colors, and you can also buy extra filters so you’ll always have a fresh one. (A filter is rated to last through 250 liters.)

GRAYL Geopress 24 oz Water Purifier for Global Travel, Backpacking, Hiking, and Survival (Coyote Amber)

If I were headed out on a serious trek, just about anywhere in the world, this would be my choice. (If you’ve ever had diarrhea while traveling, you’ll understand the intensity of my recommendation!)

Looking for something smaller?

Grayl has a second, smaller and lighter model called the Grayl Ultralight. It is more streamlined and would fit better into a backpack than the larger Geopress, but it’s still the same quality engineering. The Ultralight comes in a few different colors, so shop til you find the color you prefer. Each delivers 16 oz. of clean water with one press. Get extra filters for this one, too.

GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier [+ Filter] Bottle (Green)

Our longtime favorites come from LifeStraw.

The personal water filter

We’ve featured the LifeStraw personal water filter for years. (That link takes you to a post I wrote a summer or two ago. It has more details about boiling water!) As the name suggests, you suck water through the “straw” to make it safe to drink. LifeStraw has an impressive history and continues to make a difference for people throughout the world.

The classic one-person  “straw” is light, easy to manage and pack, and as I write this it’s on sale at Amazon, so I am including it in this Advisory.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter for Hiking, Camping, Travel, and Emergency Preparedness

 (There are larger models made by LifeStraw, too. For example, click to see their family-sized gravity-powered purifier.)  

Personal water bottle with filter

Over the past few years, LifeStraw has joined the movement to add replaceable filters to water bottles.  The LifeStraw Go Bottle fits comfortably into the middle price range of filtered bottles, and has one noticeable feature – two different filters. (Scroll down the sales page at Amazon to look at the diagram that shows both filters in position.)

Again, shop for the color or colors you prefer. There’s a whole selection! (These make great stocking stuffers for all your kids and grandkids!) The attached carabiner makes it easy to hook to a backpack.

LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle with 2-Stage Integrated Filter Straw for Hiking, Backpacking, and Travel, Blue

One final note. All filters will eventually get clogged and unusable. As mentioned above, if you are trying to extend your water supplies as far as possible, try pre-filtering water before running it through your carbon filter. First, let cloudy water settle. Then pour clear water through paper towels, through coffee filters, or through a clean t-shirt to remove larger particles and give your filter a chance to do its best work longer.

Gastrointestinal flu can actually be life-threatening. Of course, you can’t protect against everything, but in an emergency you must assume the risk of contaminated water to be much higher than usual. Be ready to act on the suggestions above to keep your water safe to drink.

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

Top Survival Resources: Five Popular Stories and Subjects

Top Survival Trends

After 20 years of training and writing about disaster preparedness, and with well over 500 articles now under my belt, I discover that some topics keep coming up again and again – in the news media, in questions people ask, and on the various internet sites and in specialty magazines that report on “survival trends.” Thanks to Google Analytics, we can also track which articles are most often viewed on our site, too. Here are our top survival resources!

Here are the 5 most popular topics on our site, with links that will take you immediately to more information.

Are you in the mainstream? Are these among YOUR favorite subjects? Check them out!

1. Emergency Radios and Radio Communications

If there is one topic that stands out, this is it.  In fact, radios and radio communications are twice as popular as anything else we report on!

A radio for your personal survival kit.

Are you ready to buy an emergency radio for yourself or a family member?  Check out our Updated Reviews of Emergency Radios with comments about solar, hand-crank, etc. We’ve added new info about some nifty, palm-sized radios that fit perfectly in a pack, glove box, etc. Most of the radios we discuss are found on Amazon, where prices are as good as they get, and buyer comments are very helpful in selecting the best fit for your needs.

Two-way radio communications for groups.

Interested in how to use walkie-talkie radios effectively for your group, whether it’s your family or a neighborhood response team? Then you need a way to not only listen, but also to speak.

We have used many different models, and review walkie-talkies here.  EmergencyPlanGuide.org also has a number of Advisories on walkie-talkie use:

If you are serious about building a neighborhood group, each of the books in our Survival Series has a complete discussion and a diagram showing one way to use radio communications, how to assign channels for your different divisions and specialty teams, etc.

 2. Emergency/Survival Kits

We know that some people simply don’t have time to actually build their own kit, so we start with a review of Popular Ready-Made Kits to be found on Amazon.  The purpose of the review is not to recommend any one kit in particular, but to highlight different things to look for as you shop. (Again, please be aware that if you buy something from Amazon through one of our links, we may receive a commission from Amazon. The commission does not influence the price you pay.)

Because every person and family is unique, we recommend strongly that you build your own basic kit, and we have written a booklet to guide you through the various decisions that need to be made.  Once you have the basic kit, add items that fit your climate, your skill and your interest level.

We have also discovered that most people continue to improve their kit by adding specialty items. Some of the most interesting additions:

 3. Special Preparations for City Dwellers

Much of the “prepper” literature deals with developing skills that allow you to survive by living off the land. For urban or suburban dwellers, particularly people living in apartments or condos, these survival skills need to be adjusted to the realities of the city.

Some of the top survival resources for city dwellers:

4. Emergency Water Supplies

We probably spend more of our time on water than on anything else (even though, as reported above, website visitors seem to prefer reading about radios!). How to store water for an emergency, where to find more water when the emergency hits, and how to protect yourself from contaminated water – these are ongoing challenges that need to be overcome if we are to survive.

A few of the most comprehensive articles focused on water:

And finally, one topic unique to EmergencyPlanGuide.org  . . .

5. Counting on Neighbors for Survival

We know that the first people to be there to help in an emergency are the people already there – the neighbor at home next door, or the co-worker at the next desk or in the next room.

With that being the case, we think that the more we all know, the better chance we’ll all have to survive, at least until professional help arrives.

We also know that professional help – police and fire – will be overwhelmed in the aftermath of a widespread disaster, so it may be hours or even days before they do arrive. A strong neighborhood team, ready to take action, just seems to make great sense.

Our 20-year commitment to neighborhood emergency preparedness has been focused primarily on building a neighborhood response team. It has been a labor of love – and yes, a LOT of labor!

The website has many stories about what it’s taken to build the group. You can find many of these stories by heading to the list of categories in the sidebar and clicking on “CERT” or “Neighborhood.”

We have even compiled much of this information into two in-depth resources:

I hope you’ll find this list of top survival resources helpful, and a reminder of areas in your own planning that may not be as secure as you’d like. Also, if you would like to see more on any aspect of emergency preparedness or disaster recovery, please just let me know!

Virginia and Joe
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

We mean it! Let us know in the comments what topics YOU like to read more about!

Don’t drink that water!


Drop of water from faucet

Stop! Don’t drink that water!

No matter where you live, you could experience a WATER EMERGENCY any day of the week. Why, in just the last couple of weeks, for example . . .

Boil water alerts have happened in Richmond, KY, in Detroit, MI and in Cocoa, FL. Where I live in Southern California, water main breaks took place in Reseda, Gardena and right on Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles.

These are not your extraordinary natural disasters.

We have all been sensitized to the need for clean water in a wide-spread emergency. We watched as the people of Beaumont, TX struggled without their water system for 10 days after it was flooded. And we are still watching the people in Puerto Rico for whom water of any quality is nearly impossible to get.

We understand what happened in these places, devastated by historic floods and storms.

Today we are taking a look at local problems.

Rather than a huge catastrophe, it’s more likely that we’ll need to be ready for a localized water problem.

Most of these local problems stem from two things:

  1. A water main break, a repair, or regular maintenance that shuts the system down
  2. An electrical power outage to a water plant or facility

Whenever the water pressure in the system drops, no matter from whatever cause, the water can be contaminated – mostly with dirt and/or bacteria.

What are the signs of danger?

You don’t need to wait for an official news announcement. Sometimes, accidents happen and you will know before the authorities do.

= Your water pressure drops suddenly.

If you notice an unannounced and dramatic drop in water pressure, we recommend you instantly turn off your water to protect the water already in your home’s system. You can always turn it on again later.

= Your water turns murky.

You may see unusual foreign matter in your water. That murkiness is called “turbidity.”  Don’t drink this water – and start thinking about a way to filter it to remove the junk. (More below . . .)

= Your water contains bacteria, parasites, etc.

Unfortunately, your water could contain all kinds of dangerous microorganisms and still look clear and clean. (My son came down with giardia when he got water in his mouth from a high mountain stream. He wasn’t even drinking it – but the resulting diarrhea put him into the hospital for 6 days!)

When water comes through a properly-operating system, these contaminants are removed. If the system fails, so does any guarantee of cleanliness.

That’s when you could get a Boil Water Alert.

If there’s a possibility that your water system has failed or your supply is contaminated, you could get a Boil Water Alert. Officially announced or not, you have several options.

Option One. Switch immediately to bottled/stored water that you know is clean. Use it for drinking, cooking, and washing. This is an emergency; that’s why you have emergency supplies! (If you haven’t put together supplies in advance, and you have to head to the store to buy them, you may be shocked to discover high prices, or worse, empty shelves.)

Option Two. Boil your drinking water until you know your water is safe. Bring water to a rolling boil, boil for one minute, then let cool down. Use this boiled water for drinking, brushing your teeth, preparing food, etc. Do NOT use your dishwasher, ice that was recently made, etc.

Option Three. Disinfect your water if you can’t boil it. One alternative is to add 1/8 teaspoon of regular, unscented household chlorine bleach to a gallon of water. Mix and let stand for 30 minutes before you use it. If you need to, strain cloudy water through a cloth or filter paper before you disinfect it.

You can also disinfect water with water purification tablets. Easy to carry and manage, they are designed to be used in bottles and canteens; just make sure they dissolve completely! (Keep reading for more on water purification.)

How long will you need to boil, disinfect, etc.?

The methods listed above will work well for a day-long water outage, or a week-end camping trip. However, depending on them for days or even weeks at a time will be trying, at best.

If you receive a Boil Water Alert, you can assume it will last for at least 3 days. It takes 48 hours for water quality test results to come back!

If the emergency is much bigger or more serious, you need to have plans for the long term. As you know, it’s recommended that you plan for a gallon of water a day for each person in your family. A family of four, for 3 days, needs 12 gallons. If the emergency lasts 10 days (which is what I think you should plan for), you’ll need 40 gallons. That is a lot!

Now, first off, I would assess my water supplies. Some of your water supplies may be of better quality than others. I’d plan to use “pure” water for drinking and cooking, but would consider using a lesser quality water – like from the rain barrel — for washing my feet. (Obviously, water that you know is contaminated with toxins or dangerous chemicals should not be used at all.)

Maybe your family of 4 doesn’t really need 40 gallons of pure drinkable water. But it still needs that much total water.

How to manage your need for gallons and gallons of water?

Here are a number of suggestions for sources of emergency water. I hope these are all familiar to you! But the question is, have you taken action to be sure they are available for your family right now????

Purchase and store bottled water.

You will be tempted to rinse plastic bottles that you’ve emptied of juice, milk, or whatever, and use them to store water.


You will find it nearly impossible to get these containers clean – and thus, the water you store in them will be suspect. Other options may cost more, but you won’t have to worry about ADDING to the emergency with tainted water!

Case of tottled water

One-time use plastic bottles of water are cheap, readily available, and easy to move, stash around the house, etc. You can keep regular cheap bottles for 6 months; after that, replace with new ones. (Reusing a plastic water bottle isn’t recommended. The cap collects bacteria from your mouth . . .) Square plastic bottles may be a bit sturdier, and are a lot easier to pack/stack.

A 24-bottle case of bottled water is about 3.2 gallons and weighs about 30 pounds. In my neighborhood I can find them on sale for less than $5. A dozen cases would just about meet your 4-person family needs.

Don’t stack these plastic-wrapped cases too high, because they will collapse and break.

Note: Half gallons of water a lot more convenient and efficient, if you can get them.

P.S. If you click on THIS image, you’ll go nowhere. I think you’ll do better to shop locally and bring home cases of water yourself!

Stack water using interlocking water bricks.

Having had thin plastic bottles break in my storage shed, I strongly recommend water bricks! (That’s why I’ve included a BIG picture here!) Yes, they are an investment, but are so much more reliable and far more efficient for storage!  They are of heavy plastic and designed to interlock and stack like Legos. (The manufacturer suggests stacking them no more than 4 ft. high.) Each regular brick holds 3.5 gallons, and weighs just over 30 pounds when filled. You can fill with clean water from the tap, seal, and store for several years. Or, add water preserver for more peace of mind.

You can even add a spigot to your order of bricks to make them easier to use.

A dozen or so bricks would work for our example 4-person family for 10 days. Click here to get price and details from Amazon.

Store water in a 55 gallon barrel

I’m referring here to barrels that are made specifically for this purpose. (Our neighborhood emergency team was able to make a great group purchase one year. Haven’t found anything like it since!)

You’ll need a spigot and a pump to get the water out of the barrel. And naturally, you won’t be able to move this water supply, since a full barrel weighs over 400 lbs. Find a good spot, place the barrel on a wood platform — a couple of level boards will do — so it doesn’t touch the cement floor, fill it carefully so as not to introduce any dirt, seal closed, and put a cover over it to keep it clean. Refresh your water once a year for best results.

One barrel could serve the needs of a 4-person family for 10 days. The barrel shown here comes as a kit, complete with a bung wrench (to turn the plugs), a hand-pump, and water preservative. Get more info here.

Fill the bathtub if you have time!

Now, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that you DRINK the water you’ve run into your bathtub. After all, just how clean would it be if an emergency were called suddenly? Still, consider buying a bathtub liner designed for this purpose. Open it into the tub, fill from the faucet. Some models have a top to keep the water as clean as possible. Check out the link below to a full kit.

WaterBOB Bathtub Emergency Water Storage Container, Drinking Water Storage, Hurricane Survival, BPA-Free (100 Gallon) (1)

Scoop out of the swimming pool? Maybe not.

The water in your pool MIGHT be drinkable if you put some in a glass jar for several hours and let the sun evaporate the chlorine. Still, the chemicals in the water, not to mention ordinary dirt from leaves and dust AND whatever your humans leave behind . . . make this a bad choice for drinking and cooking.

If the electricity is out, then the cleanliness of the pool will deteriorate even more quickly because the pool pump and filters will stop working. Again, filter and clean it as best you can, and then use for purposes other than cooking and drinking.

Turn to collected rainwater, streams and other open sources of water.

LifeStraw personal water filter

Now we’re back to the problem of contamination. The only way you can safely drink even from a clear mountain stream is using a filter. The single-person LifeStraw is the standard – it will filter 1,000 gallons of water before needing to be replaced. You can get the LifeStraw many places for around $20. Naturally, get one for each person.

Not every family member will want to or even be able to use the LifeStraw, and it  won’t put water into a pot for cooking.
In this case, you’ll need a gravity-fed filtration system like the Katadyn or the LifeStraw family-size version. These hanging bags can filter several gallons of water in an hour. The image shows the LIfeStraw model, which filters 9-12 liters/hour. Click on the image to find out more.

With a filter system like this you’ll easily reclaim the 4 gallons a day you need to keep your family going for an extended period.

Purification tablets are a convenient back-up.

Water-borne diseases are the dangerous aftermath of many natural disasters, when people bathe, drink or eat food that has been exposed to infected water. Children are particularly susceptible to the bacteria and protozoa in unclean and unsafe water.

Fortunately, it is easy to add water purification tablets or liquid to your emergency supplies list. Potable Aqua, shown, is a well-respected brand.

At home after the boil-water notice has been lifted?

It will take some flushing to be sure your home systems are clean and ready to go back to work. Some recommendations:

• Flush hot water faucets for 15 minutes, and cold water for 5.
• Change your refrigerator water filter and any other water filters.
• Empty ice cubes, run through a cycle and discard those cubes, too.
• Run your dishwasher empty for a cycle. Then rewash everything that came into contact with water just before the boil-water notice.
• Discard and clean containers, then refill any water used in humidifiers, CPAP machines, electric toothbrushes, etc.

Be ready for a short-term or a long-term outage, and you’ll sail through. If you’re NOT prepared, or your neighbors aren’t prepared, something simple could turn into a real emergency, or even a disaster.

Take action today to store emergency water. It’s easy when everything is operating as it should. When the system is broken, it may be too late.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. I didn’t account for the water that pets may need.  Be sure to build that into your plan!

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter


Show and Tell

At our recent neighborhood meeting, our CERT leader asked me to do a “show and tell” on the LifeStraw® that I have in my emergency supplies. The photo shows what I shared with the group.


My LifeStraw: mouthpiece open at left

The LifeStraw is a tube you suck through (the “straw”) to filter water when you’re out camping or in an emergency.  I discovered it about three years ago after my son became very ill from swallowing water on a hiking trip. (He spent 5 days in hospital; his organs started shutting down due to dehydration.)

LifeStraw features

There are other products that look the same, but the LifeStraw appears to be “the original.” It won awards when it came out in 2005, and was chosen by the U.N. to provide clean drinking water in developing countries. Later was it made available in the U.S. by manufacturer Vestergaard Frandsen. It costs about $20.

The LifeStraw is handy and simple:

  • It is small and lightweight, so fits into anyone’s survival kit.
  • It requires no batteries or replacement parts.
  • It filters up to 1,000 liters – about 265 gallons.

You can stick the straw into a puddle or stream and drink directly, or scoop up water into a bottle and then stick the straw into the bottle. It filters out 99.99% of bacteria (for ex., e coli and salmonella) and protozoa cysts (Giardia), which is what made my son so sick. It does NOT filter out viruses, which are too small to be caught. And it does not make salt-water drinkable.

How to use it

Since there are no chemicals in the straw, the water coming through has no chemical taste. You remove the caps at both ends and sip through the mouthpiece. It takes a good 4-5 pulls to get the water started. To keep the filter clean, you blow back through the straw to unclog it.

You can use the Straw over and over again.  Just keep it clean and let it dry out before you recap the ends.

Here where we live in Southern California, we are not likely to have puddles to drink from in an emergency since we get so little rain! However, in an emergency, we might be forced to look for other sources of water: water heater, toilet tank, or big water barrel. Getting water out of these tanks would likely involve some dirt, grains of rust, sediment, etc. Filtering the water through the LifeStraw would be a reassurance of its quality.

If you or family members live stormy areas or hike or camp a lot, this is a no-brainer addition to your emergency kit. Get more information at Amazon:
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Next time: Water from Swimming Pools

I’m on a roll now about water. Next blog will be about how to use SWIMMING POOL WATER in an emergency.  Can you?  Should you? How to treat it first?

Stay tuned.  (If you don’t want to miss that next Advisory, sign up right now on the form below.)

And do check out that LifeStraw. It just feels right.  It makes a great gift!

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide team




“Water, water everywhere . . . nor any drop to drink”


Ice in plastic containers

How many containers of frozen water would fit in your freezer?

This well-known quote comes from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” written in the mid-1700s by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His poem tells of a ship becalmed whose crew dies of thirst. In a big storm or other emergency, we are not likely to find ourselves in the middle of a salt-water ocean, but we certainly could find ourselves facing serious thirst with only questionable or clearly dirty water available. So once again, I want to address the issue of where to find drinking water. By now you know that you can live for days without food, but not long at all without water.

Here are  four more ideas for where to find water in an emergency:

1. Buy and store water that comes in regular commercial containers. You can buy water in all-sized bottles, cans, and foil packets. Store as much as you can, and refresh regularly. Avoid storing water in plastic directly on cement. According to the LA County Dept. of Public Health, cement can pass through the container into the water.

2. Capture water from alternate sources.

  • Your water heater holds 40-80 gallons, and if you have kept it reasonably clean by regularly draining off silt and calcium build-up at the bottom, it can be a life-saver.
  • The toilet tank (not the bowl) can be another source of water, it you haven’t used chemicals or colors in it.
  • A swimming or decorative garden pool might give you water for washing or even flushing the toilet.  Don’t drink it without treating it first.  (See below, number 4.)

3.  Still more ideas for storing water.

  • Freeze water in clean plastic containers and fill in spaces in the freezer, as shown in the photo.  Ice will keep your freezer cooler, save energy – and provide a source of clean water as the freezer defrosts in a power outage. Don’t use plastic that has had milk or meat products in it. And leave space at the top of the container for the water to expand. (I take mine out once in a while and dump the ice in a flower bed, then refresh the water supply.)
  • Buy large storage containers that fit the space you have available. If you can put a barrel outside, get a 55-gallon drum with spigot. If you don’t have that option, consider “WaterBricks.” An 8-pack of these 3+ gallon blue plastic containers stack and connect for compact storage of 28 gallons.  (Lying flat, they might fit perfectly under a bed.)

4. Don’t forget agents to turn dirty water into drinkable water!

  • The LifeStraw is a personal water filter that would allow you to drink from a puddle or stream.  Simple, light, easy to store, filters over 250 gallons of suspect water. Get one for every person, and every survival kit, particularly your car kit.
  • Water treatment tablets or drops are widely available. They take about 30 minutes to purify contaminated water. Be sure to follow instructions exactly.

Let us know YOUR good ideas for storing water for emergencies.  Just drop them into the comment box to share!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

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