Dealing With Water Emergencies
Safe, drinking water is one of life’s absolute necessities because a person can only survive a short period of time without potable drinking water. Most people take the availability of potable water for granted and will only realize how necessary it is during drinking water emergencies.
Part of emergency preparedness is having an at least a few days supply of clean drinking water. However, this is an ideal situation because the reality is that most people are usually found unprepared during water emergencies and have not stored water for the eventuality. After an emergency or a disaster such as an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, tsunami and other disasters, water becomes scarce. A good example is the aftermath of the recent earthquake in Japan where drinking water became scarce because the supply was interrupted.
It is always safe to assume that water available for example in your taps is not clean or safe for drinking after a disaster. There may be leaks or seepage from broken sewer lines. If there are reports about broken water pipes or sewer lines, it is a good idea to turn off the water intake valve in your home to avoid more water coming in which will contaminate the water in your house. During water emergencies, you should immediately begin to look for alternative sources in case tap water runs out or is contaminated, or you run out of the water you had stored for emergencies.
Some sources of water in the house can be ice cubes from the refrigerator, water from the hot water tank and water from water pipes. Other sources of water during water emergencies can be rainwater and water from springs, rivers and lakes.
Any water collected from outside your home in water emergencies should always be purified first before drinking. This is because the water may contain harmful microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria and protozoa, and other contaminants such as mercury and lead. Consuming contaminated water may lead to diseases such as dysentery, cholera and typhoid which all cause diarrhea, a very inconvenient and dangerous condition during water emergencies.
There are several methods of water purification during water emergencies and the method will depend on the likely contaminant. The first method is boiling the water. This is also possibly the safest method during an emergency. Water should be boiled for at least 10 minutes to ensure that disease causing pathogens are killed. After boiling the water if you pour it back and forth between two containers for a few times it will put oxygen back in the water and give it a more pleasant taste.
Another water purification method during emergencies is using chlorine. The chlorine acts as a disinfectant and kills pathogens like bacteria, viruses and protozoa. During an emergency, you can use ordinary household bleach to purify the water. However, it gives the water an unpleasant taste and a bleach odor. This method is very useful in situations where the disaster has caused the interruption of electricity or gas meaning boiling of water is not possible.
Iodine is another disinfectant that can be used to purify water. It comes in tablet form or as a tincture and is inexpensive. Like chlorine it also causes an unpleasant taste and may not necessarily get rid of all contaminants in the water. After treating water with chlorine or iodine, it is a good idea to filter the water to get rid of other impurities.
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