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Make a family plan in case of disaster. See what the experts suggest.

Excerpts from FEMA document "Are You Ready?"

Managing Water

  • Allow people to drink according to their needs.  Many people need more than the average of one-half gallon, per day. The individual amount needed depends on age, physical activity, physical condition, temperature and time of year.

  • Never ration water unless ordered to do so by authorities. Drink the amount you need today and try to find more for tomorrow. Under no circumstances should a person drink less than one liter (four cups) of water each day. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool.

  • Drink water that you know is not contaminated first.  If necessary, suspicious water, such as cloudy water from regular faucets or water from streams or ponds, can be used after it has been treated.  If water treatment is not
    possible, put off drinking suspicious water as long as possible, but do not become dehydrated.

  • Do not drink carbonated beverages instead of drinking water. Carbonated beverages do not meet drinking water requirements.  Both caffeinated drinks and alcohol dehydrate the body, increasing the need for drinking water.                                                                                                                         

  • Turn off the main water valves when there is a disruption in the municipal drinking water. You need to protect the water sources already in your home from contamination if you hear reports of broken water or sewage lines, or if local officials advise you of a problem. To close the incoming water source, locate the incoming valve and turn it to the closed position.

  • Be sure you and other family members know how to do this.

  • To use the water already in your pipes, let air into the plumbing by turning on the faucet at the highest level in your home. A small amount of water will trickle out. Then obtain water from the lowest faucet in the home.

  • To use the water in your hot-water tank, be sure the electricity or gas is off or you will burn out the tank or element.  Then open the drain at the bottom of the tank. Start the water flowing by turning off the water intake valve at the tank and turning on the tank drain faucet. Refill the tank before turning the gas or electricity back on. If the gas is turned off, a professional will be needed to turn it back on.

  • Treat all water of uncertain quality before using it for drinking, food washing or preparation, washing dishes, brushing teeth, or making ice.  In addition to having a bad odor and taste, contaminated water can contain microorganisms (germs) that cause diseases such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis and others.

There are many ways to treat water.  None is perfect. Often the best solution is a combination of methods. 

  • Before treating, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom or strain them through coffee filters or layers of clean cloth. 

  • Make sure you have the necessary materials in your disaster supplies kit for the chosen water treatment method.

    There are three water treatment methods. They are as follows:


       •   Boiling

    •   Chlorination

    •   Distillation

These instructions are for treating water of uncertain quality in an emergency situation, when you have used all of your stored water and no other reliable clean water source is available.


Ref: FEMA "Are You Ready?"


Boiling is the safest method of treating water. In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for 1 full minute, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking.

Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This also will improve the taste of stored water.


You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color safe bleaches, or bleaches with added cleaners. Because the potency of bleach diminishes with time, use bleach from a newly opened or unopened bottle.

Add 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water, stir, and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn’t, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of chlorine, discard it and find another source of water.

Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores that do not contain 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used.


While the two methods described above will kill most microbes in water, distillation will remove microbes (germs) that resist these methods, as well as heavy metals, salts, and most other chemicals.

Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting only the vapor that condenses. The condensed vapor will not include salt or most other impurities.


To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside-down (make sure the cup is not dangling into the water) and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.



Kills Microbes

Removes other contaminants (heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals

Basic Home distillation



Managing Food Supply

Ref: FEMA "Are You Ready?"


  • Keep food in covered containers

  • Keep cooking and eating utensils clean

  • Keep garbage in closed containers and dispose outside, burying garbage if necessary

  • Keep your hands clean by washing them frequently with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected

  • Use only pre-prepared canned baby formula for infants

  • Discard any food that has come into contact with contaminated floodwater

  • Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more

  • Discard any food that has an un­ usual odor, color, or texture



  • Eat foods from cans that are swollen, dented, or corroded, even though the product may look safe to eat

  • Eat any food that looks or smells abnormal, even if the can looks normal

  • Use powdered formulas with treated water

  • Let garbage accumulate inside, both for fire and sanitation reasons

  • Thawed food usually can be eaten if it is still “refrigerator cold.” It can be re-frozen if it still contains ice crystals.

  • To be safe, remember, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

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Last modified: March 07, 2021