Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
Many of us live and work in areas that are vulnerable to natural disasters or other disruptions - earthquakes, power outages, climate change events. After an informative and hair-raising piece from the New Yorker a few years ago, we in Portland were reminded that a massive quake could hit anytime between right now and another 50 years.
Preparations are happening on many fronts. A lot of effort continues to increase survival and recovery chances when that massive 9.0+ quake does hit, but what will make the most immediate difference for each of us, our families, and neighbors is to be prepared. I echo here some concrete steps gathered from my own prep and research.
Increase disaster resilience by tackling preparation efforts in bite sizes and you’ll find it’s more manageable to achieve some peace of mind. The following focuses on earthquake preparedness in the Pacific Northwest, and I invite you to make it all about you and the disaster scenarios wherever you are. We have a lot in common regardless of the crisis, and I hope you’ll find this helpful guidance!
Start where you are
For many in my area, the temperate climate and our passion for the great outdoors with all its accouterments give us a head start. If you own camping gear, think of it as a great beginning to your “prepper” project!
Over time, I hope to write about water, food, waste, shelter, communications, and community. There’s a rich field of overlap and intersection through all this, but let’s take it one step at a time. If the Big One doesn’t hit first, you’ll soon graduate from novice prepper to ready (ish) with the comfort of knowing you’re way more prepared than before.
Water is life.
Those fighting to protect water in places like Standing Rock, ND and around the world know this all too well. Water is not a resource, it is THE source. We start here because water is the keystone of human survival. In the event of an earthquake in Portland, Oregon, we can expect clean water supply to be disrupted for at least 2 weeks, and likely longer. See Portland’s Emergency Preparedness site for more on this.
Don’t freak out! Chanel that energy into action with some simple steps.
How much water?
It’s recommended that you store at least 1 potable gallon per person per day. In Portland, this means at least 14 gallons per person. This covers drinking water, food prep, and some sanitation. Include more water if you have pets or if there are special personal needs.
Buy new containers or reuse old ones, but be sure to wash and prepare them for water storage. It’s not tough to do, but it does take a small amount of time and effort. Check out the City of Portland’s excellent video on preparing containers!
What’s not recommended is using old milk or juice containers because it’s not possible to adequately prep them for storage of drinking water, even with the bleach solution method!
Your hot water heater tank can be a source of water, and any rainwater catchment can also provide a supply, though that may need treatment. See tips from the CDC on sources of water during emergencies.
If everything tumbles and shifts, you’ll want to be able to get at that water supply without having to dig too far. Ideally, store your water containers at surface level away from larger, multistory structures in a shed, garage, or other protected area. They still may get buried if everything falls to pieces, but it will take less time to get to them.
If you’re in a condo, apartment building, or other structure, consider teaming up with neighbors and talking with building managers or owners to explore options and consider preparation strategies. At the very least, have some water stored within easy access in your living space. In this case, smaller containers may be easier to manage.
Filomena’s favorite water storage container
I highly recommend the 7.5 gallon Reliance Aqua-tainer blue water jugs as featured in the City of Portland’s video as they stack nicely for compact storage.
These containers are rugged, opaque, and have great dispensing features. Being block-shaped makes them more compact for the amount of water than I expected, and this makes them way easier to store. The other great feature is that one container covers a person for one week. Two containers, and you are all set with your own prep!
Something not often mentioned is that emergency supplies need to be maintained. Jugs of water may need to be checked from time to time. Although water doesn’t exactly spoil, it can go a bit flat. Mark your calendar for water refills on an annual basis. Also, write the fill date on masking or duct tape to place on each container. It will help to know how fresh that water is when emergency hits.
When it’s time to use stored water, check odor and color first. It’s likely that your carefully stored water is ready to roll, but what about rainwater or other sources that may not be ready for human consumption? And what’s the plan for fetching water when your stored supply runs out?
Some options to consider:
personal water filters such as LifeStraw
boiling for 10 minutes (though this would use precious fuel)
Containers like the Reliance 1 gallon folding jug (small and easy to lug around)
The time for action is now
In summary, water is the place to start when preparing for emergencies. It can be as simple as filling two blue 7.5 gallon jugs and tucking them under the coffee table or in the shed. Imagine the peace of mind knowing you have that first step squared away!
I hope this post makes it easier to take action for your future well-being. Regardless of what we may face in our lives at any time - illness, natural disaster, or other disruptions, strategies for resilience are our best investment of time and energy.
Stay tuned for the next emergency preparedness focus: Food!
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