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Preparing Your Family For Disasters, Part 2

How can you create a worthy disaster kit for your family?

In our previous discussion, we talked about the two essential parts of a disaster kit: food and water.

We learned that stocked food for disasters and other emergency situations should be nutritious, high in calories (for obvious reasons) and can easily be stored with minimal chance of spoilage.

In today's blog post, we're going to continue our exploration of the modern disaster kit by outlining some essential guidelines for storing food and producing drinkable water during emergencies.

How can you keep emergency food fresh and safe?

Sadly, good food was meant by Mother Nature to "go bad" fairly quickly. Luckily, we have more than one option for survival food.

Fresh food will obviously be of limited use during the prolonged aftermath of a disaster , so we're essentially limited to dried/preserved food and sealed commercial food products.

Here are some expert tips to keep your food stash edible, clean and most importantly, safe:

1. Emergency food doesn't have to be placed in a plastic box along with other disaster supplies. You can put them in an elevated shelf where the food will be relatively cool and far from direct sunlight.

2. Food should never be stored in open containers, plates or bowls. All emergency food should be stored in closed containers such as zip-lock bags and plastic canisters with tight covers. You can also use glass jars with screwed-on covers (e.g. mason jars of different sizes).

3. Containers such as boxes, foil packs and jars should be opened as neatly and carefully as possible so you can reclose them easily. During a disaster, exposed food can be a hotbed of bacteria and disease. Keep your food safe!

4. Left-over food can be kept safe from contamination by wrapping them tightly in clear plastic. Place these wrapped parcels in plastic containers with lids or covers.

5. Dry food and ingredients such table sugar, salt, nuts and grains should be removed from their foil or plastic packets and transferred to larger and more durable containers with covers. In the event that you don't have larger containers, refer to guideline # 3.

6. Basic inspection should be carried out before consuming food from an emergency stash. Use your sight and smell to determine the freshness of food if no expiration date is indicated.

7. Food in disaster kits should be replaced periodically, preferably every half year. This will ensure that 100% of the food in your disaster kit will be usable when an actual emergency occurs.

8. Add one bottle of multivitamins to your food stash to ensure that your family will have adequate trace nutrients during a prolonged evacuation or separation from your home.

9. Rationing food is necessary to prolong scarce food supplies. To prevent fatigue and sickness, each member should have at least one full meal with plenty of calories every day. Smaller meals may be rationed as activity winds down toward the evening.

How can you produce clean, drinking water during an emergency?

During disasters, people use up more energy due to the extra physical activities that need to be carried out (e.g. evacuation, setting up temporary shelters, etc.) Regular hydration will become an immediate concern as we cannot survive for long without clean, drinkable water.

Below are some basic reminders when attempting to produce clean water:

1. During times of disaster, no single emergency procedure can produce completely clean water.

Keep that in mind when you drink water that's been disinfected or purified - there's going to be some bacteria and maybe sediments left in your water. This is not something to be afraid of but rather, it's a reality that we should all be prepared to face.

2. If you have access to running water but are unsure if any of existing plumbing has been damaged, you may try boiling water to kill most of the bacteria that can cause diarrhea and other water-borne illnesses.

Bacteria does not remove solid sediments such as soil from water so if there are visible contaminants, be sure to filter the water with several layers of cloth before boiling.

3. Another method of purifying water is through distillation. Pour water into a pot and place the cover upside down, with a cup hanging from the handle of the pot. Evaporated water will eventually distill and drop back into the cup. Larger contaminants will not be able to evaporate along with the water.

4. Unscented bleach may also be used to disinfect water if no other purifying method is available. Instructions for water purification using bleach tend to vary from manual to manual.

The average quantity of bleach needed is about 15 drops for every 1 gallon of water.

Let the bleach perform its work for one hour before inspecting the water. If the water doesn't smell slightly of bleach, you may have to disinfect again with half as much bleach for another half hour before you can safely consume the water.

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