Preparing for an emergency

June 18, 2013

Preparing customers and citizens for disasters could be crucial to helping save a life.

Recent natural disasters as well as other unforeseen circumstances have left many people without safe, clean drinking water. While we never know exactly when these situations are going to happen, dealers and local utilities can help homeowners and businesses have a plan of action.

"The unfortunate, and what seems to now be frequent, events of hurricanes, super storms, tornados and even terrorism should make us all pause and consider what we can do to prepare in the case of an emergency," says Cathy Gutkowski, sales and marketing, Doulton Water Filters. Gutkowski continues to say that the first item on any emergency preparedness list will always be water. "It is the most important item we can have on hand. We can live for days, if not weeks without food, but we cannot go without clean drinking water for very long at all."

Glenn Meder, president of GAEMRIC Inc. and the inventor of the Survival Still, offers a few examples of recent disasters that have warranted emergency preparedness. "After Hurricane Katrina, water was highly contaminated and the drinking water supplies were disrupted for months. After Hurricane Andrew, thousands of homes were without a safe supply of water for more than a month. The Northeast Blackout of 2003 shut down water treatment plants and caused tap water to be contaminated with raw sewage, in some places this problem lasted for weeks," he explains.

There have been many other cases where unforeseen circumstances have suddenly turned a city, village or community upside down and left its people without an essential ingredient for life, which is water. For that reason it is important that local communities, water industry experts and organizations do everything in their power to help families prepare for emergency situations.

Be prepared

After witnessing as many natural disasters over recent years that this country has endured, there is no longer any excuse to not be prepared. And, spreading this knowledge to others in your community should be a top priority.

FEMA offers a lot of valuable information online about how to be prepared once disaster strikes at They recommend having access to at least one gallon of drinking water per person per day for a minimum of three days.

Gutkowski notes, "It is critical to realize that your most accessible water sources may not be available [during emergency situations] and if they are, they could easily be contaminated. Yet, you and your family need drinking water to survive and remain healthy. Just as you do for a fire [event], sit down with your family and make a plan and get prepared. Make sure plentiful drinking water is first on that preparedness list."

A natural disaster can cause a number of problems, including flooding, damaged infrastructure or long power outages, which can result in water contamination.

Meder adds, "It is imperative communities help their citizens be prepared by providing them with a copy of the FEMA/Red Cross Booklet on treating water in an emergency situation and by hosting emergency preparedness fairs to encourage preparedness in the community.

In a book by Meder called WaterPrepper he gives a list of tips for families to help them prepare for emergency situation:

1. The first thing that families need is knowledge about what to do. Each family should download and print (so they have access to it if the power is out) a copy of the FEMA/Red Cross Booklet on treating water in an emergency situation. Keep it in a safe location so they can easily access it in case of an emergency. The FEMA/RED CROSS Booklet can be found at

2. A minimum of two-week’s worth of bottled water. You should have at least two quarts (half gallon) per person per day. This should be commercially produced bottled water, preferably a well-known brand name. Keep the bottles sealed and stored in a dark, cool area. Rotate the bottles out at least every six months.

3. Have a bottle of unopened non-scented, basic bleach. Do not use scented bleaches, colorsafe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners, which can be used to disinfect water.

4. A stove and fuel for boiling and/or distilling water during an emergency. You should have a stove that can use different types of fuel, and that will allow you to make a basic wood fire.

5. A water purifier, ideally a non-electric water distiller, which is the best way to purify water during an emergency.

6. You could incorporate an emergency filter into your kit, which could be effective at filtering some contaminants out of the water, as long as you remember to additionally treat the filtered water with one of the FEMA/Red Cross recommended methods.

7. Finally, even your best water preparation plans can be stressed when your friends and loved ones don’t prepare and then they show up at your doorstep in times of need. Your friends and loved ones should also be educated and prepared. You should send each of them a copy of the FEMA/Red Cross Document.

Treating water during an emergency

Once disaster strikes, knowing how to provide clean, safe drinking water becomes of the upmost importance. When storms or floods come through knocking out power and disrupting the service of treatment plants a community’s water is put at risk.

Gutkowski believes it is important to identify sources of water that can be filtered for consumption. She uses examples such as tap water that is contaminated, swimming pool water, a nearby stream and pond or lake water.

There are certain types of equipment available that will allow families to filter contaminated water making it safe to drink during times of emergency. Gutkowski uses ceramic filtration and a gravity filtration system as a few tools that can help filter infected water.

Meder adds "bottled water, bleach, an alternative fuel source stove for boiling, distillation and a non-electric emergency water distiller," as tools to use during an emergency. He goes on to say that when treating water during an emergency, protecting against biological contaminants should be your first priority.

"Water contamination is not one-dimensional," educates Meder. "There are different types of contaminants, such as heavy metals (arsenic, lead, mercury), radioactive contaminants (uranium, radium, etc.), petrochemicals and biological contaminants (bacteria, viruses and parasites)."

While water may look safe to drink during an emergency, it can be contaminated with any of these contaminants making it very harmful to consume. The job of dealers, experts and water organizations is to make this message clear to local communities and utilities. Let them know of the dangers that can arise during such emergencies as natural disasters or even just by a failure at a municipality.

Preparing customers and citizens for such times could be crucial to helping save a life.

"While many people have prepared for emergency situations with long-term food storage, communication gear, bug-out bags, etc., having a long-term solution for water safety is the most important preparation," concludes Meder.

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