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101 | The New Prepper

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The Department of Redundancy Department

A common Prepping mantra is “two is one; one is none.”

For those of you who’ve never dropped their keys down a storm drain, gotten a flat while driving on the donut, or have had to fumble in the dark with a dead flashlight…  this means having just one of something, or one way of getting something important done, is silly.

The word “important” here is, er, important. You maybe don’t need two caps for your toothpaste tube, but you do need two sources of light. Two knives. Two ways of communicating in case you get separated. In fact, more than two is sweet for the really important stuff. Who thinks just having “one” of something is a good idea?

Look at the important Prepping areas: food, shelter, safety, light, warmth ( or cool ), security, energy, entertainment, and figure out how to be redundant. This might mean having two or three lighters. But think of this in another way; better to have a lighter, a sparker, and matches. Different ways of doing the same thing: generating fire. With a little more thought, you can start to see redundancy of purpose, not only action. By this I mean the fire can signal, cook food, warm you up, cauterize a wound, or just raise your spirits.

When it comes to the major needs, are you working towards redundancy? Just thinking about it, at least?

Prepping Water 101 ( part 2 )


In which we discuss treating/filtering water you’ve collected from Somewhere, and some last advice on water Prepping. For Part 1 of  “Prepping Water 101″ , where we discuss the reasons for Water Prepping and the basics of collection, go here.

Making sketchy water safe

By “sketchy” I mean water you got from anywhere besides some pre-bottled solution or the tap. Water you collect from rainfall or the creek out back should be treated.

Boiling is the most basic treatment, and will make almost all kinds of water safe. There are some very small, rare kinds of materials that boiling won’t take care of, but in a pinch boiling should work and is always better than not treating it at all. Water polluted by heavy metals will still be polluted after boiling, but bringing water with parasites, viruses, and other nastiness to a boil will make it safe, even if a little distasteful.

Common household clear beach will also work pretty well to make sketchy water safe, killing most things that might be wiggling in collected water. Add 3 drops per liter, mix it up and let it sit for 30 minutes to treat it. In the same fashion you can buy chemicals design specifically to treat water, either wherever camping goods are sold or on the internet. I personally prefer Katadyn products for this, but there are many other solutions. No pun intended.

There are also all matter of filters, and in my mind using a quality filter is preferable to boiling or treating water chemically. I can run much more water through a filter than I could treat with a conveniently-carried amount of tablets or drops, and a filter does not consume burning fuel that I might need for other reasons. There are personal filters shaped like thick straws or built into water bottles, larger ones designed to attach to the top of water bottles, all the way up to family-sized gravity filters bigger than several 5-gallon buckets.

My recommendation for Prepping in the two-week scenario is to use one of the filters with a ceramic element that attaches to the top of a water bottle> Katadyn also makes these, as does MSR and others.

There are other methods for making collected water safe, distillation for example, but to my mind they are less efficient, harder to set up, or too time consuming.

Keep in mind

  • If it’s in the high 80s or warmer, you’ll need more water…  1.5 to 2x as much.
  • Baby needs water, Fido needs water, grandma needs water
  • in a water emergency, your lawn is not important, nor are your azaleas
  • If you have some heads-up to a disaster, get that bit of extra water. Fill the tub and all your sinks. This water should probably be treated ( see below ) before drinking just to be safe; you never know what was on the walls of the tub or sink since they were last cleaned. This simple action might just give you more days of water for very little effort
  • there are certainly other ways to collect water, but all of them are pretty difficult. Storing beforehand is always easier.

More water tidbits:

bad ideas:

  • eating snow “for the water”
  • drinking untreated rainwater
  • rationing water
  • thinking soda is an acceptable source of water
  • storing water in old milk or juice containers
  • Thinking rainwater through a Britta filter is safe

worse ideas:

  • drinking alcohol during a water emergency
  • drinking from the toilet bowl
  • avoiding water you’re pretty sure is contaminated, and just not drinking any at all
  • “recycling” bodily fluids. ( Eeeeeeew )

Action Steps

  • Spend ten minutes and figure out a plan – how much you need to store, and how you’re going to do it.
  • buy one case of bottled water for everyone in your family. Put these on a shelf somewhere.
  • don’t throw out those 2 liter bottles; clean them, fill them, and stick them under someone’s bed.
  • buy an extra jug of clear bleach. Also put this on a shelf.
  • buy a couple inflatable kiddie pools
  • invest $90 in a real filter with a ceramic element

Prepping Water 101 ( part 1 )

About two years ago the affluent Chicago suburb of Buffalo Grove was under a mandatory boil order for the entirety of its water supply; all businesses and residences had tainted water coming out of the faucets for about a week. Every drop had to be boiled before it was safe to consume.

As you might imagine, there was a bit of a run on bottled water at the local WalMart. All 43k+ residents and business owners had to either treat ( boil ) the water they were getting or seek uncontaminated water elsewhere. For a week. Restaurants and offices, home, showers, baths, ice cube trays, mop water, dishwashers, clothes washers, and the tap you ran your toothbrush under all had a bit of fecal coliform nastiness in it.

There had been no tornado, no terrorist attack, not even a thunderstorm to speak of. And the water still pumped, coming without a problem to you from Wherever. Just a state-of-the-art suburban water system going on the fritz, and a hoity-toity suburb was unable to deliver potable water to its residents. For two weeks.

Knowing this, how do you think your water system will fare in a disaster?

( a bit of silence. maybe )

Right. So, let’s talk about water Prep: How much you need, collecting and storing it, and making it safe to drink when necessary.


What we need

Do you know what’s a hundred times easier than finding water in crazy places, boiling, treating, and/or filtering it, waiting it to cool, and doing this at least once every day all during a crisis?

That’s right- collecting water beforehand and storing it. Prepping. Straight from the  almighty tap into something that you can put on s shelf, under a bed, or otherwise keep until the city starts putting poop microbes in your tap water, or until it just stops flowing altogether. Doing it now is always easier than doing it later.

Most human beings need about a gallon of water in some form every day to keep functioning at somewhat-normal levels. This gallon is just for consumption, and isn’t at all talking about any water you might need for washing, flushing, giving to the dog, full-on showering, or whatever. The frugal suburbanite might be able to get by with two gallons of water if you take washing into account, if they’re not averse to using a lot more deodorant and wearing a baseball hat.

If you’re thinking about skimping, please don’t.

Getting less than the minimum water a day leads very quickly to bad things. After a single day of less-than-a-gallon of water, you start making bad decisions; your thought processes start to become affected by the onset of dehydration, and things you’d never have considered before will start to sound pretty reasonable. In the light of a sunny day this is somewhat questionable, but in a disaster situation when your family is depending on you to make sound decisions, it can be deadly.

After 3-4 days of no water, you’re dead. Those people you’ve heard of on CNN on hunger strikes for weeks…?  they drank tons of water, every day. A human being can’t live for more than 4 days without a certain amount of water. This makes the water thing is kind of important.

So, our realistic target amount is one gallon a day per family member, and two a day would be better. Planning for less than three days is dumb. Planning for less than a week is gambling. Planning for 2 weeks is probably going to cover most of the Bad Stuff that might happen, even out in Buffalo Grove. Also, storing more water than your family could use in two weeks starts to be kind of a pain for most suburban housing situations.

Also note – when the temp is in the high 80s or higher, you need more water. Budgeting 1.5 to 2 times the “normal” estimates would be smart.

So a family of two adults and two kids would need an absolute minimum of 56 gallons of water ( assuming the bare-bones, one-gallon amount ) to get by for two weeks. In the summer, this would be up to 112 gallons. For Fido, add another 14 gallons. These are minimums, if you’re do nothing with the water but drinking it.

Of course you might get by in your daily life today without drinking a whole gallon of water…  but you get it from other sources that probably aren’t available in a disaster.


Collection & Storing

To get together that 56 gallons of water, you have many options:

For starters, hit WalMart ( or wherever ) and buy one case of bottled water for every member of your family. Put these on a shelf somewhere and forget about them until something bad happens to the water supply. Also, stop throwing out or recycling 2-liter pop bottles; instead take a bit of soap and clean them out, rinse them well, fill them with tap water, and stick them under someone’s bed. Do this until you stop drinking soda, or until you run out of room under beds. Think about buying a few of those blue water containers over in the sporting goods section. Do a little math and work to your goal of water for everyone for two weeks. For the serious Prepper with a bit of room, 55 gallon food-grade plastic barrels might be just the thing.

Storing pre-bottled water, filling up 2-liter bottles or the blue water containers from the tap are pretty simple steps, and hard to mess up. One thing to keep in mind is to never store water kept in plastic on a concrete floor; the plastic will react over time with the concrete and do unpleasant things to your water. Never store water in old milk or juice containers; they’re not sturdy enough to handle it long-term and it’s not possible for you to clean it well enough with stuff you have on hand under your kitchen sink.

If you’re storing water in the 2-liter bottles or blue containers, you might be concerned with preservation. You can add 6 drops of clear, unadulterated bleach to these containers, stir them, and let them stand for 30 minutes if you’re concerned, and your water will stay fresh.

For the barrels, you’ll definitely need to add a little bleach…  13 teaspoons ( a little less than 1/3 a cup ) for a 55 gallon barrel, stirring then standing for 30 minutes still applies. Also, if you get these barrels new you still need to scrub them within an inch of their lives before you put water your fam will drink in them. If you got them second hand, use your head. If they were used to store consumables such as pop syrup or sugar, fine… scrub them raw, rinse them out and use them with gusto. If they were used to store anything organic like egg products or juice, or any kind of chemical, don’t use that barrel to store your drinking water.

“Catchment” refers to water you grabbed from somewhere, usually rainfall. whether you MacGyvered a solution with your roof and gutters or simply blew up a couple kiddie pools and stuck them out in the rain, that water needs to be treated somehow before you drink it.

part 2 to follow…