In the event of an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, winter storm or any other type of natural disaster, people might not have access to food, water and other needed supplies for weeks at a time. Here's some information from the American Red Cross and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on how people can prepare for an emergency and things they should know to survive in such an emergency.
Having enough water is very important during an emergency, according to ARC. The average active person needs to drink a minimum of two quarts of water every day. In a hot environment, people need twice that amount. Kids, pregnant women, nursing mothers and sick people will need even more.
Water is also needed to prepare food and to maintain good hygiene. People should have at least a two-week supply of water, according to ARC. People should store a minimum of one gallon of drinking water per person, per day.
Even if water supplies are low, people should never ration water, according to ARC. People should worry about finding more water when they need it. Staying cool and reducing physical activity will both help people survive on less water.
If physical activity decreases, people can survive on less food, according to ARC. Water can't be rationed but food can, except for children and pregnant women.
If water is limited, people should stay away from foods that are high in fat, protein or salt as they make people more thirsty. Canned foods that have a lot of liquid content, salt-free crackers and whole grain cereals are good in emergency situations, according to ARC.
Babies, toddlers, those with special diets, the elderly and those with allergies will need special attention for food. Canned dietetic foods, soups and juices can be useful for sick people, according to ARC. Families should also store foods that are high in calories, nutritious and don't need to be refrigerated or cooked.
Nursing mothers might also need formula for their babies in case they can't nurse.
Canned food can be eaten straight out of the can, but if it's heated up, the label and lid should be taken off first, according to ARC. In an emergency, a fireplace, charcoal grill or camp stove can be used to cook food. Candle warmers, fondue pots and chafing dishes can be used to heat up food as well.
Cookers designed for outdoor use should not be used inside the home.
In the event of an emergency, people could lose the ability to get food supplies. Having enough food and water to last for two weeks could be a lifesaver.
The easiest way to get a two-week food supply is to increase the amount of food you already have on your shelves, according to ARC. Keep non-perishable foods and water in an accessible place.
"You need to have these items packed and ready in case there is no time to gather food from the kitchen when disaster strikes," according to ARC. "Sufficient supplies to last several days to a week are recommended."
People should have ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables. (Be sure to include a manual can opener), canned juices, milk and soup (if powdered, store extra water).
High energy foods, such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars and trail mix are also good foods to have, according to ARC.
Foods such as hard candy, sweetened cereals, candy bars and cookies can be good for morale as well.
If there are infants, elderly people or people with specific dietary needs, those things should be taken into consideration.
Compressed food bars can be great for food storage as they store well, are nutritious, taste good and are lightweight, according to ARC.
Trail mix is available as a prepackaged product or you can assemble it on your own. Dried foods can be nutritious and satisfying, but some have a lot of salt content, which promotes thirst. Read the label as salty foods should be avoided in emergency situations.
Freeze-dried foods can be tasty and lightweight, but will need water for reconstitution, according to ARC.
Instant Meals such as cups of noodles or cups of soup are a good addition, although they need water for reconstitution, according to ARC. Snack-sized canned goods are good because they generally have pull-top lids or twist-open keys.
Prepackaged beverages that are kept in foil packets and foil-lined boxes are suitable because they are tightly sealed and will keep for a long time.
Commercially dehydrated foods can require a great deal of water for reconstitution and extra effort in preparation, according to ARC. Bottled foods are generally too heavy, bulky and break easily, making them a bad idea for food storage.
Meal-sized canned foods should be avoided because they are usually bulky and heavy, according to ARC. Whole grains, beans, pasta aren't recommended as preparation could be complicated under the circumstances of a disaster.
In case of emergencies, water should be stored in thoroughly washed plastic, plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers, according to ARC. Plastic bottles are best for water storage, but plastic buckets or drums will work too. Avoid containers that have had any kind of toxic substances in them.
Water containers should be tightly sealed, labeled and stored in a cool, dark place. Water can go bad, so water storage should be rotated approximately every six months.
Water can be obtained and used from natural springs, ponds, lakes, rain, streams, rivers and other types of moving water. These kinds of water can be consumed if they've been heated properly.
Water with floating material in it should be avoided, according to ARC. Water with an odor or dark color should also be avoided. Saltwater can be consumed if it's been distilled. Flood water should also be avoided.
Water shouldn't be rationed. If a disaster catches you without a stored supply of clean water, you can use the water in your hot-water tank and pipes and/or ice cubes. As a last resort, you can use water in the reservoir tank of your toilet, according to ARC. Water in the toilet bowl should not be consumed.
"Know the location of your incoming water valve. You'll need to shut it off to stop contaminated water from entering your home if you hear reports of broken water or sewage lines," according to ARC.
Water in the pipes can be used by turning the faucet up all the way. This will let air into the plumbing and cause a small amount of water to trickel out of the lowest faucet in the house, according to ARC.
Water in the hot-water tank can be used if the proper precautions are taken. Be sure the electricity or gas is off, and open the drain at the bottom of the tank. Get the water flowing by turning off the water intake valve and turning on a hot-water faucet. Do not turn on the gas or electricity when the tank is empty.
There are multiple ways to treat water, but no single treatment method is perfect. It is usually best to use a combination of methods, according to ARC. Drinking water that has been contaminated could result in diseases such as dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis.
If the purity of the water is in question, it should be treated before being consumed.
Before treating water, let particles settle at the bottom or paper towels or a cloth as a strainer, according to ARC.
This is the safest way to treat water, according to ARC. The water should be at a rolling boil for 3-5 minutes. Let the water cool before drinking it.
The water will taste better if air is put back into it, according to ARC. This can be done by pouring the water back and forth between two containers. This will also make stored water taste better.
Household liquid bleach can be used to kill microorganisms. Only use it if it contains contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. People should avoid using bleaches that are scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaner, according to ARC.
Add 16 drops of bleach for each gallon of water, then stir and let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water doesn't have a slight bleach smell, repeat the dosage of bleach and let it stand for 15 minutes.
"The only agent used to treat water should be household liquid bleach. Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores that do not contain 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used," according to ARC.
While the other two water treatments will kill most of the microorganisms in water, they won't get it all, according to ARC. Distillation will remove microbes that resist these methods, and heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals.
Distillation includes boiling water then collecting the vapor that condenses back into water. The condensed vapor doesn't include salt and other things that would cause the water to be impure, according to ARC.
To distill water, 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 isn't hanging in the water, then boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled, according to ARC.
-Keep food in a dry, cool spot—a dark area if possible.
-Keep food covered at all times.
-Open food boxes or cans carefully so that you can close them tightly after each use.
-Wrap cookies and crackers in plastic bags, and keep them in tight containers.
-Empty opened packages of sugar, dried fruits and nuts into screw-top jars or air-tight cans to protect them from pests.
-Inspect all food for signs of spoilage before use.
-Use foods before they go bad, and replace them with fresh supplies, dated with ink or marker. Place new items at the back of the storage area and older ones in front.
At the time of a disaster and after, maintaining strength is extremely important, according to ARC. So remember to:
-Eat at least one well-balanced meal each day.
-Drink enough liquid to enable your body to function properly (two quarts a day).
-Take in enough calories to enable you to do any necessary work.
-Include vitamin, mineral and protein supplements in your stockpile to assure adequate nutrition.
Not all foods can sit on the shelf for the same amount of time without going bad. These foods can be stored indefinitely:
-Instant coffee, tea and cocoa
-Noncarbonated soft drinks
-Powdered milk (in nitrogen-packed cans)