Emergency Food and Water Supplies - from FEMA
If an earthquake, hurricane, winter
storm or other disaster ever strikes your community, you
might not have access to food, water and electricity for
days, or even weeks. By taking a little time now to store
emergency food and water supplies, you can provide for
your entire family.
This brochure was developed by the
Federal Emergency Management Agency's Community and
Family Preparedness Programs which provides information
to help families prepare for all types of disasters.
Stocking water reserves and learning
how to purify contaminated water should be among your top
priorities in preparing for an emergency. You should
store at least a two-week supply of water for each member
of your family. Everyone's needs will differ, depending
upon age, physical condition, activity, diet and climate.
A normally active person needs to drink at least two
quarts of water each day. Hot environments can double
that amount. Children, nursing mothers and ill people
will need more. You will need additional water for food
preparation and hygiene. Store a total of at least one
gallon per person, per day.
If your supplies begin to run low,
remember: Never ration water. Drink the amount you need
today, and try to find more for tomorrow. You can
minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing
activity and staying cool.
How to Store Emergency Water
You can store your water in thoroughly
washed plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal
containers. Never use a container that has held toxic
substances, because tiny amounts may remain in the
container's pores. Sound plastic containers, such as soft
drink bottles, are best. You can also purchase food-grade
plastic buckets or drums.
Before storing your water, treat it
with a preservative, such as chlorine bleach, to prevent
the growth of microorganisms. Use liquid bleach that
contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite and no soap.
Some containers warn, "Not For Personal Use." You can
disregard these warnings if the label states sodium
hypochlorite is the only active ingredient and if you use
only the small quantities in these instructions.
Add four drops of bleach per quart of
water (or two scant teaspoons per 10 gallons), and stir.
Seal your water containers tightly, label them and store
them in a cool, dark place.
Sources in Your Home
If a disaster catches you without a
stored supply of clean water, you can use water in your
hot-water tank, in your plumbing and in ice cubes. As a
last resort, you can use water in the reservoir tank of
your toilet (not the bowl), but purify it first
Water beds hold up to 400 gallons, but
some water beds contain toxic chemicals that are not
fully removed by many purifiers. If you designate a water
bed in your home as an emergency resource, drain it
yearly and refill it with fresh water containing two
ounces of bleach per 120 gallons.
To use the water in your pipes, let
air into the plumbing by turning on the highest faucet in
your house and draining the water from the lowest
To use the water in your hot-water
tank, be sure the electricity or gas is off, and open the
drain at the bottom of the tank. Start 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.
Do you know the location of your
incoming water valve? You'll need to shut if off to stop
contaminated water from entering your home if you hear
reports of broken water or sewage lines.
Outdoor Water Sources
If you need to seek water outside your
home, you can use these sources. But purify the water
before drinking it.
- Streams, rivers and other moving
bodies of water
- Ponds and lakes
- Natural springs
Avoid water with floating material, an
odor or dark color. Use saltwater only if you distill it
first (described later).
Three Easy Ways to Purify
In addition to having a bad odor and
taste, contaminated water can contain microorganisms that
cause diseases such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid and
hepatitis. You should therefore purify all water of
uncertain purity before using it for drinking, food
preparation or hygiene.
There are many ways to purify water.
None are perfect. Often the best solution is a
combination of methods. Before purifying, let any
suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain them
through layers of paper towel or clean cloth.
Three easy purification methods are
outlined below. These measures will kill microbes but
will not remove other contaminants such as heavy metals,
salts, most other chemicals and radioactive fallout.
Boiling is the safest method of
purifying water. Bring water to a rolling boil for 10
minutes, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate.
Let the water cool before drinking.
Boiled water will taste better if you
put oxygen back into it by pouring it back and forth
between two containers. This will also improve the taste
of stored water.
Chlorination uses liquid chlorine
bleach to kill microorganisms. (See page 1 for bleach
safety information.) Add two drops of bleach per quart of
water (four drops if the water is cloudy), stir and let
stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not taste and
smell of chlorine at that point, add another dose and let
stand another 15 minutes.
If you do not have a dropper, use a
spoon and a square-ended strip of paper or thin cloth
about 1/4 inch by 2 inches. Put the strip in the spoon
with an end hanging down about 1/2 inch below the scoop
of the spoon. Place bleach in the spoon and carefully tip
it. Drops the size of those from a medicine dropper will
drip off the end of the strip.
Purification tablets release chlorine
or iodine. They are inexpensive and available at most
sporting goods stores and some drugstores. Follow the
package directions. Usually one tablet is enough for one
quart of water. Double the dose for cloudy water.
While the three methods described
above will remove only microbes from water, the following
two purification methods will remove other contaminants.
Distillation will remove microbes, heavy metals, salts,
most other chemicals, and radioactive dust and dirt,
called radioactive fallout. Filtering will also remove
radioactive fallout. (Water itself cannot become
radioactive, but it can be contaminated by radioactive
fallout. It is unsafe to drink water that contains
Distillation involves boiling water
and then collecting the vapor that condenses back to
water. The condensed vapor will not include salt and
other impurities. To distill, 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 is not dangling into the
water) and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that
drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.
To make a fallout filter, punch holes
in the bottom of a large bucket, and put a layer of
gravel in the bucket about 1-1/2 inches high. Cover the
gravel with a towel cut in a circle slightly larger than
the bucket. Cover soil with a towel, place the filter
over a large container, and pour contaminated water
through. Then, disinfect the filtered water using one of
the methods described above. Change the soil in your
filter after every 50 quarts of water.
Family Disaster Supply
It's 2:00 a.m. and a flash flood
forces you to evacuate your home--fast. There's no time
to gather food from the kitchen, fill bottles with water,
grab a first-aid kit from the closet and snatch a
flashlight and a portable radio from the bedroom. You
need to have these items packed and ready in one place
before disaster hits.
Pack at least a three-day supply of
food and water, and store it in a handy place. Choose
foods that are easy to carry, nutritious and
ready-to-eat. In addition, pack these emergency
- Medical supplies and first aid
- Hygiene supplies
- Portable radio, flashlights and
- Shovel and other useful tools
- Money and matches in a waterproof
- Fire extinguisher
- Blanket and extra clothing
- Infant and small children's needs
PREPARING AN EMERGENCY STOCKPILE
If activity is reduced, healthy people
can survive on half their usual food intake for an
extended period and without any food for many days. Food,
unlike water, may be rationed safely, except for children
and pregnant women.
If your water supply is limited, try
to avoid foods that are high in fat and protein, and
don't stock salty foods, since they will make you
thirsty. Try to eat salt-free crackers, whole grain
cereals and canned foods with high liquid content.
You don't need to go out and buy
unfamiliar foods to prepare an emergency food supply. You
can use the canned foods, dry mixes and other staples on
your cupboard shelves. In fact, familiar foods are
important. They can lift morale and give a feeling of
security in time of stress. Also, canned foods won't
require cooking, water or special preparation. Following
are recommended short-term and long-term food storage
- Keep food in the driest and coolest
spot in the house--a dark area if possible.
- Keep food covered at all
- 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 containers for
signs of spoilage before use.
Even though it is unlikely that an
emergency would cut off your food supply for two weeks,
you should prepare a supply that will last that long. A
two-week supply can relieve a great deal of inconvenience
and uncertainty until services are restored.
The easiest way to develop a two-week
stockpile is to increase the amount of basic foods you
normally keep on your shelves. Remember to compensate for
the amount you eat from other sources (such as
restaurants) during an average two-week period.
You may already have a two-week supply
of food on hand. Keeping it fresh is simple. Just rotate
your supply once or twice a year.
Considerations to Keep in Mind
As you stock food, take into account
your family's unique needs and tastes. Try to include
foods that they will enjoy and that are also high in
calories and nutrition. Foods that require no
refrigeration, preparation or cooking are best.
Individuals with special diets and
allergies will need particular attention, as will babies,
toddlers and the elderly. Nursing mothers may need liquid
formula, in case they are unable to nurse. Canned
dietetic foods, juices and soups may be helpful for the
ill or elderly.
Make sure you have a can opener and
disposable utensils. And don't forget nonperishable foods
for your pets.
How to Store
Your Short-Term Stockpile
Keep canned foods in a dry place where
the temperature is fairly cool--not above 70 degrees
Fahrenheit and not below freezing. To protect boxed foods
from pests and extend their shelf life, store the boxes
in tightly closed cans or metal containers.
Rotate your food supply. 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.
Your emergency food supply should be
of the highest quality possible. Inspect your reserves
periodically to make sure there are no broken seals or
How to Cook if
the Power Goes Out
For emergency cooking you can use a
fireplace, or a charcoal grill or camp stove outdoors
only. You can also heat food with candle warmers, chafing
dishes and fondue pots. Canned food can be eaten right
out of the can. If you heat it in the can, be sure to
open the can and remove the label first.
In the unlikely event of a military
attack or some other national disaster, you may need
long-term emergency food supplies. The best approach is
to store large amounts of staples along with a variety of
canned and dried foods.
Bulk quantities of wheat, corn, beans
and salt are inexpensive and have nearly unlimited shelf
life. If necessary, you could survive for years on small
daily amounts of these staples. Stock the following
amounts per person, per month:
Powdered Milk (for babies and infants)*-- 20 pounds
Iodized Salt--1 pound
Vitamin C**--15 grams
* Buy in nitrogen-packed cans
** Rotate every two years
Preparation of Food Supplies
Store wheat, corn and beans in sealed
cans or plastic buckets. Buy powdered milk in
nitrogen-packed cans. And leave salt and vitamin C in
their original packages.
If these staples comprise your entire
menu, you must eat all of them together to stay healthy.
To avoid serious digestive problems, you'll need to grind
the corn and wheat into flour and cook them, as well as
boil the beans, before eating. Many health food stores
sell hand-cranked grain mills or can tell you where you
can get one. Make sure you buy one that can grind corn.
If you are caught without a mill, you can grind your
grain by filling a large can with whole grain one inch
deep, holding the can on the ground between your feet and
pounding the grain with a pipe.
In a crisis, it will be vital that you
maintain your strength. So remember:
- Eat at least one well-balanced meal
- 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
Shelf Life of Foods for
Here are some general guidelines for rotating common
Use within six months:
- Powdered milk (boxed)
- Dried fruit (in metal
- Dry, crisp crackers (in metal
Use within one year:
- Canned condensed meat and vegetable
- Canned fruits, fruit juices and
- Ready-to-eat cereals and uncooked
instant cereals (in metal containers)
- Peanut butter
- Hard candy, chocolate bars and
May be stored indefinitely (in proper containers and
- Vegetable oils
- Baking powder
- Instant coffee, tea
- Vitamin C
- and cocoa
- Noncarbonated soft drinks
- White rice
- Bouillon products
- Dry pasta
- Powdered milk (in nitrogen-packed
Ways to Supplement Your
The above staples offer a limited
menu, but you can supplement them with commercially
packed air-dried or freeze-dried foods and supermarket
goods. Rice, popcorn and varieties of beans are
nutritious and long-lasting. The more supplements you
include, the more expensive your stockpile will be.
Following is an easy approach to long-term food
- Buy a supply of the bulk staples
- Build up your everyday stock of
canned goods until you have a two-week to one-month
surplus. Rotate it periodically to maintain a supply of
common foods that will not require special preparation,
water or cooking.
- From a sporting or camping
equipment store, buy commercially packaged,
freeze-dried or air-dried foods. Although costly, this
will be your best form of stored meat, so buy
If the Electricity Goes
FIRST, use perishable food and foods
from the refrigerator.
THEN use the foods from the freezer.
To minimize the number of times you open the freezer
door, post a list of freezer contents on it. In a
well-filled, well-insulated freezer, foods will usually
still have ice crystals in their centers (meaning foods
are safe to eat) for at least three days.
FINALLY, begin to use non-perishable
foods and staples.
If you are interested in learning more
about how to prepare for emergencies, contact your local
or State Office of Emergency Management, or write to the
Federal Emergency Management Agency, P.O. Box 70274,
Washington, D.C. 20024, and ask for any of the following
Emergency Preparedness Checklist (L-154) Item
Are You Ready? Your Guide to Disaster Preparedness
(H-34) Item #8-0908
Emergency Preparedness Publications (L-164) Item
Disaster Plan (L-191) Item #8-0954
Family Disaster Supplies Kit (L-189) Item #8-0941