Food and Water Supplies
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
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.
THE ABSOLUTE NECESSITY
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.
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.
to Store Emergency Water Supplies
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
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.
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,
Water Sources in Your Home
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 (described later).
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.
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 one.
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.
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
you need to seek water outside your home, you can use
these sources. But purify the water before drinking
rivers and other moving bodies of water
water with floating material, an odor or dark color.
Use saltwater only if you distill it first (described
Easy Ways to Purify Water
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Rigorous Purification Methods
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 radioactive fallout.)
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.
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 Kit
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.
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
supplies and first aid manual
radio, flashlights and extra batteries
and other useful tools
and matches in a waterproof container
and extra clothing
and small children's needs (if appropriate)
PREPARING AN EMERGENCY STOCKPILE
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.
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.
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 plans.
food in the driest and coolest spot in the house--a
dark area if possible.
food covered at all times.
food boxes or cans carefully so that you can close
them tightly after each use.
cookies and crackers in plastic bags, and keep them
in tight containers.
opened packages of sugar, dried fruits and nuts into
screw-top jars or air-tight cans to protect them from
all food containers for signs of spoilage before use.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
sure you have a can opener and disposable utensils.
And don't forget nonperishable foods for your pets.
to Store Your Short-Term Stockpile
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.
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.
emergency food supply should be of the highest quality
possible. Inspect your reserves periodically to make
sure there are no broken seals or dented containers.
to Cook if the Power Goes Out
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.
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: Wheat--20 pounds Powdered Milk
(for babies and infants)*--
20 pounds Corn--20 pounds Iodized Salt--1 pound Soybeans--10
pounds Vitamin C**--15
Buy in nitrogen-packed cans **
Rotate every two years
and Preparation of Food Supplies
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.
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.
a crisis, it will be vital that you maintain your strength.
at least one well-balanced meal each day.
enough liquid to enable your body to function properly
(two quarts a day).
in enough calories to enable you to do any necessary
vitamin, mineral and protein supplements in your stockpile
to assure adequate nutrition.
Life of Foods for Storage
are some general guidelines for rotating common emergency
within six months:
Dried fruit (in metal container)
Dry, crisp crackers (in metal container)
within one year:
condensed meat and vegetable soups
Canned fruits, fruit juices and vegetables
Ready-to-eat cereals and uncooked instant cereals
(in metal containers)
Hard candy, chocolate bars and canned nuts
be stored indefinitely (in proper containers and conditions):
Instant coffee, tea
Noncarbonated soft drinks
Powdered milk (in nitrogen-packed cans)
to Supplement Your Long-Term Stockpile
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
is an easy approach to long-term food storage:
a supply of the bulk staples listed above.
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
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 accordingly.
the Electricity Goes Off... FIRST, use perishable
food and foods from the refrigerator.
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
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 publications:
Preparedness Checklist (L-154) Item #8-0872
You Ready? Your Guide to Disaster Preparedness (H-34)
Preparedness Publications (L-164) Item #8-0822
Family Disaster Plan (L-191) Item #8-0954
Family Disaster Supplies Kit (L-189) Item #8-0941
thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the
American Red Cross for reviewing this publication.