Preparing For An Environmental Emergency

Preparing for an environmental emergency  1

When disaster strikes you may not have the time or opportunity to purchase supplies. FEMA recom¬mends that you prepare an emergency supplies kit by buying and storing items necessary for survival and comfort if basic services — electricity, gas, water, and telephones — are cut off. The emergency supplies kit is an important part of the emergency planning that everyone should do. FEMA suggests not only that every home contain an emergency supplies kit but that you also outfit your car with a smaller version of the kit. (Your car kit should also contain booster cables, a fire extinguisher, a shovel, and a tire repair kit and pump). FEMA also recommends that your home be equipped with a portable container such as a backpack, duffel bag, or cargo container in which to carry emergency supplies should you need to evacuate the home.

FEMA also suggests that emergency supplies of water, food, and other essentials for living be stored in the home, ready for use or evacuation:

– Three gallons of water per person
– A three-day to one-week supply of nonperishable food
– A wrench to turn off utilities
– A manual can opener and utility knife
– Heavy-duty garbage bags and bucket with a tight-fitting lid (for makeshift toilet)
– Blankets and sleeping bags for each family member
– Household liquid bleach (to treat drinking water)
– Sanitation and hygiene items such as toilet paper, premoist-ened towelettes, and sanitary napkins and tampons.


FEMA recommends that a three-day supply of fresh drinking water be stored in plastic con¬tainers with tightly fitting lids. Milk cartons or glass bottles can decompose or break and are not recommended. You should have a minimum of three gallons per person, more if possible, stored in an accessible place. Don’t count on there being time to fill empty containers with tap water in the event of a disaster or emergency.

Potable water will also be available in the water heater, in the toilet tank (if not disinfected), in the water pipes, or from melted ice cubes.

Water Purification

Boil impure water to ensure safe drinking. If water contains large particles or impurities, strain it through a clean cloth before boil¬ing. Boil water for one full minute, then cool before drinking.

Household liquid bleach will also purify water. For every gal¬lon of water, add 16 drops of bleach. Mix the solution and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not smell slightly of chlo¬rine, repeat the procedure and let stand 15 minutes. If the water still lacks the scent of chlorine, throw it away and find another source of water.

Water purification tablets can be purchased from camping goods stores and stored in your emergency supplies kit.


Along with water, FEMA sug¬gests that a three-day supply of nonperishable food be available in the home or for evacuation. Foods that don’t need refrigeration, cooking, or and use little or no water are best. Canned meats, fruits, vegetables, juices, milk, and soup are all ready to eat and contain large amounts of liquid. Peanut butter, jelly, granola, and candy bars can provide a quick source of protein and/or fat. Consider individually sized canned goods and prepackaged beverages: pull-tops lids and vacuum-packed containers make them easy to open and long last¬ing. Don’t forget to include a supply of specialty food, such as infant formula, canned baby foods, or diet items for those with health problems.

Weather Radios

The National Weather Service offers continuous broadcasts of weather forecasts, conditions, watches, and warnings, and the broadcasts can be received on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio. All types of hazards, both natural (severe flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.) and technological (chemical releases or toxic spills) are broadcast, making it a comprehensive source for weather and emergency information. FEMA and the National Weather Service rec¬ommend the purchase of a radio with both a battery backup and a specific area mes¬sage encoder (SAME). The encoder provides you with county-specific information in an emergency, thus giving instantaneous access to watches, warnings, or life-threatening conditions in your area.

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