Food and Water
in an Emergency
How to Store Water
Store your water in thoroughly
washed plastic, glass, fiberglass
or enamel-lined metal containers.
Never use a container that
has held toxic substances.
Plastic containers, such as soft
drink bottles, are best. You can
also purchase food-grade plastic
buckets or drums.
Seal water containers tightly,
label them and store in a cool,
dark place. Rotate water every
If an earthquake, hurricane, winter storm or other disaster
strikes your community, you might not have access to food,
water and electricity for days, or even weeks. By taking
some 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 in cooperation with the American
Red Cross and the U.S. Department of
Having an ample supply of clean water is a
top priority in an emergency. 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 even more.
You will also need water for food preparation and hygiene. Store a
total of at least one gallon per person , per day. You should store at
least a two - week supply of water for each member of your family.
If supplies run low, 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
If you need to find water outside
your home, you can use
these sources. Be sure to purify
the water according to the
instructions on page 3 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. You should not drink flood
Short -Term Food
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
The easiest way to develop a two week
stockpile is to increase the
amount of basic foods you normally
keep on your shelves.
- 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
- 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.
Hidden Water Sources in Your Home
If a disaster catches you without a stored supply of clean water, you can use the
water in your hot-water tank, pipes and ice cubes. As a last resort, you can use
water in the reservoir tank of your toilet (not the bowl).
Do you 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.
To use the water in your pipes, let air into the plumbing by turning on the faucet in
your house at the highest level. A small amount of water will trickle out. Then obtain
water from the lowest faucet in the house.
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.
When Food Supplies Are Low
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 food storage plans.
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 elderly people. Nursing mothers may need liquid formula, in
case they are unable to nurse. Canned dietetic foods, juices and soups may be helpful
for ill or elderly people.
Make sure you have a manual can opener and disposable utensils. And don’t forget
nonperishable foods for your pets.
How to Cook If the Power Goes Out
For emergency cooking you can use a fireplace, or a charcoal grill or camp stove
can be used outdoors. You can also heat food with candle warmers, chafing
dishes and fondue pots. Canned food can be eaten right out of the can, just be careful of the sharp edges along the top.
During and right after a disaster, it will be vital that you maintain your
strength. So remember:
- 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 & protein supplements in your stockpile to assure adequate
Shelf-life of Foods for
Here are some general guidelines
for rotating common emergency
Use within six months:
— Powdered milk (boxed)
— Dried fruit (in metal
— Dry, crisp crackers
(in metal container)
Use within one year:
— Canned condensed meat
and vegetable soups
— Canned fruits, fruit juices
— Ready-to-eat cereals &
uncooked instant cereals
(in metal containers)
— Peanut butter
— Hard candy and canned nuts
— Vitamin C
May be stored indefinitely
(in proper containers and
— Vegetable oils
— Dried corn
— Baking powder
— Instant coffe, tea and cocoa
— Noncarbonated soft drinks
— White rice
— Bouillon products
— Dry pasta
— Powdered milk
(in nitrogen-packed cans)
Three Ways to Purify Water
In addition to having a bad odor and taste, contaminated water can contain
microorganisms that cause diseases such as dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis.
You should purify all water of uncertain purity before using it for drinking, food
preparation or hygiene.
There are many ways to purify water. None is perfect. Often the best solution is a
combination of methods.
Two easy purification methods are outlined below. These measures will kill most
microbes but will not remove other contaminants such as heavy metals, salts and
most other chemicals. Before purifying, let any suspended particles settle to the
bottom, or strain them through layers of paper towel or clean cloth.
Boiling is the safest method of purifying water. Bring water to a
rolling boil for 3-5 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 the water back and forth between two
clean containers. This will also improve the taste of
You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms.
Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium
hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, colorsafe bleaches or bleaches with
Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand
for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach
odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes.
The only agent used to purify 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.
While the two methods described above will kill most
microbes in water, distillation will remove microbes that resist these methods, and
heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals.
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.
If you are interested in learning
more about how to prepare for
emergencies, contact your local
or State Office of Emergency
Management or local American
Red Cross chapter, or write to
PO BOX 2012
JESSUP MD 20794-2012
and ask for any of the following
(L-154) Item #8-0872
Your Family Disaster
(L-189) Item #8-0941
Your Family Disaster Plan
(L-191) Item #8-0954
Are You Ready? Your Guide to
(H-34) Item #8-0908
(L-164) Item #8-0822
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 strikes.
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 items:
- Medical supplies and first aid manual
- Money and matches in a waterproof
- Hygiene supplies container
- Portable radio, flashlights and n Fire extinguisher
- Blanket and extra clothing
- Shovel and other useful tools n Infant and small children’s needs
- Household liquid bleach to purify (if appropriate)
- Manual can opener
If the Electricity Goes Off. . .
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.
Contact T-CEP: 310-455-3000 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.O. Box 1708 Topanga, CA 90290