Should You Stockpile Water? FDA Shares New Safety Advice
Access to clean water is essential in the case of an emergency.
These days, severe weather is constantly striking around the U.S. In just the last two months alone, we've seen tornados in Alabama, flooding in Texas, and blizzards in California. You never know if the next extreme event could close in on us without much warning, so it's important to prepare ahead of time just in case. Fortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released new advice on emergency preparedness and stockpiling water. Read on to find out what the FDA has to say.
The FDA is advising you to prepare for emergencies now.
Don't wait for disaster to strike. When it comes to hazardous weather events, planning ahead can make a huge difference, reports the FDA. "When gale-force winds start blowing and torrential rains raise water levels, you need to be ready," the agency explained in a Jan. 2023 consumer alert. "If the storm or flood is severe enough, you may need to evacuate with little time to prepare. Don't put off being prepared until the emergency hits."
Even if you don't end up having to evacuate, it will likely be hard to find the supplies you may need to shelter-in-place right before an expected storm. That's why the FDA advises making an emergency kit that you can turn to in a time of need. "In addition to first aid and other essentials, including food and water supplies in your home emergency kit is the best way to be prepared for hurricanes and flooding," the agency said.
The FDA says you should have a stockpile of water for at least three days.
You may not be able to use water straight out of your faucet during an extreme weather event, especially if flooding is involved, so a stockpile of water in an essential element of your emergency preparation. "Access to clean water is essential," the FDA said. "Floods may contaminate tap water … with sewage, chemicals, heavy metals, pathogenic microorganisms, or other contaminants."
In line with recommendations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Red Cross, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the FDA recommends that each member of your family have a minimum of one gallon of water per day in the midst of storm. "Store at least a 3-day supply of water for each person," the agency said. "However, a 2-week supply is better if you have the space."
Your water should be bottled and stored safely.
It's not just about just how much water you have, the stockpile also needs to be stored safely. "Water should be bottled and store-bought to avoid possible contamination, and kept at home in a dry, dark place," the FDA warned. But don't let this pile remain untouched for an indefinite amount of time either. The FDA said you should also "routinely check the expiration or 'use by' dates" on the bottled water in your stockpile and "rotate and replace them if necessary."
When storing your bottled water, you should also keep it where it will be "as safe as possible from flooding," said the FDA. "If your bottled water has an odor, do not drink or use it. Instead, dispose of it, or if applicable, call your bottled water provider to make arrangements to get a replacement."
You can use other water under certain conditions.
"The safest choice for your drinking water during an emergency is bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters," said the FDA. But if this is not available there are ways for you to make and keep other drinking water options safe. "If you don't have bottled water, you should boil water for one minute," the agency said. "This will kill most types of disease-causing organisms, such as cholera, typhoid, salmonella, giardia, E. coli, and amoebas."
Once your water has been boiled, you should allow it to cool and then store it in clean containers with covers.
If you can't boil water and you want to drink it or use it in any other way, your next best choice is to disinfect it by adding one-eighth a teaspoon of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach to per each gallon.
"Stir it well and let it stand for at least 30 minutes before using it," the FDA further advised. "If the water is cloudy, filter it through layers of clean cloth or allow it to settle, then draw off the clear water for disinfection."