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Food for the Flood (and other emergencies)

We are more than halfway through the hurricane season, still in the midst of the wildfire season, headed back into the flood and tornado seasons — see a pattern here?  Emergencies and natural and man-made disasters really have no time off.

The CDC, always a really good resource in the emergency and preparedness department, has the following recommendations for taking care of our food and water needs in anticipation of said emergencies or disasters.  Remember: preparing for the worst does not in any way invite that crisis.  It simply means we can better weather a storm of most any description, helping ourselves, our families and our neighbors survive and recover.

Prepare an emergency food supply:

Keep foods that 

  • Have a long storage life
  • Require little or no cooking, water or refrigeration, in case utilities are disrupted.
  • Meet the needs of babies or other family members who are on a special diet.
  • Meet the pets’ needs.
  • Are not very salty or spicy, as these foods increase the need for drinking water, which may be in short supply.

How to store emergency food:

  • Even a minor disaster can disrupt the food supply at any time, so plan to have at least a 3-day supply of food on hand.
  • When storing food, it is not necessary to buy dehydrated or other types of emergency food.  Canned foods and dry mixes will remain fresh for about two years.
  • Certain storage conditions can enhance the shelf life of canned or dried foods.  The ideal location is a cool, dry, dark place.  The best temperature is 40° to 60°F.  Keep foods away from stoves and ranges or refrigerator exhausts.  Heat causes many foods to spoil more quickly.
  • Keep foods away from petroleum products, such as gasoline, oil, paints and solvents.  Some food products absorb their smell.
  • Protect food from rodents and insects.  Items stored in boxes or in paper cartons will keep longer if they are heavily wrapped or stored in airtight containers.
  • Date all food items.  Use and replace food before it loses freshness.

Preparing food:

Preparing food after a disaster or emergency may be challenging, especially if your home is damaged and/or you are without electricity, gas and water.  Having the following items on hand will help you to prepare nourishing meals safely:

  • Cooking utensils
  • Knives, forks and spoons
  • Paper plates, cups and towels
  • A manual can- and bottle-opener
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Gas or charcoal grill; camp stove
  • Fuel for cooking, such as charcoal (CAUTION: never burn charcoal indoors.  The fumes are deadly when concentrated indoors)

Prepare an emergency water supply:

  • Store at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and each pet. You should consider storing more water than this for hot climates, for pregnant women, and for persons who are sick.
  • Store at least a 3-day supply of water for each person and each pet (try to store a 2-week supply if possible).
  • Observe the expiration dates for store-bought water; replace other stored water every six months.
  • Store a bottle of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach to disinfect your water and to use for general cleaning and sanitizing.
  • Note that caffeinated drinks and alcohol dehydrate the body, which increases the need for drinking water.

Water containers (cleaning and storage):

Unopened commercially bottled water is the safest and most reliable emergency water supply.  Using food-grade water storage containers, such as those found at surplus or camping supply stores, is recommended if you prepare stored water yourself.  Before filling with safe water, use these steps to clean and sanitize storage containers:

  1. Wash the storage container with dishwashing soap and water and rinse completely with clean water.
  2. Sanitize the container by adding a solution made by mixing 1 teaspoon of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach in one quart of water.
  3. Cover the container and shake it well so that the sanitizing bleach solution touches all inside surfaces of the container.
  4. Wait at least 30 seconds and then pour the sanitizing solution out of the container.
  5. Let the empty sanitized container air-dry before use OR rinse the empty container with clean, safe water that is already available.

AVOID using the following containers to store safe water:

  • Containers that cannot be sealed tightly.
  • Containers that can break, such as glass bottles.
  • Containers that have even been used for toxic solid or liquid chemicals (and this includes old bleach containers).
  • Plastic or cardboard bottles, jugs, and containers used for milk or fruit juices.

For proper water storage:

  • Label container as ‘drinking water’ and include storage date.
  • Replace stored water that is not commercially bottled every 6 months.
  • Keep stored water in a place with a generally constant cool temperature.
  • Do not store water containers in direct sunlight.
  • Do not store water containers in areas where toxic substances such as gasoline or pesticides are present.

Special thanks Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov.

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