I hope this finds you doing well & that you have been enjoying these sunny mid-spring days.
Our May ALERT meeting will feature the presentation of nominees for our upcoming elections. The election normally takes place the meeting after the presentation & the officers then assume their positions at the July meeting.
July is also when ALERT dues are due. Remember, if you want to respond to ALERT callouts or serve as an officer you MUST be current with your dues.
So put the teeth in, comb that one remaining hair and head to the NWS Forecast Office May the 14th at 7PM.
I hope to see you at the meeting!
The 5 Main Ways To Push Up Daisies In A Disaster Part 3
Before we continue with our series, I want to thank those who have sent me feedback, all of which has been positive.
One item covered was fire sustainers, such as Vaseline soaked cotton balls or a candle, to preserve an nascent flame long enough to add fuel to build a workable fire.
One intriguing idea which Teresa shared is to use a “trick relighting birthday” candle as a fire sustainer. This is an idea which I have never seen in any book or video. It makes perfect sense that if you can’t keep the candle extinguished even with you blowing a gale, a true gale won’t kill the flame either. The wicks of these candles are coated with magnesium and when blown out, the remaining heat is sufficient to reignite the magnesium on the wick and in turn ignite the vapor from the melting wax. It’s true, I have to admit it, I married a genius.
Before proceeding, I will repeat the disclaimer that these articles are intended solely to pique your interest so that you will study the subject further, and that neither I, claiming no expertise in the subject nor ALERT nor the NWS will be held responsible for consequences of actions tried or not tried based on the information discussed in these articles.
With that said, so that now you won’t sue the drawers off of me, we now proceed with part 3 of our series.
How to Meet the Reaper #3
Let’s talk about water. In America water is a resource which we totally take for granted. We expect it to come gushing forth from faucets, to wash our cares away during the morning “Royal Flush”, and to water our Gardens of Eden with lawn sprinklers. But, this, as with all modern conveniences is dependent on a deceivingly fragile infrastructure, which can be interrupted or compromised in an increasingly wide variety of ways.
An EF5 tornado can literally pull the pipes out of the ground, cutting off the water supply.
Power outages can kill the pumps that force the water through the pipes, resulting in a dry faucet.
Floodwaters can overwhelm and contaminate the water supply and aquifer making it unsafe to drink.
An accident involving a train or an 18 wheeler can cause a chemical spill contaminating the water supply.
Less dramatically, some poor Bubba having a bad day with a backhoe can cut the water main leaving entire communities without water.
This brings us to the third leading way of “Getting planted in Boot Hill” – Dehydration.
Whatever the reason for the lack of water may be, the result is the same and the consequences can be the same. With some time variation dependent upon the temperature and the humidity, the human body will begin dying after 3 days without water. This includes your mental functions being compromised as well as your bodily functions as organs begin to shut down, since your blood is losing its normal liquid nature and beginning to thicken like ketchup. This of course causes an added strain on your heart as it struggles to force the thickening blood through the body.
The human body requires one gallon of water per day to replenish the liquid lost through sweat, urine, transpiration through the skin and respiration. Whether you are properly hydrated or not can be determined by your urine output. If your urine is clear and there is a lot of it, you are properly hydrated, if this is not the case – it’s dark or there is none being produced. You are in serious danger. Thirst is NOT an accurate indicator of hydration. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
Now that we’ve laid the groundwork we come to a subject, which we will call “Emergency Water Management”.
Emergency Water Management consists of six steps:
1. Pre-emergency water storage
2. Resource location
5. Purification or Sanitization
6. Consumption and Storage
Pre-emergency water storage can be as simple a process as buying a couple of large cases of bottled water and keeping it in a closet. You can gradually drink it and replenish it to keep the supply fresh. This method has the added benefit that no one will think you are being weird, just “health conscious”. If you have to use this supply in an emergency, don’t throw the bottles away. You will find out why later.
To carry this step further, you can store water in larger containers; some commonly available containers hold 7 gallons each. Rotate the supply once a year.
Three gallons is a three-day supply for one person. 21 gallons a 21 day supply. Three 7-gallon containers will last 1 person three weeks. For more than one person, just multiply the total by the number of persons.
At this stage we must consider an often overlooked point – the weight of water.
One 16.9oz plastic bottle of water weighs roughly 1lb. A case of 24 bottles therefore will weigh 24lbs. One gallon of water weighs 8lbs. So a full 7 gallon container will weigh 56lbs.
The point being, that IF as one gentleman on a forum once sarcastically remarked “I would just walk to the Red Cross and get some water”, instead of storing any, you might better to take your daughters pink Hello Kitty wagon with you to haul it back. Because, it’s heavy and if you are like me and usually end up hyperventilating just travelling from the sofa to the “chapel”, you will never make it back.
I’m slightly exaggerating of course, as I am a prime specimen of He-man vigor and vitality.
If one knows in advance that the water supply could be compromised they could quickly fill up every container they can get their hands on, including pots, pans, sinks and bathtubs. However, realistically speaking, except for coastal locations expecting a tropical system, this is seldom a practical option, due to the lack of lead time.
One final item before we move on is taste. Stored water may not necessarily taste like bottled water or tap water. The water may have a chlorine taste or acquire the taste of what was previously stored in the container. Orange juice, for instance. The water is still good water.
Likewise, if you obtain, filter and purify water from a “natural source”, it may still retain some or much of its original taste. If you got the water from a frog pond, it may still taste like frog pond water, even though it is perfectly safe to drink.
The taste can be “disguised” by using it with coffee, tea or mixing it with flavor packets, such as Hi-C, Crystal Lite, PowerAde, etc. Even a pinch of salt will help.
Resource location is simply finding potential sources of water for use if your primary supply is lost.
Unless contaminated by flood waters or other outside pollutants, one source is your “hidden residential supplies”. This includes water stored in the water heater, water in the commode tank, which is clean, despite what you may initially think, and water in the houses water pipes., which may be obtained by placing a container under the lowest spigot, and then opening first the highest and then lowest valves.
Do you have a swimming pool? You can view your pool as “backup” water. Keep it treated, for you never know when this water will be needed. Maintenance of the free chlorine residual will prevent establishment of any microorganisms. Maintenance levels should be kept to 3-5ppm free chlorine. To monitor this, you’ll need a supply of chlorine testers. The problem with using swimming pools is that organics can enter through dirt, sweat, body oils and the inevitable “Mommy Look!” kiddie tinkles. This can form chloramines which are not good to drink.
Also, imagine going in and out of your drinking water a hundred times and then drinking it. Plus after a disaster every imaginable type of debris, including formerly living creatures could be floating in your pool. The water will have to be filtered and purified before it can be safely used. Fortunately neither process is as involved as it sounds, as we will discuss later.
Next we look for outside sources. The most obvious of which is rainwater. With rainwater you would think it would be pure and readily safe to drink. However this is not the case. We live in an urban area and as the rain falls it collects smoke, chemicals and other particles from the atmosphere. These need to be filtered out. Also once the rain hits an object whether a roof or in a puddle, then it can be biologically contaminated and must be purified.
Collection can be done by placing containers at roof downspouts, roof gutter outlets or at the “valley” of the roof, or with a tarp rigged into a v shape to collect the water.
Ponds and streams are other sources of water. I live one half mile from Shades Creek, and ¼ mile from one of its tributaries. In its natural state I would no more drink the water from it than I would from a fully loaded urinal. But, properly filtered and purified, preferably by boiling, it would be perfectly safe to drink, taste, as mentioned earlier, notwithstanding.
Again, water from “emergency” or “outside” sources probably will not taste like city or bottled water. Funky tasting as it may prove, if it has been filtered and purified, it is safe to drink and will save your life.
Procurement simply means carrying the water from the source to the filtering location, which may be at the source or at the base of operations, which ever you deem the most convenient spot.
Filtration of water will remove the majority of chemical and waste products from water. This can be achieved by passing water through a filter or by distillation, which we will discuss later.
To begin the discussion on filtration let me say that most commercial water filters designed for use on your residential supply or kitchen sink are neither designed for nor sufficient for filtering polluted or biologically contaminated water. There are filters commercially available designed for camping and survival use such as Aquamira filters. This straw like filter will allow you to safely drink from streams, puddles and other sources normally considered chemically and biologically unsafe. Having one in your emergency kit isn’t a bad idea.
Effective homemade filters and filtration systems can be made.
How elaborate the system or method needed depends on the condition of the source water.
Water from a clear, fast moving stream may only need straining through cloth or a sand filled cloth. Water from a murky or stagnant source will need more serious attention. Water from either source will need to be purified.
The murky source understandably, but, even water from the fresh flowing “pristine looking” sources needs purification, as you never know what may be decomposing in it 100 yards upstream. Or as was pointed out in the John Wayne movie “The Horse Soldiers”, “the coffee will taste better if the latrine is located downstream”. You never know what may have been tinkled into the stream 100 yards upstream.
Let’s examine the filtration process using the worst case scenario – Shades Creek or even better yet, Village Creek.
First you need four containers: A one or two liter bottle with a cap for the untreated water, which we shall affectionately refer to as “swamp water”. A similar bottle is needed for the partially filtered water. You need yet another container for the filter itself and finally a container for the filtered water.
1. Collection. Collect your “Swamp Water” into the two liter bottle with a cap, preferably with a cloth covering the opening, as this acts as a filter. Fill ¾ full, then cap the bottle.
2. Aeration. This next step in the filtration process adds air to water. It allows gases trapped in the water to escape and adds oxygen to the water. Vigorously shake the bottle for 30 seconds. Continue the aeration process by pouring the water into the second bottle, then pouring the water back and forth between the bottles about 10 times. Once aerated, gases have escaped (bubbles should be gone). Pour your aerated water into your second bottle.
3. Sedimentation This process allows gravity to pull particles to the bottom of the bottle. Allow the water to stand undisturbed in the bottle for 20 minutes. At an actual water treatment plant, there are settling beds that collect solid particles that float to the bottom, allowing the clear water to be drained from the top of the bed and continue through the process.
4. Draining. Pour the upper two thirds of the water contents into the filter, the construction of which we will now detail.
5. Filtration. A homemade water filter is constructed in the following manner. Take one of your bottles and cut the bottom off. Turn the bottle upside down and line the inside of the spout with a cloth, such as a handkerchief or bandana. Pour in layer of gravel or pebbles roughly 2 inches thick. Add a layer of charcoal that has not been exposed to lighter fluid 1 inch thick. This will help absorb chemicals and the bad taste. Add a 3 inch layer of coarse sand. Finally add 4 inches of fine sand.
This filter will remove most of the contamination remaining after the sedimentation process. It is a similar arrangement to the Clapp’s Water Filter dating from 1908, except that that filter is made from a barrel and uses multiple layers of filtration. It is also the exact design currently in use in the Manz Slow Sand and Biosand Filters used in third world countries. The only difference being that they are much larger in size and have different outlet arrangements. One exception with the Biosand filter is that it has a fifth biological filter called a Schmutzdecke, which is a layer of mud and slime that develops over time. This layer of “good bacteria” literally eats the “bad bacteria”. These filters are for long term or open ended emergencies, which is beyond the scope of this series, but, mentioned so it may pique your interest.
To prime your homemade filter run water through it a couple of times. Now take following Step 4 above pour your water into the filter. The water emerging from the filter may not look crystal clear, but it will be “mostly free” from contamination. I say “mostly free” because it is not wise to claim perfection.
The water will still need to be disinfected.
Purification or Sanitization. Water can be sanitized by three different methods – by boiling, chemical treatment or by a process called “SODIS”.
Boiling the water for 1 minute will kill 100% of harmful pathogens 100% of the time. It is the best and preferred method. The water, after it is cooled may need to be shaken in a clean ¾ full container to add oxygen to remove the “flat” taste. But, this water is now absolutely biologically safe to drink.
If you can’t make a fire to boil water, you can use the chemical options – purification tablets, iodine or chlorine bleach.
Dropping a water purification tablet, such as the Coleman Potable Aqua with PA Plus tablets, into a quart of water will make the water bacteriologically safe to drink within 30 minutes.
Iodine can be used if you are not pregnant or allergic to iodine, otherwise don’t try this method. Add 5-10 drops per 32 fluid ounces (about 1 liter) of water. If the water source is a lake or some other still body of water, or if the water is cloudy, you want to add closer to 10 drops.
The iodine needs time to completely purify the water. You need to wait 30 minutes before you can drink the water. After you have waited 30 minutes, your water is purified for drinking.
Common household Clorox Ultra, Clorox, or Purex chlorine bleach may be used to disinfect water in the following amounts. Use four drops per quart in clear water. This amount should be increased to eight drops in cloudy water, and sixteen drops per gallon of clear water. You should be able to get a slight odor of chlorine after the waters sits for the 15 minutes. If not, add more bleach.
Clorox recently changed its formula to “Clorox Concentrated” bleach. Since this has a higher amount of chemical agents, the amount used for purification should be adjusted to 2 drops per quart, 6 drops per gallon, or if the water is cloudy, 3 drops per quart and 12 drops per gallon.
Avoid using bleaches that contain perfumes, dyes and other additives. Also, one thing that organizations which recommend the chlorine method don’t tell you is that chlorinated bleach loses it’s strength with time. After one year on the shelf, it will have lost 50% of its strength, so double the dose on old chlorine.
The “SODIS” method is perhaps the simplest method of all. In this you take clear plastic PET bottles, like the ones “bottled water” water comes in (you’ll remember me saying don’t throw them away) fill them ¾ full with water to be purified, shake them for 20 seconds to improve the oxygen saturation of the water, and then complete filling the bottles. Expose the bottles to direct sunlight by placing them on a slanted surface, such as a roof, so that they receive direct exposure. By exposing them to continuous sunlight for 6 hours the UV radiation from the sun will disinfect the water. This is a method recommended by the World Health Organization for water treatment and storage, especially for areas located between latitude 15°N and 35°N, and 15°S and 35°S. Birmingham’s latitude is 33.5N.
Distillation will allow you to bypass the filtering and purification steps.
After Katrina, survivors well inland found their water, including well water contaminated by salt water. They were able to purify their water by taking a large stock pot or a canner, turning the lid upside down and suspending a smaller pot from the handle. The “Swamp water” was placed in the large pot, brought to boil and the smaller pot collected the purified water that the steam and condensation produced.
The water was biologically and chemically pure and had no hint of saltiness.
Distillation is the recommended purification process for water from swimming pools.
Consumption and Storage is fairly self-explanatory. Drink as much water as you can and store as much water as you can process. It’s far better to have too much rather than too little.
May is the fifth month & third month of the Roman calendar. Since ancient times the first day of the month, “May Day” has been a time of celebration. In Rome it honored Flora, the goddess of flowers.
On May the fifth Mexican’s celebrate Cinco De Mayo, the celebration Mexico’s 1862 victory over Napoleon III’s forces at Puebla. This is not, as many assume, Mexico’s Independence Day, which is actually on September 16.
Rainfall decreases in May as the Bermuda High strengthens & begins rerouting storm systems northward.
The door opens to the Gulf of Mexico & Gulf moisture spreads northward over the continent.
The center of maximum tornadic activity also shifts northward over the Nation’s Heartland. May is the peak tornado month, with a 42% increase over April’s amount.
Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15, and although the North Atlantic hurricane season has not arrived, occasionally a tropical system will form in the Gulf of Mexico. In 110 years there have been 14 named storms.
Turning our eyes towards the sky, Mercury is lost in the glow of dawn, while Venus is barely above the west-northwest horizon, visible 15 to 20 minutes after sunset.
Mars is hidden in the glow of the sun
Jupiter glows high in the west at sunset, and is descending little by little each night, setting around 10 or 11 PM
Saturn glows the east-southeast as twilight fades and reaches his greatest height around midnight.
Uranus is hidden in the glow of dawn.
Neptune is low in the east-southeast just before dawn.
The Aquarids Meteor Shower, a minor shower, will peak May 5 & 6.
May’s Full Moon is “Flower Moon” in Native American folklore. This month’s full moon will occur May 24th at 1:27 PM.
This month’s meeting will be on May 14 at 7PM at the National Weather Service Forecast office at the Shelby County Airport.
I hope to see you there!
Mark / WD4NYL