Purifying water in the event of disaster:
World Water Rescue Foundation
Without doubt, it is of critical importance that you have adequate supplies of water (or, at least, the ability to obtain it) in your survival kit. While you can probably survive for weeks without food, your body can only go for a few days without water. Water is also extremely important to insure that your mind (your greatest survival tool) continues to work well because even a small degree of dehydration adversely affects your ability to think. While the weight of water mandates that only a small amount can be carried in a personal survival kit (and, therefore, other means of water obtainment and purification should be carried), you can store larger quantities in your home or travel survival kits. You should always carry some water with you because you may not have time to procure it (even where it is generally available) in an emergency for medical or other uses.
What Kind of Water To Use - If you do not purchase prepackaged water, the water you should carry should be purified (reverse osmosis) and boiled, then poured (while still boiling) into a flask or bottle that was sterilized with iodophor solution (iodine based sanitizers commonly used in the food and beverage industry), and then sealed. Or, you can use a canteen or similar container. Otherwise, you can buy prepackaged water in flexible pouches (Mainstay and S.O.S. Foods make the most popular versions); "juice-pak" type packages; or bottled spring water. If you use the flexible pouches or juice-pak type packaging, be sure to seal them in a locking plastic bag (or vacuum seal them) to prevent leaking. The advantage to pre-packaged water is that it will last for years without replacement.
What Kind of Container to Use - Whether you use your own water or flexible pouch/juice-box water, you should include a water storage container or a water bag to store excess water in. Wide-mouth water storage containers are preferable in a survival situation because they are easier to fill (though care must be taken not to spill water when drinking from them). Square or rectangular designs are much more space efficient than round canteen styles. Alternatively, water storage bags are commercially available in "bladder" and "self-contained" styles. The "bladder style" has a plastic inner bladder with a spout that is fitted into a nylon carrying bag. The best of this kind of carrier are the military style (made thicker and tougher with a heavy screw cap). The "self-contained" style bags are made of heavy duty plastic or poly material that resists puncturing. These are less likely to be punctured than the bladder type. The best kind of these carriers are the mil. Spec. Bags (MIL-B-8571D). Probably the best (but the most expensive) of these is the MSR "Dromedary" bag. One other alternative is the Collapsible water containers which also come in a variety of styles. These are made of heavier plastic and are much stronger than lightweight bags. All but the smallest have a carrying handle. Most do not collapse down very small. In this same category is the military 2 qt. Collapsible canteen. It has no handle. It is generally available with a fleece lined cover and carrying strap. The cover has a pocket to store a bottle of water purification tablets. This is the best of this style.
How to Purify Fresh Water in an Emergency - In an emergency situation, water can be naturally obtained from rain, dew or snow (if it is clean). You should avoid drinking water from any other natural source without treatment, unless there is no other choice. Since rain, dew and snow are not always available when you need them, you should have a method of purifying available water. Most commercial kits include chemical water treatments, as opposed to mechanical water filters. Iodine based treatments are the better overall chemical treatment, both as a disinfectant and from a taste perspective. The ones would recommend are either Polar Equipment’s "Polar Pure" (a good choice if size is not a major concern) or Wisconsin Pharmacal’s "Potable Aqua" tablets (most commonly found in commercial kits). Consider also Aerobic 07, a non-toxic solution of stabilized electrolytes containing oxygen in molecular form. When used as directed, it selectively kills harmful anaerobic infections, but unlike drugs and antibiotics, it does not harm the aerobic or beneficial bacteria needed for good health. Aerobic 07 is effective against salmonella, cholera, E.coli, streptococcus and even against giardia lamblia. For personal size survival kits, chemicals are the only practical water purification solution. For home and travel kits, you should also have a water filter, the quickest method to ensure pure water. Chemicals take time to work, while filters produce large amounts of clean water almost instantly, but care must be taken to keep them operating properly. Some filters work by gravity, but, while effective, they can take too long and aren’t as versatile as the pump kinds, which can suck water from even small sources. Most full size filters will clean water of dangerous microscopic germs, but some seem to be easier to use and maintain than others. Use of a prefilter will extend the life of the primary filter a great deal. It is always a good idea to use a prefilter, but especially so with designs that have disposable or replaceable filters. General Ecology makes the "First Need Prefilter" ($8), which is about the best on the market. In terms of the main filter system itself, two of them (Katadyn’s "Pocket Filter" for $250, and General Ecology’s "First Need" filter for $69 for the Deluxe version) have been around for years and are virtually foolproof. Either would be a good choice. If you can afford it, you might consider the KFT Expedition Filter, a portable, self-contained unit, with built-in piston hand pump that is great for home use ($1100.00).
How to Purify Salt Water in an Emergency> - There is about one-quarter pound of salt in every gallon of seawater. No matter how desperate you are, never drink seawater under any circumstances. You will only kill yourself faster. The filters discussed above work only with fresh water. They will do nothing to prevent your death in the event that you drink sea water. Traditional chemical desalinating kits are inadequate and result in horrid tasting water. Solar stills are slightly better, but are slow and unreliable (if there is no sunshine). We would, therefore, recommend the "Survivor" series of hand operated reverse osmosis desalination units from Recovery Engineering. These pumps remove the salt from sea water, leaving fresh drinking water. The smallest unit (Model 06) weighs only 2.5 lbs. And produces about l liter of fresh water per hour of use. But it takes quite a pumping effort for an extended period of time. The better choice is the military unit (Model 06-LL). Although it is difficult to find, it is well worth the effort.
A FINAL WORD
You Can Not Panic - If you do, you and your family will be dead. You must move deliberately and think about what you are doing. Once clear of the scene, gather your family (if you have any) and make sure everyone is accounted for. How well things go from here will most likely depend on your training and equipment.
Remember - You can survive if you recognize and understand the basics. You must maintain your body temperature; you must conserve your energy; you must locate sustenance, and you must actively work at attracting attention to yourself so that you can be rescued. If you do not have something you need, you must improvise it as best you can. With a little thought and effort, you can improvise nearly everything you need to survive.
Most Importantly - You must have a positive mental attitude; you must believe that you will survive. No matter how bad your situation, others have survived far worse with much less. You must never give up hope. You must hold out until help arrives. You can do it by using your head, improvising and not panicking. If you assembled the materials that you need to survive in advance (your "survival kit"), you will be much better off, from both a physical and mental perspective.
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