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When hurricane season approaches, you are reminded to prepare your home and family for the possibility of dangerous storms affecting Miami-Dade County.
Among the preparations you should make is to ensure an adequate supply of water for yourself and your family (including pets).
Storing water before a hurricane
Storing water before a storm is important because of the possibility of contamination of the drinking water supply. When electrical power is lost due to a storm, water utilities cannot operate the pumps that maintain water pressure in the pipes that travel to your home.
Maintaining that pressure is one way water utilities ensure that your water is free from harmful bacteria. When the pressure is lost, a boil water order may be issued by health authorities.
Miami-Dade County's hurricane preparation
Years ago, after the lessons learned from the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department began to outfit its water treatment and distribution facilities with generators, to serve as a backup when regular electrical power is lost. This practice was put to the test in 2005, when Miami-Dade County was hit by Hurricane Wilma.
One of the biggest problems in Miami-Dade County created by Hurricane Wilma was a loss of electrical power throughout most of the County. But the loss of power DID NOT affect the water supply. Other than some localized incidents of water main breaks, Miami-Dade County never needed to issue a boil water order for its residents.
Ensuring you have water
Although the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department has done everything it can to ensure you have safe drinking water before, during and after a hurricane passes, emergency officials recommend your hurricane preparations include provisions for water.
- Relying on water from the tap
If you prefer to use water directly from the tap after the storm passes, make sure you have an adequate supply of coffee filters. You can purchase the inexpensive kind at a grocery or department store. These filters will help remove any cloudiness you may see in the water after a hurricane hits. If the water from your tap is cloudy, pour it through a fresh coffee filter until the cloudiness is gone.
The next step is to disinfect your water, which you can do in one of the following two ways:
- Boil your water. Bring all water to be used for drinking and eating purposes to a full rolling boil for at least one minute.
- Use bleach: Use either 8 drops or 1/8 teaspoon of unscented bleach per gallon of water. Let the water stand at least 30 minutes before using.
- Make sure you have enough water
To ensure you have an adequate supply of water before a storm comes, you can either purchase bottled water or bottle water from your own tap. Experts recommend that you have a minimum of one gallon per person per day for at least three days. Make sure you have enough for any pets as well.
- Bottling your own water
You do not necessarily have to buy bottled water. A less expensive alternative would to be to buy potable water containers in advance, the kind used for camping. You can find these containers in the sporting goods department of some major department stores, or in sporting goods stores.
Potable water containers are typically made of plastic and they're built to last for years. Buy several at once and you'll never need to buy them (or buy bottled water) again. These containers are designed to hold anywhere from four to 10 gallons (make sure to buy a size you can handle, as they can be heavy when filled with water!). Some models are collapsible for storage.
If you choose to go this route, do not fill your containers with water until a hurricane warning is announced (usually two to three days before the hurricane is expected to make landfall). Keeping water stored for too long could attract harmful bacteria and make the water taste stale.
To ensure your container is clean and ready for drinking water, you can do the following:
- Wash it out with soap and water, then rinse it well.
- Fill it with a solution of one tablespoon of unscented household chlorine bleach, the kind used for laundry, for every gallon of water.
- Example: If the container holds 10 gallons of water, mix 10 gallons of water with 10 tablespoons of unscented bleach in the container.
- Let the bleach and water solution sit in the container for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes have passed, pour out the solution and rinse the container well.
It's now ready to be filled up with tap water.
For more information on preparing for Hurricane Season -- and to sign up for alerts -- visit the Hurricane Guide website.
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