Emergency Preparedness, Part 4: Storing Water

[Posted April 9, 2021}


Contributed by Robin Jensen and Patrick Pangburn for Hillsdale NET


This is the fourth in a series of articles brought to you by the Hillsdale Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) and the Hillsdale News. To read earlier installments, click here.


The articles will help you prepare your family and our community for a major natural disaster, as well as share information on Hillsdale NET and what it does. We hope you will stay tuned over the coming months and that you find the content helpful and informative.

Water Storage


Water is the key to life and appears as if by magic on demand in our kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor areas. Many of us don’t appreciate it until it’s in short supply.


Delivery of Portland municipal water, especially on the west side, could be interrupted for weeks, if not months, in the event of a subduction zone earthquake. Home water storage is a crucial component of emergency preparedness.


Store at least one gallon per person, per day (a half-gallon for drinking and a half-gallon for washing and cleaning). Consider storing at least a three-day or preferably a two-week supply of water for each member of your family. If you are unable to store this quantity, store as much as you can.


Don’t forget that you will need extra water for your pets.


In addition to the stored water in your home, it is important to have water in small bottles that you can carry if you need to evacuate.

Emergency water can be stored in a variety of sizes of containers. Containers previously used for other liquids (soda, juice, etc) will need to be sanitized before being filled for emergency water storage. Re-used containers should be dated and refilled every six months or so.

Store water in plastic containers such as empty soft drink (not juice) bottles or plastic jugs or barrels made for water storage. Bottles with a #1 recycling symbol are best for water storage as they will not decompose (like milk jugs) or break (like glass). Before using empty bottles, wash first with soap and warm water, then fill with a solution of one tsp. unscented bleach per quart of water. Shake to coat all surfaces for at least 30 seconds, then empty. Allow to air dry before filling with tap water. Store in a cool, dark place. These bottles will need to be replaced or refilled with fresh water every six months. Mark your calendar when you fill your containers and write the date filled on each bottle. Store-bought bottles of water do not need to be replaced as long as they are not opened.


Keeping potable water at home is the best way to be sure you will have water if needed. Other sources of water may be available if you take precautions to make sure it’s safe to drink. Rainwater and water from streams, ponds, rivers and lakes can be used if treated properly. Do not use water that has an unusual odor or color or that might be contaminated with toxic chemicals (such water from swimming pools or hot tubs), or fuels.


Include a bottle of unscented household liquid chlorine bleach (5-6% sodium hypochlorite) in your emergency supplies. Add two drops of bleach to a quart of water to make it safe for drinking. Shake the container after adding bleach and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before drinking. Water purification tablets, LifeStraw or a camping water filtration system are good backups and can be purchased at outdoor outfitters.


Alternative sources of water in an emergency can include water from your home water heater tank, melted ice cubes (from non-contaminated water), water from your toilet tank (not the bowl) as long as it hasn’t been treated with chemical toilet cleaners, and liquid from canned fruit and vegetables. Fill up your bathtub(s) as soon as possible after an earthquake to reserve additional clean water for later use. Water from swimming pools and hot tubs can be used for sanitation purposes, but not for consumption.


More information on water storage is available here.


To learn more about the NET program or sign up for NET training, visit the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management NET website. There are also many auxiliary volunteer opportunities available with our Hillsdale NET team. Email hillsdaleornet@gmail.com to find out how you can help.

Hillsdale NET wants to know how you connect with your neighbors, as well the geographic boundaries of your local community networks.

Email hillsdaleornet@gmail.com to share information about the “how” and the “where” of the networks in your immediate neighborhood so we can help ensure that everyone is in the communication loop in an emergency.

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