Tips for clean drinking water when Hurricane Sandy strikes

Waves wash over the sea wall near high tide at Battery Park in New York, Oct. 29, 2012, as Hurricane Sandy approaches the East Coast. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

Clean drinking water is essential in case of an emergency. Ensure that your water supply is safe if Hurricane Sandy strikes by taking these steps:

Don't waste water

  • Even though it may seem like there is water everywhere during the hurricane, much of it will be contaminated with bacteria and other filth, according the Rhode Island Department of Health. Flush your toilet only when necessary and do not use dishwashers and washing machines. Not only do these use up water, they also add to the drainage system of your city which may be backed up due to the debris from the storm.

Have an adequate, reliable water supply

  • FEMA suggests one gallon of water per person, per day for drinking and sanitation purposes, but children, mothers who are nursing or sick people may need more. Each person should have a three day supply of water in case of emergency.
  • Make sure the water has not passed its "used by date" and store it in a cool, dark place
  • If you are filling your own containers with water, the best containers are the two-liter plastic soft drink bottles, not cartons that have had milk or fruit juice in them. Glass containers are also advised against because they can break and are rather heavy when filled.
  • Wash all containers with soap and water before storing water in them. You can clean them further by adding solution of one teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water.

Check everywhere for clean water.

  • The remaining water in your pipes and in your hot water heater can still be useable, if gas and electricity has been cut off, the Rhode Island Department of Health said.

Disinfect your water supply if it was not bottled or did not come from pre-cholrinated tap water.

  • The Connecticut Department of Health suggests several methods to purify your water. First. you can boil water at a rolling, constant boil for one minute. Make sure the water has no floating pieces in it.
  • You can also use water purification tablets. Follow the directions on the package.
  • Another option is to use eight drops of liquid chorine bleach per one gallon on clear water or 16 drops per one gallon of cloudy water. Bleach must not have any perfumes or other ingredients besides sodium hypochlorite.
  • With all methods, make sure the water stands for 30 minutes before using it.

Private wells or even public water supplies may not be sanitary after the storm

  • Standing water in wells may be contaminated by storm water. If this is your only source make sure to disinfect it before consuming it, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health.
  • Once flooding has stopped, disinfect your well with chlorine and have it tested for coliform bacteria before using it regularly, the Rhode Island Department of Health advised. Coliform bacteria are organisms that are found in the feces of warm-blooded animals and humans, according to the Washington State Department of Health. While they themselves do not cause illness, they are a good indicator that there are other organisms or pathogens present in that water supply that will make people sick. Total coliform, fecal coliform, and E. coli levels are good markers to see if water is safe.
  • Wait until the all clear from city or state authorities before resuming drinking tap water normally.

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