Just when COVID-19 fatigue was wearing down our patience, along comes the fire season with smoke giving us unhealthy air quality for a week. Were you prepared? Are you asking, good grief, what comes next? You do know we’re overdue for a major earthquake, right? So, listen up! You can prepare for this without getting overwhelmed. Here’s the second of three simple earthquake preparation actions, the 3 W’s — warmth, water and waste. In September, we focused on assembling a little bag under-your-bed with some basic survival contents to keep you warm should you awaken with things shaking and tumbling down around you. You had the last 30 days to put that together. Did it somehow slip to the back burner? There’s still time, and it doesn’t take long: https://madisonparktimes.com/Content/Opinion/Opinion/Article/Madison-Park-Emergency-Planning-What-now-Three-simple-earthquake-prep-actions/9/9/31680.

Now you’re ready to move onto the next W — clean water for survival. First, clear your head of misconceptions.

A surprising number of Madison Park residents believe that after a quake they can get drinking water from the lake. Not a good idea! Lake Washington will likely be contaminated with fecal matter, oil, gas and other toxic chemicals from ruptured sewer lines, damaged boats and broken pipes at marine gas stations. Be aware that water filtering and boiling may kill bacteria but won’t remove the heavy metals, salts and other chemicals in our lake. Furthermore, imagine navigating your way to the lake lugging buckets across buckled streets and sidewalks littered with toppled telephone poles. Not a pretty picture. Even if you get there, it’s a round trip and now you must haul this contaminated water home. Imagine doing this once — maybe twice — a day, amidst many other survival tasks.

Here’s a simpler, less stressful solution: Begin to store water now, along with proper disinfection supplies; learn how to access other household water sources if your stored water doesn’t survive the quake.

Make October 2020 the month you take these four steps:

  • Determine your household’s water needs for two weeks.
  • Obtain this amount of bottled water.
  • Purchase water disinfection supplies and learn how to use them.
  • Know how to access your back-up water source.

Determining water needs

You will need to store 1 gallon per person per day for 14 days. Each pet requires one-third of a gallon per day for 14 days. Wisely prepare to be without water for a minimum of 14 days — not just the three days recommended after a serious weather event. Even in a best-case scenario, a federal or state response will not reach our neighborhood for more than a week.

Purchasing your water supply

Buy commercially bottled water and store it unopened in a cool, dark place that is likely to be accessible after a quake. Assume this water is clean but if stored too long, will need to be disinfected before drinking. We recommend getting 2.5 gallon jugs of distilled bottled water. Distilled water is free of the minerals that can contribute to bacterial growth. The rectangular shape of the 2.5 gallon jugs stack neatly against a wall or in a closet, and they have a handy spigot that can be unscrewed to treat the water and later used to pour the water without losing or contaminating the cap. You can store these water jugs for years unopened. Periodically check on them and replace any with plastic deterioration or leaks. (Tips: Place a bulk delivery order with your neighbors from places like Mountain Myst. If possible, store this water where a water leak won’t cause damage.)

Storing your water disinfection supplies

Purchase a small, quart-sized bottle of unscented 6 percent or concentrated 8.25 percent chlorine bleach, along with an eyedropper. Write the purchase date on the bottle. Securely store the bleach and the eye dropper near your water supply. Replace the bleach every six to eight months because sodium hypochlorite slowly deactivates over that time period. Along with these supplies, put the disinfecting instructions in a plastic sleeve or bag.

Know how to access more water in your water tank

If you have a hot water tank in your residence, this is a backup source of clean water. But you have to protect it from contamination by turning off the water to the house and, if possible, to the tank. This requires finding your residential water shut-off valve and turning it to the right for off. (Tip: find this valve now and put a label on it with instructions for shutting off. You and your neighbors can sleuth out where the supply pipe is to each of your residences. To verify which is the supply pipe, run hot water from any sink and then touch the two pipes coming and going to the tank. The supply line will be cold. Label it as the one to turn off after a quake.

Accessing water from your water tank after a quake will require a few supplies that you should buy now and secure near the water heater, along with a copy of the instructions for drinking from your water heater. Supplies needed are a flat head screwdriver; washing machine or garden hose; a clean empty container.

If you find yourself avoiding getting these relatively simple tasks done, enlist the help of friends and neighbors. Make it a game, a contest, an assignment — whatever it takes to spend a little time getting yourself prepared. The arrival of more disruptions in our lives is likely to be the new normal. We know enough now about the importance of thinking ahead and getting some things in place.

Focusing on the 3 W’s — warmth, water and waste — is a manageable approach that will help you survive a major earthquake. Next month we’ll outline some simple steps for managing your waste, an important element of preventing disease and keeping rodents at bay.