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  • Town of Riverhead Issues State of Emergency Due to Lack of Water

    With a name like Riverhead, you wouldn’t expect there to be a water shortage. Despite being on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, this small Canadian town is out of water. A state of emergency has been declared.

    No water for Riverhead

    Riverhead isn’t even in a drought, and yet they have practically zero access to water. People in California can at least turn on their faucets and get water. Those in Riverhead can’t even do that. Due to a faulty pump in a local pump house, water has ceased flowing since Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Five days later, they still had no water.

    And when we say they’re out of water, we mean there is absolutely none available from an open faucet.

    Drinking water has to be imported from other nearby towns or purchased from stores. But that’s just one problem. Since the pump went out, “residents have been unable to shower, water their lawns, or do their laundry.”

    Sanitation is a major issue. At least getting clean drinking water is easier. But if they plan on bathing, washing, and doing laundry, using drinking water for that could get expensive.

    Riverhead Map Riverhead, Newfoundland (via Google Maps)

    Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this has happened to the residents of Riverhead. A state of emergency was also declared in 2013 due to similar issues. For the folks in Riverhead, being prepared for lack of water is probably going to become a priority.

    For everyone else, this emergency in Riverhead shows us just how fragile our freely flowing water source can be.

    From broken water mains to drought conditions, there are many reasons why you might be faced with an instant shortage of usable water, be it for drinking or other activities. In order to prepare for such events, there are certain steps you can take to alleviate the problem.

     

    Water Storage

    Part of any emergency plan should include enough water to last 72 hours per person. It is strongly advised to have at least one gallon of water per day for each person, so for 72 hours, you’ll need three gallons of water for yourself. If you have the room for it, it is recommended to have at least that as a minimum – more if you can.

    Water for Riverhead!One method of water storage is in large barrels. For homes with more room, a 160 gallon water reserve could come in mighty handy. Stack another one on top for an impressive 320 gallon water supply. That would keep you going for quite some time.

    Barrels come in smaller sizes, such as 55 gallons, 30 gallons, and 15 gallons. Any of these sizes will be enough for at least 72 hours, but of course, the more you’re prepared, the less you’ll have to worry during an emergency.

    Water jugs and other alternate water storage methods can be used if space is an issue, such as in apartments or small homes. Store them under your bed, a crawl space, bathtub, or other location that is out of the way yet easy to access.

     

    Water Filters

    Water filters aren’t necessarily an alternative to stored water rather than a backup. However, if running water disappears from your faucet and your water storage is running low, you can always take your filter to a nearby river, stream, or lake and fill your containers from there. Don’t forget that water is heavy (about 8 pounds per gallon), so be careful not to overfill your containers or you might be hard pressed to tote them back to your home.

     

    Pre-Packaged Water

    If preparing your own water for storage isn’t your cup of tea, there’s always the option to go with pre-packaged water. Bottled water from the local store is always a safe option, since it is usually purified before being bottled (still, it doesn’t hurt to check the labels first). Alternately, water can come in cans, or even small pouches for convenience in emergency kits as well as hikes and outdoor activities.

     

    No matter your situation or living conditions, there is generally a way for you to have access to clean drinking water (as well as water for washing and cleaning). It may take a little bit of extra planning, but water is literally life, and by investing in water storage, you’re putting your resources towards a more comfortable experience during and after disasters and unexpected water shut offs.

    The emergency in Riverhead shows us yet another way how running water can slip between our fingers and leave us with nothing.  If this were to happen where you live, would you be prepared to go days without clean, running water?

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner - River Song...er, Riverhead

  • Fort McMurray Fire Forces Entire City to Evacuate

    Fort McMurray Fire Wildfire along highway 63 Fort McMurray, Alberta Canada May 3, 2016. Courtesy CBC News/Handout via REUTERS

    Fires rage through Fort McMurray, a city in northeastern Alberta, Canada. The pine trees, once green, burn like candles. The entire city – over 80,000 people – has been evacuated. What will become of their homes is left up to fate. After burning for days, the fire has destroyed at least one neighborhood and caused severe damage in others. Fortunately, there have been no reports of deaths or injuries.

    The Fort McMurray fire started on Sunday, May 1, 2016, and continues to burn today, May 4, 2016. Because of hot weather, low humidity, and strong winds, the raging fire has been difficult to contain. The only way in and out of town is the city’s lone bridge spanning the Athabasca River. Officials have marked that as a high priority to protect.

    Without that bridge, nobody is getting in or out, and that includes supplies.

    After subduing the fire on Tuesday, the winds shifted, and according to reports, “flames stormed along a ravine and roared into the city and the race was on to get out.” The scene was not far off from something in an apocalyptic movie.

    Unfortunately, once the fire picked up, there was little time to get out. That meant evacuating with basically just the clothes on one’s back. One man opened his front door of his house and was greeted by smoke and flames surrounding his neighborhood. He promptly got on his motorcycle, made his way through traffic, and out of Fort McMurray. He took nothing with him.

    Wild fires are swift and dangerous. They can escalate without warning, and much of the time – as in this case – leave no time to gather emergency supplies. Being prepared for such unexpected emergencies is crucial. You never know when you’ll need to jump in your car and leave your home and belongings to fend for themselves.

    Because you just never know what will happen – or when – it is of vital importance to put an emergency plan together and prepare with essential supplies you will need for any scenario.

     

    72 Hour Kits

    First things first. Make sure you have the necessities you need for the first three days of an emergency. Your 72 hour kit should include water, food, sanitation items, gear for warmth, and other personal items specific to your needs. Ensure this bag is in an easy to reach location so you’re not wasting precious moments searching for it. Keeping it in the front hall closet (or similar location) is a good idea.

     

    Fuel

    Always keep your vehicle at least half full of gas. If you’re running on empty and have to evacuate, you could be in for quite the ordeal if your car suddenly runs out of gas. This is what happened to many people evacuating during the Fort McMurray fire. According to one report, vehicles were scattered on the sides of the road, some broken down, but some were out of gas. Police officers had to walk up and down the bottle-necked highway with gas cans to help those stranded make their escape.

    This example fuels the importance of always being prepared – no matter what. Make it a priority to keep your car at least a half a tank full. Otherwise, if there is a sudden emergency, you might find yourself trapped on the side of the road, and in that instance, there may not be kind police officers with extra gas to hand out.

     

     

    Listen

    Pay attention to what’s going on around you. If you know there is a big fire nearby, keep tabs on it. The man who left his home with just his motorcycle received a phone call from a family member warning him to leave. That’s when he opened his door, saw the flames, and rode away. We are uninformed as to his situation, and perhaps there was a reason he didn’t know the fire had come so close, but this scenario helps hit home the need to monitor emergency situations. Because you never know when the heat will get cranked up and you need to run.

    Also, follow the council of your local officials. If they give the order to evacuate, do so immediately. They have lots of information available to them, and they know better than anyone the dangers involved. It’s just not worth the risk to wait.

     

    Emergency Plan

    Create a plan with your family of important things to remember during an emergency. Who grabs what and what actions to take in certain circumstances would be a good start. Likewise, come up with a few locations to meet up, just in case you aren’t all together at the time of an evacuation. This will help keep your family together during emergencies. Ready.gov has many more ideas for an emergency plan.

     

    Clean Up

    Keep your yard free of highly flammable objects, such as dead grass, leaves, or branches. Clean out those natural fire starters every once in a while so that if a fire does come, your yard won’t be a huge contributor in feeding the flames.

     

    Fort McMurray fire via Edmonton Journal Fort McMurray fire closing in - via Edmonton Journal

    With the massive evacuations up north, we are reminded of what we must do in order to be effectively prepared. While you can’t necessarily protect everything you own, you can at least protect yourself and your family. Things come and go, but life is precious, and by preparing in advance for emergencies (such as earthquakes, drought, or even raging wildfires), we can make sure we are properly prepared for, protected, and comfortable during these times of crisis.

     

    Take time today to go over your family emergency plan. In what areas do you need to improve?

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner  Fort McMurray Fire

  • Thanks for the Rain, Pineapple Express! (Got any more?)

    Finally. After an unexpectedly warm, dry February, the Pineapple Express has dumped enough rain and snow on northern California to bring reservoirs there up to average levels – the first time they’ve been that high since the drought began.

    Drought Monitor Released Thursday March 17, 2016 - Pineapple Express Drought Monitor - Released Thursday March 17, 2016

    This doesn’t mean the end of the state’s drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor’s latest report shows 55 percent of the state is still in extreme or exceptional drought. Groundwater is a major concern too. The state’s underground aquifers, which have been building their supply for hundreds or thousands of years, are being depleted far faster than they can be refurbished. Some of them have caved in and will never recover.

    The good news is the drought has been a wake-up call for the need to better manage water use.

    Here’s how some people are trying to save water.

    In California’s Central Valley, where a huge percentage of the food the U.S. eats is grown, declining aquifers have become a health hazard. Shallow municipal wells have gone dry as large agricultural companies draw down groundwater from deeper wells. This has left residents without water, or with polluted water.

    One problem is, when a lot of rain falls, the area doesn’t have enough surface storage, like reservoirs, to keep it, according to a story in the Christian Science Monitor. According to the story, George Goshgarian, an almond farmer in the San Joaquin Valley, is trying something new: flooding his almond orchards during the winter rainy season when his trees are dormant and don’t need the water.

    The idea is, the water will soak into the ground and hopefully some will trickle into the aquifer below. If he’s careful, the flooding shouldn’t hurt the trees because they are dormant. Then, during the drier growing season, the ground will have more moisture. And the aquifer below will have a bit more water.

    According to a study for the California Water Foundation that was cited in the story, groundwater in the southern San Joaquin is being depleted at a rate of 250,000 acre-feet per year on average. Using the rainy season’s runoff could reduce that amount between a third and a half, the study estimated.

    Homeowners and municipalities are also trying to figure out how to use rainwater runoff. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power last August presented a plan to capture more rainwater for the city.

    According to Andy Lipkis, president of Tree People, which advocates for sustainable urban water use, an inch of rain falling on Los Angeles represents 7.6 billion gallons of water. Half that runs off into the ocean, he said in a story in the Christian Science Monitor.

    The utility’s master plan suggests projects to capture water that range in size from major basins to individuals’ yards.

    Drip Irrigation - Pineapple ExpressThe yard of Carrie Wassenaar of North Hollywood, Calif., is a case study in how water catching works. As described in the Christian Science Monitor, her yard has drought-tolerant plants watered by a drip-irrigation system that uses rainwater. A depression in the yard allows water to pool and seep down to the aquifer below. The water comes from an above-ground cistern that collects rainfall from her roof.

    “You want to feel like you're at least trying to help with the solution instead of just contributing to the problem,” she said in the story.

    Ready.gov says the best way to prepare for a drought is to use less water beforehand. Here are some tips from ready.gov for saving water inside the home.

    Replace washers in dripping faucets and repair pipe leaks.

    “One drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons of water per year,” ready.gov said.

    Insulate water pipes. This will reduce heat loss, which means it’ll take less time to heat water from the tap.

    Install low-flow appliances, toilets, and shower heads. Some water districts will offer rebates to offset the cost.

    Instead of rinsing dishes and using the disposal, scrape dishes into the trash or compost.

    Lawns - Pineapple ExpressOutside, reduce the lawn and put in plants adapted to your climate. According to a study, lawns cover an estimated 50,000 square miles of the country. That makes lawns the biggest crop in America. And you can’t even eat them.

    Don’t water too much. Lawns only need about a half inch of water per week and less in the autumn and winter. If water’s running down the gutter, you’re using too much.

    Consider using grey water for outdoor watering. For information about installing a rain catching system, check out the web site for the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association.

    Be aware of regulations when considering water-saving tools. California offered homeowners tax-free rebates of up to $2,000 to help homeowners pay for water-efficient yards. As of February, the state had spent $22 million in rebates. Unfortunately, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is taxing those rebates as income.

     

    Drought Preparedness - Pineapple Express

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