After a natural disaster, damaged water pipes can cause pressure to drop, possibly letting in contaminated ground water. The concern with the water is bacterial contamination. The most common offenders, shigella and salmonella, can cause severe diarrhea.  If not treated with antibiotics, these diseases can lead to life threatening dehydration. Here are some answers and tips for coping with water problems.

  • Disinfect tap water you use for anything, including for your pets. Boil it for at least ten minutes, or use chemicals: eight drops of chlorine bleach (without scent or other additives) or tincture of iodine per gallon. Let the water sit at least 10 minutes before drinking.
  • If you wash dishes in tap water, rinse them in extra-chlorinated water. Use about 15 drops of chlorine on the dishes to keep them clean until next use.
  • Showering or bathing in tap water is fine. If you cut yourself shaving, apply a disinfectant such as alcohol or antibiotic cream.


  • Without refrigeration, items such as fresh milk, custards and creamed foods, cream cheese, cheese spread and cottage cheese, hamburger, pork, fish and poultry spoil rapidly and should be discarded if they have been without cooling for several hours. Don't trust your sense of smell.
  • Clean out the refrigerator if power has been off for more than two days.  Throw away perishables. Wipe the interior with baking soda and water.
  • Fill your freezer with plastic jugs of water. A full freezer stays cold longer.
  • Keep the freezer door closed as much as possible. Foods will stay frozen longer.
  • Meats and solid items stay frozen longer than baked goods.
  • Refreezing partially thawed food is risky. Generally, if the foods still contain ice crystals, they're OK to re-freeze although their quality may suffer.
  • Dry ice keeps food frozen for approximately 1 to 4 days.
  • Without air conditioning, food waste will start to smell rapidly. Use small plastic garbage bags; tie or seal and place in a larger bag or can outdoors.


A garage, carport or roofed patio would be an ideal spot for a temporary kitchen. This is what you'll need:

  • A surface to prepare food. A small table or improvised table.
  • A large cooler and bags of ice to keep food fresh. Buy only the amount of fresh food your family can consume in one meal. Rely on canned foods for safety's sake.
  • Use a charcoal or propane grill or a camp stove for cooking. Do not bring these grills inside; a fire could start or fumes could generate carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Use kitchen cabinets or sturdy boxes for storage.
  • For lighting use fuel-based lanterns or candles.


  • Take down wet draperies and spread to dry.
  • Take furniture outside to dry, but don't put in the sun. Put under a covered patio or tarp.
  • Elevate wet upholstered furniture if it is resting on carpet.
  • Hang comforters and blankets out to dry.
  • Dry pillows outdoors, but not in direct sunlight.