Granada Family Living Disaster Prepping Series: Part 1, Prepping for Clean Water Access.
This article is the first in a series that will be published over the next few months to bring attention to the steps that households can take to better prepare themselves for disasters and emergencies. Comments, suggestions and sharing will improve these articles as a community resource and are very much welcomed.
This week, in light of the hurricanes that had been taking place up north, I wanted to put my attention towards thinking about our own vulnerability in Nicaragua to any number of natural disasters that could happen here or really anywhere in the world: in paradise, on or off vacation, any country, at any time.
By the way, I don’t worry about disasters much at all; I prefer to have certain basic response systems in place so that I don’t have to worry about them. I like the freedom in the feeling of readiness. It alleviates anxious energy so I can enjoy what I really want to be doing. But this week, when I personally took time out to assess our family’s level of readiness, I was dismayed to find that I had been ignoring some basic precautionary steps that would greatly increase our chance of survival here in Granada.
Unfortunately, I suspect we are not the only ones. Okay, I know we are not only ones. We reside abroad, living very different lives now and it can seem at times like the same destiny that might apply to us back home in an alternative reality doesn’t travel with you to your paradise dream destination. Or that the universe might give you extra time to prepare because you are venturing away from home, accepting your out-of-office reply when it sends out an earthquake or a hurricane.
So my goal for this month is to walk through and write about those critical steps that every family living here in Granada should be taking to ready their family for an emergency and in hope that we can conquer some of these essential tasks together as a community.
Step 1: Assessing your water supply
One of the primary requirements of disaster preparation is to critically assess your family’s access to potable water in a variety of situations. Clean drinking water is the most critical sustainer of all life, easily surpassing nutrition in the survival hierarchy of needs. Ironically, I think that this is the prepping area where we can be too over-confident in Granada and surrounding areas.
Because we live with water shortages either daily or weekly, most the homes we occupy, whether rented or owned are designed to work with sizable built-in reserve tanks: your Plan B water source. I know when I first looked up at my own reserve tank which holds over 1000 liters of water, I had felt somewhat comforted that we would have a viable system in place. But that’s not true.
Anyone who has lived with a reserve tank knows that any number of mishaps can happen in a day regarding its usage. We can open up the tank outflow valve and close the intake water to the source (so we don’t give all our water to the neighbors) when we need it and then go to bed that night without remembering to reverse the levers to start the refilling process (I am so aware of this responsibility but I do fall asleep without checking all the time). Or, we can simply do too many loads of laundry and showers and realize only when we are left with just the final drips that we were over gluttonous in dipping into our reserves.
Most of the time we know the water will come back on eventually and it does. But it could be in these moments when we have not measured our usage well that the water can shut off and potentially not come back on for days.
When the reserve tank is full but you can’t drink it
I remember in 2014, when Nicaragua experienced the Nagarote earthquakes that were 6.2 in magnitude affecting the nearby capital of Managua. Public water works were damaged and black water drainage began to contaminate potable water sources. The Nicaraguan government sent out the message to the people of Managua: Do not drink the water until further notified. This warning included reserve tank water and stayed in effect for several days. The residents of Managua were all at once reliant upon any potable water that they had stored up independently from their main inbound water system.
Ask yourself the critical questions
So I went through this exercise this week and I really hope that you do too, because it could be critical to your family’s survival. Ask yourself this, if you heard that warning to not drink the water being blared through the streets of Granada today, what is your Plan C?
When I thought about it well, it registered that we had been living precariously since we moved from Somoto, Nicaragua. Up north we had 5 gallon jugs of purified water (called bidones in Nicaragua) for each member of the family including our pet and a guest. This is a standard quantity based on the need for a human to have 1 gallon of drinking water per day for a potential 5 day shortage.
To me, this standard actually runs on the short side when I think about an extra layer of thirst due to extreme heat during a Granada summer. But I had got rid of the jugs leaving Somoto to save moving truck space and had neglected to replace them for an entire year here in Granada. It was very unlike me, (I am my father’s daughter) and I just knew that we had to step up our planning efforts again.
Now that you have your answer make sure you act in the moment
It’s no good putting off for tomorrow what should have been done last year! So I headed straight over to La Union and I bought 4 of the 8 bidones of purified water they had displayed on a rack near the checkout (half of them y’all, what if there had been competition?)
The actual jugs cost 200 cordobas and the water inside is a further 72 cordobas. In total I spent 1,085 cords (about $36) to get my emergency fresh water sources for each woman, child, pet and potential guest in our house into place. The lads at La Union helped me get it all loaded up into the car and my sweet neighbors carried them in for me.
Done, thank goodness! Really so easy, why had I waited?
Gold stars for Plan D. The water has run out and all that’s left is Lake Cocibolca. Yikes!
Now just in case we really need to tap into a really dubious water source we have Life Straws that literally work like drinking straws but will filter out any bacteria or parasites. (Although when I think about drinking out of Lake Cocibolca, I just don’t know if I could do it!). Life Straws are super light and maybe on your next trip to the States you might throw a few in your suitcase for an extra Super Prepper’s Gold Star Plan D, in case you are on the move during an emergency or you have run through your family’s bottled water supply at home.
What about our beautiful swimming pools?
A note to all my fellow Granadinos with pools: know that your excellent investment in your comfort and the entertainment of your kids will also serve you well in an emergency. While you should not drink pool water- not even using a Life Straw- you can still be taking showers, flushing toilets and washing clothes and dishes with pool water during a shut off.
Although your washing machine may not operate without a normal water intake system you can turn to that mysterious piece of cement furniture that has been occupying your backyard called the lavandero (or pila as they say up north). You might already know it as the go-to cleaning tool for most any Nicaraguan family. With a built-in water storage area in the center this is your old fashioned washing board.
Combine the lavandero with pool water and you have an awesome prepping tool that will keep your family feeling much more clean and civilized during an extended water shutoff.
Your family emergency prepping task this week is simple.
So I want to give you a little homework for this prepping week, but it is worth doing it right away and you will sleep better knowing that you have accomplished this task. I want you to count the members of your household, and any pets, and + 1 for any guests. Take that number and multiply it by 5. This is how many gallons of water your household will need to store to survive in a 5 day emergency when you have lost access to your normal resources. This number is in addition to any jugs that you may normally use every day for filtered drinking water.
Now that you have that number, go this week anywhere they sell bottled water and buy what you need to store up and ready your home. Store those bottles away from sunlight and write their date of purchase on the outside.
Finally, if you own a car I also want you to buy 1-2 gallons of purified water to always keep in your vehicle if you have one– emergencies don’t just happen at home and extra water is always a good idea on the road.
That’s it! One deliberate focused run to the store and you are done!
Our community in Granada in a confident state of readiness
If each one of us does our part to prepare our households, we are stronger as a family and as a community. I love Granada dearly and never want to see our friends nor our neighbors caught dangerously off guard, being under-prepared. We can do better than that! Let’s encourage each other to be organized and share information.
Please feel free to add your thoughts, comments and expertise- more community input on this subject is better for all of us.
And keep a look out for Article 2: Blackouts, Telecommunication, and Cooking in an Emergency in Nicaragua or sign up to Granada Family Living and each new article will automatically be sent to your inbox upon publication.