Andrew, Northridge, Katrina, and now Haiti. All of these now spell natural disasters of monumental proportions. Even now desperately poor people languish in a county without good infrastructure during the best of times. Relief and foreign governmental agencies are currently rushing to get to the affected areas in hopes of saving lives and preventing an outbreak of disease (such as cholera). It took the US FEMA roughly 96 hours to start working in the area of New Orleans Louisiana prior to this there had been little or no relief to the victims of Katrina.
During this period of time there was no clean water; there was no electricity; there was little suitable shelter; and for the most part there was no policing. These events occurred in The United States where the basic infrastructure and governmental ability far surpass that of Haiti and many other countries in this world. On the radio there were reports of some relief aircraft looking suitable for aircraft landings. Meanwhile, people huddle in the street as there are no houses to return to or they are in fear of returning to their homes. It will probably take a day for the first stages of relief to arrive and up to a week to really get things started. For the time being the people of Haiti have no relief or help they have to depend on themselves.
It is important for basic survival that folks have five things: clean water, food, shelter, protection, and basic first aid care. Man can go without a meal for a couple of weeks, but he can only go for about a day depending of course on the weather conditions, before he starts to have problems. In a disaster survival situation clean water can rapidly become contaminated or disappear altogether. Water borne illness such as cholera and dysentery quickly flare up as water becomes contaminated with untreated sewage and God knows what. Even the relatively mild symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea will quickly dehydrate and at the very least incapacitate a victim.
These problems can be overcome relatively easily by making two preparations. First, store clean water before hand and cycle it frequently. Store one and a half gallons of water per person per day to be used for cooking, cleaning, drinking, and brushing the teeth. You can never store enough water. Second, have ways to purify water. You may have access to water of questionable purity and quality that will have to be dealt with appropriately. Three things should be packed in order to prepare for this sort of water, iodine purification tablets, one can also use about a cap full of unscented bleach, a portable hand purification pump and a source of fire. Try not to get water from out of the gutter or directly downstream from the local waste treatment plant or chemical plant. Collect it into a large, fire proof container and place it over some flames.
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