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Avoiding water shortages during blackouts

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As all Hawaii residents know, even minor storms can cause a power outage. But during a major storm or following a disaster, the power could be out for longer periods of time — turning a temporary inconvenience into a survival situation.

TIPS FOR WATER SAFETY

During natural disasters, it’s important to be mindful of water conservation. If you live in a high-rise, the building pumps might be out of order. Use water for the most urgent needs, such as drinking and sanitation.

Q. Can i bathe in streams or the ocean if i don’t have any water?

A. The state Department of Health recommends not bathing in streams because the water might be contaminated and you could catch diseases. As for the ocean, use common sense. If the ocean water looks clean, go ahead. If there has been a catastrophe and there is major pollution in the ocean, it would be wiser to stay out of the water.

Q. Can i flush my toilet?

A. Try to minimize flushing your toilet. With power systems down, it is likely that the municipal sewer system lacks its power source. This means the wastewater treatment plant might not be able to function properly, and sewage is just going to sit without being chemically sanitized.

Source: Adapted from HECO’s "Information Handbook for Emergency Preparedness"

Without power, there is no water. Storing water ahead of time can help you avoid a water shortage during an outage.

According to HECO, you should have at least a five days’ supply of water available for drinking, cooking and cleaning. Set aside one gallon per person per day, at the minimum. Don’t forget to store water for your pets, too.

To store water, HECO suggests purchasing bottled water. Or, you could fill clean, non-corrosive, non-breakable containers with tap water. Before storage, tightly cover the container.

Containers should be refilled or replaced every six to 12 months to ensure that the water remains potable.

If for whatever reason you are not sure if the water is safe to drink or to use for cooking, HECO recommends a variety of techniques with which to purify the water. One option is to boil the water for five to 10 minutes. Another option is to mix it with water purification tablets. Finally, you could add chlorine bleach to the water. Each gallon of water requires eight drops of bleach, or until the liquid is clear and smells slightly like chlorine. But do not add more than 16 drops.

For more information, refer to HECO’s "Information Handbook for Emergency Preparedness." The handbook can be downloaded at heco.com.

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