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King George County resident Sam Overman has gotten used to frequent power outages at his rural home.
When he loses electricity, he also loses running water. He's developed a solution as part of his disaster kit and offers the following suggestions in this season of regular thunderstorms:
When well water is plentiful, fill a number of 5-gallon plastic buckets with snap-on lids. Stir a tablespoon of ordinary chlorine bleach into each, then snap the lid on tightly.
Chlorine keeps the water from becoming funky during years of storage. The buckets can be stacked several high, and they should be marked as "flushing water."
The buckets should be stored where they will not be subjected to extremely high temperatures and where the water cannot freeze.
When a flush is called for, completely remove a water bucket's lid and pour the water into the toilet's bowl. Do not pour the water into the toilet's tank. Doing so will produce an unsatisfactory flush.
Hold the bucket crosswise to the bowl and aim the water at the china inside the front of the bowl to maximize the swirling action. Pour the water in rapidly, to cause the water level to rise up toward the bowl's rim and to keep the water level high until you get a complete flush.
Once the flush is over, the water level in the bowl will be low, so slowly add water from the bucket to bring up the water level a bit, but not enough to cause more flushing.
If water remains in the bucket after the flush, add it to remainders from other buckets to make up a full bucket. You may need it before the power is restored.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
It's a good idea to practice flushing using a bucket of water before the need actually arises. Just fill a bucket from the bathtub or shower tap.
The squeamish can practice by first tossing just a bit of tissue into a clean toilet bowl. All members of the household should practice the real thing a few times, though.
A 5-gallon bucket of water is heavy, so if you do not have someone in the house who can easily handle the weight, fill your buckets partway, to a weight that suits you. You probably can get a satisfactory flush using a lighter-weight 3-gallon bucket of water.
Either way, you will have taken care of one of the nastiest consequences of losing electric power--and running water, if you're on a well. (Alternative: See The Boy Scout Handbook for how to dig a latrine.)
WATER TO DRINK
Here is how to have water on hand for drinking, brushing your teeth and light bathing when you lose power. Buy a number of gallon plastic jugs of distilled water. Distilled water can be safely stored unopened for years without deterioration, whereas well water, municipal water or gallon jugs of commercial drinking water cannot.
Put the bottles where they will not be subjected to extremely high temperatures and cannot freeze. Open only one bottle at a time as the need arises when the power has gone off.
Once the power is restored, do not return an opened bottle to storage. Go ahead and use its remainder and replenish your supply of bottles.
For years, Overman has gotten free 5-gallon buckets from fast-food chains. These places get sliced pickles in food-grade buckets and typically toss the containers in the trash. Overman saves them from the landfill, helps the store owner save money by reducing his disposal costs, then recycles the buckets by using them as water containers.
More information is available at his website, freebuck ets.webstarts.com.