Our water was off for a day and my family barely survived.
The neighborhood water main had busted at two in the afternoon, flooding the streets and shutting down water service. Normally it takes a crew about four hours to get something like that fixed, or so I was told by the nice 3-1-1 lady I talked with. Little did I know that for the next twenty-three brutal hours, my family would be water-deprived and I’d be ready to panic, and in the end we would discover just how ill prepared for disaster we truly are.
The first major realization happened immediately.
When I tried to fill the coffee pot with water after the kids’ school day, the kitchen faucet sputtered and coughed its bad news at me. We’d paid our water bill on time, so I didn’t panic like I might have during one of our leaner months. The roads had just been wet out there but there was no rain, so now with this lack of sink water I was beginning to figure out that somewhere a pipe had burst. And like Tom Hanks in the beginning of ‘Castaway’, at that moment I had absolutely no idea just how desperate things were about to get.
But first, I wanted coffee.
That’s when I realized that the two-gallon container of filtered water we keep in the fridge was less than one third full. Until that moment, it never occurred to me that maybe it would be better to treat my refrigerator water more like my car’s gas tank and never let it dip below half. When I saw how little there was, I only put a few cups worth in the coffee pot and asked my wife Gretchen if we happened to have any backup water.
Turns out, we might. Somewhere.
We scoured the house but only came up with a one-gallon bottle of spring water. It was left over from our kids’ birthday party and hidden behind all the second-string kitchenware. In the back of my mind, I started to kick myself for not having any more water laying around than this, but the coffee finished brewing so I had myself a little cup of that instead.
The second realization of our emergency vulnerability came later that evening.
After dinner, my son had to use the restroom, but water was still unavailable. Once he took care of business, I told him not to flush since it was our last bowl. My daughter also had to go, but she refused to on the grounds that sitting over her little brother’s business was too gross to even consider. Don’t worry, I told her, the water should be back on any minute now.
Only I was wrong.
When I woke up early the next morning, there was no cold water to splash on my face, and that’s when the panic set in. In a time where politics and compliments are entirely unpredictable, the one thing that I can always count on is my morning constitutional. At that point, there was one thing that was certain:
Nothing I was about to create could remain un-flushed.
There was only one route to take – the same one my dog Vincent takes in the backyard twice a day. After grabbing some TP and some plastic grocery bags, I did what cave dwellers and campers have been doing since the dawn of time. As a bonus, Mother Nature rewarded me further by dumping a rainstorm on my whole operation.
Which gave me a great idea.
Like an Alaskan survivalist, I chose to roll with nature’s fury. There’s an area of our un-guttered roof where rain collects and pours off. I grabbed the 27-gallon plastic tub my wife uses to hold our Christmas decorations and placed it under the flowing shingle water. By the time my family awoke, it was full and so was the toilet tank, ready to be used in whatever way my family deemed necessary.
Our water finally came back on around one.
It had been a rough experience full of panic and rigged solutions, but what it taught me was that we needed to be better prepared for emergencies. I’m going to create the emergency kit suggested by the CDC and keep those items where all our first-stringers go. (Link to Emergency Kit Prep)
Because our next emergency might not be so easy to survive.
- Mike Lukas
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