• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


Five tips for accessing the water stored in a water heater during an emergency

water heater, find urban water, emergency water sources
600 300 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

You probably have a large reservoir of potable water in your house, just waiting to be tapped. Here’s how to use the reserve stored in the water heater when an emergency happens.

by Leon Pantenburg

The disaster that hit closest to home to me was Hurricane Katrina. My relatives live in Mississippi, but even being a couple hundred miles inland didn’t spare them from the high winds, flash flooding and violent fringe storms.

Even though they were spared the brunt of the storm, they were still without power for a week, and had to get by with what they had on hand.

water heater 2 edited

Check out your water heater before you need the water, and know how to access it. The valve on the right is where you drain this water heater.

When any disaster happens, one of the first things to go is water supply. The water main may burst, be shut off or be polluted.

Hopefully, you have a supply of potable water set aside. But don’t forget, you may have close to 50 gallons, just waiting to used. 

Here are a five things to think about before you need use your water heater supply:

Where is the water heater? Sounds like a pretty elementary question, but you’d be surprised how many people are totally ignorant of where essential things like the water main switch, electrical fuse or breaker box or gas shutoffs are. And does everyone in the house know where the water heater is? You could be far from home when an emergency happens, with no way to communicate. Now is a good time to take a quick look with everyone in the house who might need to access the supply.

How will I get the water out? Again, another basic concern. There might be a faucet, in which case draining the tank is easy. But if not, you need to consider what your next step might be. Do you need a hose? Do you need a special-sized container to drain the water into? Can you shut the flow off once you tap into it?

water heater 1 edited

This water heater valve will require a channel lock pliers, a container to catch the initial rush of water, and a hose to drain the reservoir. Make sure you know where to find these items.

What tools might be needed? My water heater doesn’t have a faucet, so I will need a channel lock pliers to open it. Make sure you have the tools on hand.

What about light? Murphy’s Law on emergencies plainly states that when it comes to draining a water heater, it will be an emergency and probably dark. Do you have adequate lights in the house to illuminate the project?

What will I store the water in? Frigid conditions and arctic temperatures may require that you drain the tank to keep it from freezing. Make sure you have some place to store the water.

These suggestions segue nicely into a another post by Jim Cobb on The Survival Mom. Jim explains how to access the water heater supply.

Here is another important tip from Jim Cobb: If your water heater is electric, turn off the power at the circuit breaker panel.  Do this even if the power is already out in the area.  The heating element inside a water heater can be come damaged if it turns on and there isn’t any water inside.  If you have a gas water heater, turn the thermostat to Pilot.

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