Where to buy emergency kit items and water rations in Canada?
November 24, 2007 8:57 PM   Subscribe

Where, in Canada, can I buy emergency/disaster kit items such as water rations?

I'm looking to put together a 72-hour kit. I'd like to purchase long shelf life water rations. I can't figure out where to buy these in Canada. They seem to be everywhere in the US. In Canada, they only seem to be available as part of ready-made disaster kits. Is it possible to buy water rations from within Canada? (Note: I'm in a condo, so living off a hot water tank isn't an option.) I've been able to figure out where to buy many disaster readiness items, but it would be great if someone could point me to a Canadian source for things like water rations, high calorie food rations and so on. Mountain Equipment Co-op doesn't seem to have boxed water. Thanks.
posted by acoutu to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I live in Florida and we have to prepare for hurricanes. What we do is buy bottled water and rotate the stock. I haven't heard of water rations. We buy regular bottled water and replace our stash with fresh stuff a few times a year. If you only need 3 days worth, that would be easy enough to do.
posted by 45moore45 at 9:01 PM on November 24, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks. I know I can do that, but I'm looking for something where I can just kind of forget about it for a while. However, I just checked into the shelf life of bottled water. It looks like the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has not determined a shelf life, whereas the Red Cross says six months. Perhaps I'm wrong to thing there is such a thing as long shelf-life water?
posted by acoutu at 9:15 PM on November 24, 2007

Equipped to Survive has a list of manufacturers and retailers for survival equipment. Unfortunately, none of the Canadian listings appear to carry rations. The same site has a 72-hour kit guideline and much information about water storage.

A rotating stock of bottled water or refillable containers seems sufficient to me. The owner of ETS or the site's forum might be another resource for answers.

[Not affiliated with ETS--I've kept a bookmark for the site's survival kits and supply lists as a reference for quite some time.]
posted by bonobo at 9:29 PM on November 24, 2007

Where are you? I think you can find this at Crown Surplus in Calgary. Just know that the dog who sleeps by the checkout is not as friendly as he looks.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:44 PM on November 24, 2007

Response by poster: I'm in Vancouver.
posted by acoutu at 9:50 PM on November 24, 2007

This (Canadian) Page says that regular old bottled water from the supermarket has a two year shelf life. And that seems conservative to me. As long as it's kept sealed in a cool, dark place, the life of a bottle of water is probably closer to 20 years.

Maybe I am naive here (go ahead, someone make the joke), but "long-life water" seems like a scam to me.
posted by rokusan at 10:02 PM on November 24, 2007

And ten seconds later, I see the US FDA considers regular bottled water to have an indefinite shelf life, with the two year guideline suggested as an inventory practice only, not a health one.
posted by rokusan at 10:04 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I can't imagine having water shipped to me. The 72-hour kit guideline link I posted above discusses water supply in terms of portability and potability and offers directions on adding bleach to water you bottle yourself.
posted by bonobo at 10:12 PM on November 24, 2007

acoutu, the IGA at Old Orchard mall in Burnaby sells emergency water and food rations, in addition to full emergency kits. I imagine other IGAs in the Lower Mainland would sell them as well.
posted by birdsquared at 10:31 PM on November 24, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks. Perhaps I can stick with regular water and see what IGA has to offer.
posted by acoutu at 11:26 PM on November 24, 2007

Canadian tire currently has those crank-operated radio-flashlights on sale for $20, btw.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:54 PM on November 24, 2007

People tend to overthink this, and I am speaking from real experience. Just keep the requisite number of gallons of water you'd use in the timespan for which you're planning and change them every couple of years, just for the sake of doing it. They'll last for eons in reality.

In an emergency, water's great, but in a longer-term bad situation, it falls pretty far down the list. Unless you're in an unusually arid place, a means to obtain the water necessary to live (maybe not to shower, run the dishwasher or laundry though) will make itself known. And you'd never store enough to matter for *that* long, while a few gallons of cooking oil or a bag of salt would make you a local hero for a long, long time.

What people tend to really wish they'd planned for, but don't:

1) cooking oil
2) toilet paper, paper towels
3) spices, herbs, pepper and salt
4) sugar, chocolate (especially for its fat), candy, honey
5) soap, shampoo, cleaning products
6) seeds for easy-to-grow stuff
7) vitamins
8) if you can keep a couple of hens, you won't regret it.

Nothing's as tradeable (relative to effort) as eggs!

Aside from the last three, these things can be stored for a long, long time. And in reality, #6 and #7 would be good for a few years.

I am a Sarajevan who lived during the siege with no heat, electricity, water, phone (etc) for the most of a three-year period. What's on the list above is what I was almost always missing. We got "dry" food packages from various sources. These tended to be Truman eggs (good for a little protein, but thats about it), macaroni, rice, powder potatoes, Vietnam-era "biscuits" - supposedly with vitamins, but these were from the late 1960s and of dubious nutritional value.

What was missing was: fat, protein, flavor and variety. Boiling was the only way to cook things, due to lack of any cooking oils. To fry something was a rare miracle - even if you were frying reconstituted potatoes from powder. And to have a little pepper or salt was nirvana.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:25 AM on November 25, 2007 [416 favorites]

Take some gallon milk jugs, rinse them out well, fill them with tap water and put on the caps. If you are really the paranoid type, put a few drops of bleach in each bottle. They should be good for years. Why do you need to buy water?
posted by JackFlash at 12:31 AM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Dee Xtrovert's comment reminded me of this fellow's description of living in post economic-collapse Argentina. (via mefi, maybe).

Very thought provoking and helpful. It's posted on a survivalists' forum, and the rest of the site is a little tedious.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:49 AM on November 25, 2007 [8 favorites]

Just a note on JackFlash's idea about milk jugs, basically every survival/food storage site in the world will tell you that using milk jugs is a really really bad idea. YMMV.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:56 AM on November 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you don't like milk jugs, then use 2 liter PET soft drink bottles and fill them with tap water. Or if you really insist on spending money, get a 7 gallon plastic jerry can and fill it with tap water. The idea of having to buy water for storage is kind of silly. I certainly wouldn't rely on information from survivalist/food storage sites. Their primary purpose is to sell you expensive stuff you don't need.
posted by JackFlash at 9:04 AM on November 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

The Red Cross recommends using soda bottles; the 2 liter ones are my choice. Whenever I have a 2 liter bottle, I rinse it, refill with water, date it, and put in the basement. There's a bottle of bleach there, too. A couple drops of bleach will ensure clean water. Water will get stale, but shaking it will help, and will release some of the bleach taste. Milk jugs will retain too much milk, and may grow stuff, as well as having a bad taste. Useful for storing water for sanitation, though.

In a short term emergency, there's water in the hot water tank & toilet tank (eww, not the bowl, the tank).

For food, peanut butter, canned tuna, canned soups, rice, boxed macaroni, canned fruits, are all easy to store, and easy to prepare, as long as you have a can opener. Camping gear can used for cooking, and try to keep an extra fuel container for the gas grill, or plenty of charcoal or wood for a hibachi.

We lost power for 4 days after Hurricane Bob, and cooked on the gas grill and camp stove. An oil lamp and fuel is very useful. You really need a handcranked radio.

I was initially nervous about Y2K , though it became clear during 1999 that it would be okay, so I started keeping an extra dozen cans of soup, and just rotate them out regularly.

Most of all, you need common sense. Camping is a good way to prepare for an emergency.
posted by theora55 at 10:00 AM on November 25, 2007 [4 favorites]

as JackFlash says.
posted by theora55 at 10:01 AM on November 25, 2007

The amount of water carried in a ship's liferaft is 0.5 litres per person for three days. For lifeboats it's 1 litre per person for three days. The water comes in little plastic sachets which can have a shelf life of up to five years. Therefore, if you wanted to find some really expensive water which would be certified fit for paying guests or somesuch, you could probably go to a large marine chandlery and ask about lifeboat water rations (like this, only in Canada).

As far as I know, most of the debate about shelf life of bottled water is to do with the potential for unwanted chemicals to leach into the water from the plastic over time. I suspect that if it was a case of drinking plasticky water or venturing out to risk being eaten by zombies, I would go with the plasticky water. I assume that perfectly ordinary bottled water can be obtained in any supermarket in Vancouver. You may wish to exercise some care as to which kind you buy, because some heavily mineralised waters taste utterly disgusting, although, again, if it was a choice between icky water or zombies, I would choose to avoid the zombies. I suspect the supermarket's own brand will be perfectly acceptable.

Bought, sealed, bottled water is pretty much sterile. Empty coke bottles and tap water is not. If you're going to the expense of buying the rest of a survival kit, buy the water too. If you really care about dates, buy some more before it goes out of date and drink the other stuff.
posted by Lebannen at 10:03 AM on November 25, 2007

Of course, if you expect to get some notice of the zombie apocalypse, it might be handy to have a few empty jerry cans (or coke bottles, whatever) kicking around, to be filled with tap water before everything shuts down. Use them up before starting on anything sealed.

I've had to refill jerrycans of drinking water in an old ship's lifeboat. If you did go that route, I'd recommend sterilising them every time you changed the water, which should be every couple of months. This would get very annoying, very quickly, I'm sure. You could probably get away with just leaving the water in there and buying some chlorine tablets to stick in there if you ever had to use it. If you must do the 'tip a few drops of bleach in it' thing, check very carefully when buying the bleach that bleach is all the bottle contains; it seems like everything sold as bleach in this country contains detergents too, YMMV internationally. And of course, do not store your emergency bleach in anything other than its original container.
posted by Lebannen at 10:33 AM on November 25, 2007

Again most of the posters here seem to think you would be using these rations everyday as part of normal life. These are emergency supplies, so you do not have to worry about issues like the taste of over mineralised brands of water! If that is truly the worst issue you have at the time it isn't much of an emergency.
For indefinite water storage, fill an adequate number of soda bottles (labeled PET) and store somewhere dark and preferably cool. Go to the store and buy the smallest container of pool chlorine crystals (it *must* be sodium hypochlorite - some brands in the US use an isocyanate compound).
When the zombies come a tiny pinch of chlorine in a 2litre (half gallon) bottle shaken up then left to sit for half an hour will kill any pathogens.
You could use 3 or 4 drops of unscented bleach instead, but the crystal chlorine lasts forever. Bleach is effectively a 5% solution of pool chlorine, so you could easily make up a container of fresh bleach.
You can use the same strategy for collected water, but I would advocate storing some water.
posted by bystander at 2:10 PM on November 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks. I think I'll just buy bottled water instead of trying to save up bottles and sterilize them. I could also check out the chandler down at the marina. I am not worried about zombies, but about earthquakes in BC. However, I will see getting water purification stuff to have on hand -- I don't have a hot water tank and I am not sure if a toilet tank would withstand an earthquake.
posted by acoutu at 7:56 PM on November 25, 2007

the soft plastic that Milk cartons and some bottled water ship in degrades over time and can sprout pinhole leaks. That is why it is bad to use.
posted by Megafly at 3:12 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

What's a Truman egg? It doesn't appear on Google.
posted by grouse at 1:26 AM on November 28, 2007

That's funny. I thought it was an American phrase. (Truman eggs, that is.) Nothing on Google unless you search for plural "eggs," and then only about 10 hits. Even in Serbo-Croatian form, there are only a few hundred hits. It looks like almost exclusively a Sarajevo term!

Anyway, Truman eggs were powdered eggs. My belief was that the term originated during the Marshall Plan. Before my time, of course, and I probably learned the term from older relatives, but everybody in Sarajevo knows what it means. The Marshall Plan connection could be a myth, I suppose - or a joke made by older folks. I don't know.

Not pleasant-tasting, by the way!
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:51 AM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

I guess this is thoroughly off-topic now, but I didn't think that Yugoslavia participated in the Marshall plan.
posted by grouse at 2:14 AM on November 28, 2007

I guess this is thoroughly off-topic now, but I didn't think that Yugoslavia participated in the Marshall plan.

Oh yeah? Where do you think they got Marshal Tito??
posted by ubiquity at 4:54 AM on November 28, 2007 [3 favorites]

Yugoslavia didn't participate in the Marshall Plan, but some aid did come in nonetheless, and we got a lot of American aid products through porous borders, via Greece, especially. I never meant to imply that Yugoslavia was part of the Marshall Plan, just that the term "Truman Eggs" originated then.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:55 PM on November 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

Find a local expert. Your city or county has a disaster planning office. Go ask them.

I was surprised to learn this from my own local experts, but in my locale, enough chlorine (actually chloramine, I think) persists in tap water to make it directly suitable for indefinite storage. Just get it in a closed container, don't leave a lot of air space for mold, and forget about it. This was good to learn, as I don't exactly love bleach.

Hmm. You could also lay in a supply of potassium permanganate crystals to disinfect found water with. Plus, potassium permanganate plus a crushed glucose tablet can apparently be ignited easily with friction. Mmm, multi-use.

Oh, and second what's been said about milk jugs losing their integrity.
posted by eritain at 1:50 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Dee Xtrovert's comment about salt rings true: a good friend and co-worker lived through the Balkans war on rice (which he now loathes). Salt was the only thing that made it remotely palatable after several weeks.

The story behind this nugget is worth telling: the friend (Tom) had started work at about a week before a poorly-planned staff BBQ. He'd volunteered to cook, and after 2 hours of grilling burgers and dogs, the owner of the company offered to take over. To which his new employee looked him up and down, gruffly said "No", and kept cooking.

Thinking there'd been some misunderstanding, the boss again said "it's ok, Tom - this is great work, but why don't you grab a bite and let me finish up?"

Tom stopped, put down the spatula, looked his new employer dead in the eyes, and said: "In my country, I lived like a dog. For 3 months, I ate nothing but rice, salt, and water.

"I can wait."

He got to finish cooking, he kept his job, and he instantly became a legend.
posted by nometa at 9:39 PM on December 2, 2007 [7 favorites]

Search for "truman egg" via Google and it now leads you back here.
posted by intermod at 6:20 AM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

For future reference, apparently the term "truman eggs" dates back to WWII air relief. From a 1992 NYT article:

A floor up from the street, Anto Vrankic, a 56-year-old lawyer for the electricity utility, was celebrating Bajram, a Muslim holiday, with colleagues. Over Turkish coffee and plates of jam made from roses, he recalled how, as a boy of 9 in April 1945, with Sarajevo still closed off by German troops, he had run into a park to watch American planes dropping supplies of egg powder, milk powder and shoes by parachute.

"We called those packages 'Truman's eggs,' " he said. "But the question is, why no parachutes now?"

June 16, 1992 - http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE0DD113DF935A25755C0A964958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

FDR died in April 1945, making it plausible that people would create a nonce term based on his new successor. It's strange, though.
posted by dd42 at 7:53 AM on December 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: This thread has gone into new territory while I've been away.

Anyway, I just came back to say that I found various emergency kits at London Drugs and other stores. The Red Cross, St. John's Ambulance and other agencies partnered to create e-kits. BC Hydro kicked in a big subsidy. So I got pre-assembled kits for a good price. They are called "Ready Kits" and they're for 72 hours.
posted by acoutu at 11:34 PM on March 31, 2008

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