A bucket of water sits in the corner of each of my bathrooms, as well as a few other strategic places throughout my home, and I view each as an essential piece of my emergency preparedness gear. My family started keeping buckets in the bathrooms after a series of power outages last year. (For you urbanites, when the power goes out in rural areas so do the well pumps on each property, which puts the kibosh on running water.) Since then, several other logical reasons have occurred to me for keeping water in buckets around the house.

1. Toilet Flushing
The one that started it all. If a storm took down our power (and water), we wanted to be able to flush the toilets. One gallon of water, poured directly into the bowl, will give you a reasonable flush. For even better results, fill the tank. Toilet flushing may seem more like a luxury than a critical survival essential, but imagine how dangerous dysentery could be during a crisis. Dysentery is almost always the result of poor sanitation practices. Flushable toilets are a need, not just a want.

2. Fire Control
If EMS is non-responsive due to a storm or impassible roads, you may have to form a “bucket brigade” in the event of a small home fire. Obviously, call 911 first. Then start throwing water. If you cannot lift a 5-gallon bucket full of water (which weighs more than 40 pounds), keep some smaller pails handy. This way, if a candle lights up one of your curtains, or some other small fire breaks out, you have a chance to control it before it destroys your home and all your supplies.

3. Emergency Drinking Water
First off, you should have some clean, ready-to-drink, packaged water for you and your family in the event of a problem with the water supply. We like factory-filled 5-gallon water cooler jugs. Should you finish that off, process your bucket contents through a good water filter or distillation unit, or simply boil it for 10 minutes to create a backup supply.

4. Bathing
I know that a cold bucket of water is no desirable replacement for a hot shower or bath, but it will allow you to take a sponge bath in your bathtub or shower. If the cold water is just too much of a deterrent, warm up a large metal object (like a dumbbell) and stir it around in the water to knock the chill off. If you’re very careful, you can get the water hot with a hot piece of metal. Just be exceedingly cautious. You don’t need to add a serious burn to an existing crisis situation, and you don’t want to melt a hole in the bucket.

5. Clothes Washing
Keeping your clothes clean can be important in an extended emergency. It helps to prevent skin rashes, sores, and fungal infections. It also keeps the clothing from wearing out as quickly. Heat up some water as mentioned for bathing. Pour it into a plastic bin or tub (if you don’t have an old fashioned wash tub). Add a little soap or detergent, and start scrubbing the clothes. Save the wash water to flush the toilets when you’re done washing.

Keep these buckets covered to keep the water clean and to prevent accidents with toddlers and pets.

What would you do with 5-gallon buckets of water? Let us know by leaving a comment.