Day 25 – National Preparedness Month Challenge – Emergency Sanitation
When I say Emergency Sanitation as part of your emergency preparedness plan, what comes to mind? Do you think about how you will keep germs and disease from spreading if you are without running water? Maybe your first thought is “human waste elimination” with all its smells and disposal concerns. Or maybe you are thinking – I haven’t given this any thought at all! Your Disaster Supplies Kit should include supplies and knowledge about the ways to keep germs, bacteria and viruses away and keep your family safe.
You might be tempted to overlook this part of your preparations, after all, emergency sanitation is not something we talk about every day. This is a small step, but really important. Keeping clean is not only a nice thing to do, but it may be life-saving. This will be a very big problem if your water supply is cut off and you aren’t prepared.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) a knowledge of hygiene and handwashing, bathing, dental and wound care during emergencies is essential.
When to Wash Hands
Wash hands with soap and clean, running water (if available):
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
You have the spread of disease under control, next consider what you will do when your family needs to answer the “call from Mother Nature”. According to Barbara Salsbury in Preparedness Principles “It does’t matter one little bit if the plumbing system is out of order. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go”
Emergency Sanitation Supplies to have on hand if the water is not working but you can still use your home toilet:
Our city sewage plants operate on electrical systems. Interruptions in service can occur because of storm damage, power outages, sabotage or broken pipes. If you are sheltering at home you can make your home toilet into a port-a-potty. Empty the water from the bowl, put in a heavy duty garbage bag and secure it with duct tape (tape the handle too). After each use, put in a small amount of chlorine bleach, secure the bag with a twist tie, and close the lid until it is used again.
- 13 gallon size (or larger) heavy duty garbage bags– get the heaviest ones you can find – no skimping here!
- Duct tape to secure the garbage bag over the toilet bowl
- Twist ties to secure the bags “after use”
- Non-scented chlorine bleach or other disinfectant
- Latex or rubber gloves (I use the kind grandma used to use when she washed dishes, they come further up your arm than medical gloves)
- Consider air freshener or room deodorizer
- Bucket with a handle to place used bags in while carrying them outside
- Large garbage can with a lid to store your “used” bags when full. We will assume that the city will have a way to dispose of these bags after the emergency is over.
Emergency Sanitation if you cannot use your home toilet.
Sometimes you may not be able to use your home toilet, it may be backed up, or you may have to evacuate. I read stories of people evacuating from hurricanes that were stuck in their cars for many hours and had no emergency sanitation available. I personally do not want to have to “go” on the side of the road – how about you? What are your options then? The simplest is to create an emergency sanitation kit in a 5-gallon bucket. Use the same supplies for your home port-a-potty listed above and store them in the bucket. It will be ready to use if you have to evacuate. You can also purchase a Reliance Fold-to-go Portable Toilet or similar RV type item if you just can’t bare the thought of using a bucket!
Today’s Challenge: Create an Emergency Sanitation Kit
GOOD: Using the guidelines listed above, gather your emergency sanitation kit supplies together and make a plan to purchase what you are missing. Maybe you have the bucket and deodorizer but need to purchase a screw on toilet seat.
BETTER: Complete your emergency sanitation kit or purchase one – either way, BE READY Look up one of the resources below and print it for your emergency preparedness library.
BEST: Watch a You-Tube video (or two) about emergency sanitation kits and download the publication from Johns Hopkins University listed below.
Resources for Emergency Sanitation
Learn to set up an Emergency Handwashing Station
CDC Information about Food, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene before and after an emergency including community drinking water, private wells and rainwater catchment systems.
Johns Hopkins University Water Sanitation & Hygiene in Emergencies – an in depth look at sanitation issues and proper waste burial.
University of Florida Emergency Sanitation handout.
This post has been shared with Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways