Sanitation in an Emergency: The Basics.

The lack of sanitation facilities following a major disaster can quickly create secondary problems unless basic guidelines are followed.

If the water lines are damaged or if damage is suspected, do not flush
your toilet. Avoid digging holes in the ground and using these. Untreated
raw sewage can pollute fresh ground water supplies. It also attracts flies
and acts as a vector for the spread of certain diseases like typhoid. suggests you keep the following basic supplies on hand for any sanitation/waste disposal emergency:


  • Store a large supply of heavy-duty plastic
    bags, twist ties, disinfectant, and toilet paper
  • A good disinfectant that is easy to use
    is a solution of 1 part liquid bleach to 10 parts water. Dry bleach
    is caustic and not safe for this type of use.
  • If the toilet is NOT able to be flushed,
    it can still be used. This is less stressful for most people than using
    some other container. Remove all the bowl water. Line it with a heavy-duty
    plastic bag. When finished, add a small amount of deodorant or disinfectant,
    securely tie the bag, and dispose of it in a large trash can with a
    tight fitting lid. This large trash can should also be lined with a
    sturdy trash bag. Eventually, the city will provide a means to dispose
    of these bags. 
  • Portable camp toilets, small trash cans
    or sturdy buckets lined with heavy-duty plastic bags can also be used.
    Those with tight fitting lids are best.

Water flush toilets cannot be used when water
service is interrupted.

The water remaining in the fixture is not sufficient to flush the wastes down the sewer. Clogging may result and your living conditions then become just that much more uncomfortable.

Even if water is available, local authorities may ask you not to use flush
toilets, wash basins, and other fixtures connected with soil pipes. The
sewer mains may be broken or clogged, which would make it impossible to
carry off such waste; or water may be needed for fire fighting or other
emergencies. It is necessary for every family to know emergency methods
of waste disposal in case such conditions arise.

Failure to properly dispose of human wastes can lead to epidemics of such
diseases as typhoid, dysentery, and diarrhea. At the same time, sewage
must be disposed of in ways that will prevent contamination of water supplies
used for drinking, cooking, bathing, laundering, and other domestic purposes.
Here are simple steps that any family can take to prevent such dangers
and discomforts.

Temporary Toilet Provisions
Right after an emergency, or during one, you will probably not have the
time and tools to prepare a complex emergency sanitation system. If there
is a delay of several days in restoring sewage service to your neighborhood,
you may find that disposal is a big problem. Your first task is to make
some temporary toilet provision for your family, especially the children.
Almost any covered metal or plastic container will do. You can use a covered
pail, a 5-gallon bucket, or a small kitchen garbage container with a foot
operated cover for an emergency toilet. Anything that has a cover and
will hold the contents until you can dispose of them will serve for sanitary
purposes at first.

Emergency Sewage Storage
Keep on the premises at least one extra 10-gallon garbage can or other
waterproof container with a tight fitting cover. This should be lined
with paper and/or a plastic bag. And the lid should be fastened to the
can to prevent its loss. Such a can may be used for the emergency storage
of body wastes until the public sewage system can be put back into action,
or until other arrangements can be made. Empty your emergency toilet into
this storage can as often as necessary. A small amount of household disinfectant should be added after each use. If you live in an apartment, you may not have a large garbage can or room to keep one. In that case, two smaller covered pails or other containers will do just as well.

Solutions for Apartment Dwellers
Persons in city apartments, office buildings, or homes without yards should
keep a supply of waterproof paper containers on hand for emergency waste
disposal. Where flush toilets cannot be used and open ground is not available
for the construction of privies, such disposable containers offer a practical
method of emergency waste collection and disposal. Building managers should
plan for the collection of such containers and for their final disposal.
Before collection, the used containers may be stored in tightly covered
garbage cans or other water tight containers fitted with lids. Homemade
soil bags for this purpose can be prepared very easily by putting one
large grocery bag inside another, and a layer of shredded newspaper or
other absorbent material between. You should have sufficient grocery bags
on hand for possible emergencies. A supply of old newspapers will come
in handy for other sanitary uses also, such as wrapping garbage and lining
larger containers.

Controlling Odors and Insects
Insecticides and deodorants should be used when necessary to control odors
and insects breeding in containers that cannot be emptied immediately.
At least 2 pints of household bleach solution should be kept on hand for
disinfecting purposes.

Published by

I don't want to be loved; I just want to be trending.