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By Kellene Bishop

emergency-sanitation-sewageSanitation is one of the ten critical components of emergency preparedness.  In my book, it is usually one of the top two that are most overlooked.  A lot of us take emergency sanitation for granted until our toilet breaks down or the sewer backs up.  Keep in mind, if there is a quarantine, who’s going to maintain the proper working order of the sewage services?  If there’s a financial collapse, how will we even have the wherewithal to send our waste somewhere else?  If you don’t take emergency sanitation seriously, then the consequences can be extremely dire—even up to a 50 mile radius.  Preventing waste from contaminating the soil is just as important as preventing the spread of any other disease as it contaminates crops, water, and air.  Additionally, as water will be scarce in a time of emergency, ensuring that it does not get contaminated with improper sanitation habits is critical.  

High amounts of hydrogen sulfide results from human waste.  It not only smells horrible but can also be very dangerous if a great deal of build-up occurs locally.  Flies, rodents, and other unwelcome “guests” are attracted to the smell of fecal matter.  Flies actually consume it.  Unfortunately, this also means that human waste is speedily spread to humans via flies and rodents to multiple locations and can subsequently affect an entire community with a sanitation disaster within 48 hours.  Thus ensuring that your toilets are covered and you have the ability to break down the waste is critical in order to ensure the best health in a stressful circumstance.

Your Toilet photo c/o

Your Toilet photo c/o

Your first line of defense for emergency sanitation will still be the toilet in your own home—for a little while at least.  You may only have enough time to build an alternative source, but you should at least have some time to implement these initial strategies.  So long as you have water supply, flush conservatively.  When you aren’t able to flush any longer, plan on pouring water down the toilet to get rid of the waste.  (Think how fast you’ll be using that water folks.  Now do you start to see why I say a gallon per person, per day is the minimum amount you want to store?  Although, keep in mind, you can use dish water, laundry water, or leftover cooking water for this purpose.)  After you no longer have this option, plan on using the toilet as more of a “bucket.”  Turn off all of the water to the toilet, and then plug it up with a tennis ball to ensure that no sewage comes through.  Then line your toilet with a bio-degradable, compostable bag.  When you’ve exhausted the use of that bag, seal it, and then bury it so it will decompose properly.

In the eventual likelihood that you will have to move your “outhouse” outdoors, there are several additional considerations for emergency sanitation.  Obviously, you want to keep it away from any food or water supply.  But you will want to be sure that you have chlorinated lime or bleach on hand to chemically and safely break down the waste matter.  (Note: Powdered, chlorinated lime is available at building supply stores and it can be used dry.  Be sure to get chlorinated lime and not quick lime, which is highly alkaline and corrosive.)

Toilet Lid for 5 Gallon Bucket photo c/o

Toilet Lid for 5 Gallon Bucket photo c/o

Every single time a person uses the toilet, some type of disinfectant should be sprinkled on top.  It can be chlorinated lime, bleach, or even some other household disinfectants such as Pinesol, Lysol Cleaner, Arm & Hammer cleaners, plain baking soda, laundry detergent, etc.  (All of which, by the way, I’ve obtained for dirt cheap lately using my coupon strategies.)  Remember, regardless of the smell or condition of your toilet area, it should always be kept well covered for emergency sanitation.  Don’t use DRY bleach.  It can eat away at your bags and containers.

We have a few options on hand in our home in addition to the indoor toilet.  We have a 5-gallon bucket that has a “toilet lid” which fits securely on top. If you’re going to use the bucket method, I recommend you line it with a garbage bag, then fill it with about ¾ a gallon of water with one cup of liquid chlorine bleach.  This will help in breaking down the smell and the waste immediately upon use.  (I have a lot of Acco clips stored to help ensure that the plastic bags stay in place.) When the bucket is about half full (no more) seal off the bag and bury it properly.  If you have babies in diapers, be sure to store their used diapers in this bag as well and dispose of accordingly. 

Gotta Go Toilet from ChemiSan

Gotta Go Toilet from ChemiSan

We also have a “Gotta Go” potty from ChemiSan.  We’re sure to also have plenty of garbage bags, plastic gloves, and disinfectants available.  What good is making a great meal if the aroma is overwhelmed by the nausea you feel as a result of the pervasive stench of sanitation problems?  I actually highly recommend the ChemiSan products.  (Do a Google search to find a dealer near you.)  They are truly amazing in ensuring proper sanitation.  The ChemiSan company has portable toilets made of cardboard, ideal bags for the disposal of waste, and of course, their ChemiSan powder product that actually consumes the human waste in a matter of hours, neutralizing the odors so that flies and other rodents aren’t attracted to the waste area.  (This powder can be obtained in small, individual packages—ideal for camping as well.)

In addition to the human waste aspect of emergency sanitation, be sure that you consider the most sanitized way of disposing of your regular garbage.  If you drain your garbage of all liquid, it can be stored longer.  Obviously, the ability to burn your garbage is ideal.  Both garbage and human waste should be buried no less than 12 inches deep in the ground, preferably 18 to 24 inches.

Perhaps not so obvious to some is to ensure that you are constantly keeping your hands clean.  Typhoid fever, amoebic dysentery, diarrhea, infectious hepatitis, salmonella and giardia are diseases that spread rapidly in times of emergency and threaten the lives of all of those around you.  Yet these are all diseases that can easily be controlled by simply following the rules of good sanitation.   

Along these same lines of emergency sanitation, do you even know how much toilet paper your family goes through in a week so you can plan accordingly?  If not, then the next time you put a new roll of t.p. on, use a Sharpie and mark the date on the inside of the roll that you’re putting it on.  Then when it’s empty, check the date and you’ll eliminate the guessing.  In my opinion, you can never have too much toilet paper, especially for emergency sanitation.

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

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You may think that my top 7 handy dandy preparedness “tools” are an unusual list for emergency preparedness supplies, but I’m quite certain that you will find them invaluable under the right set of circumstances.  I love discovering and using items that serve a dual-purpose, especially when those purposes are compounded substantially.  If I have something in storage, chances are it serves more than one purpose. Whether it be medical supplies, seeds, a heater or wood, virtually everything I relegate space to store has multiple uses that I familiarize myself with so I get the most use out of my space.  Without further ado, here is my Seven Handy Dandy “Tool” list.  


1)    duct-tape-bumper Duct Tape: We have an entire case of duct tape in our basement.  You can use it medically as well as to fix leaking or broken items.  It’s even viable to use to mend clothing or shoe, too.  It’s also affectionately called the “100 mile per hour tape.”  When I was in my early 20’s I was in a car accident and “needed” the insurance money to live off of.  Consequently, I used duct tape to reattach the bumper and away I rode… for another year and a half until I bought a new car.  While I never went 100 miles per hour—not that I’m willing to admit, anyway—it worked just fine in keeping my car together.

2)     Super Glue: Yet another case of supplies occupying our storage area.  This can also be used in lieu of minor stitches as well as prolonging the life of items that may break down.  In an emergency, you may very well have to rely on yourself for such instances as opposed to a professional “fix-it man” or medical personnel.

3)     bounce-dryer-sheets1Bounce Dryer Sheets: Ah hah.  I knew I’d get raised eyebrows on that one.  Here’s just a few ways that your dryer sheets will be useful to you.  They repel insects, including yellow jackets, bees, ants, and mosquitoes.  All you have to do is loop it through a belt loop, and voila, you are a walking citronella candle.  They also repel mice.  Simply lay them down around an area that you are trying to protect, and you’ve scared little Mickey away.  You can also use them to dissolve soap scum (just wet and scrub), prevent sewing thread from tangling (rub on a strip of thread prior to use) and removing baked-on foods from kitchen items (simply soak with a sheet in it and it comes off).  Not to mention the everyday uses it provides you with such as cleaning blinds, eliminating static from your computer and TV screens, deodorizing shoes, books, and photo albums.  It will truly serve as a duplicitous ally when you’re “roughing it.”

4)     Tarp, Tarp, and More Tarp: We buy the blue tarps from Costco and have a small stack of them in the basement.  They are sturdy, water proof, and priced much better than even one good quality tarp elsewhere.  In the event of nuclear fall out, roof damage, window damage, freezing temperatures, and a myriad of other instances, I find that this is one product that makes sense to have on hand.  In fact, even if my tents were to fail to provide me with shelter, I can always combine the tarps with my duct tape supply and have suitable protection from the elements. *wink*

5)     Foil: In addition to the regular, everyday uses of foil, you can also use it for emergency signaling, cooking and insulating.  You can even put water in a well made foil and duct tape “pan,” let it sit in the sun during a warm day and have distilled water at the end of the day.

6)     lemon-juiceLemon Juice: We’ve got a great supply list for this, too.  Lemon juice is great as a:

a.      Deodorizer

b.      Sanitizer

c.       Antiseptic

d.      Disinfectant (even for medical uses)

e.      Dandruff treatment (add 1 T. prior to shampooing, then 2 T. diluted with water after rinsing)

f.        Laxative—without the usual side-effects

g.      Relief for a sore throat or hacking cough

h.      Itch and pain reliever from poison ivy

i.        Yummy flavoring

j.        Blemish treatment (when mixed with honey)

k.      Substitute for buttermilk (mix 1 T. with 1 cup of milk)

l.        Tarnish remover

m.   Bleach substitute in laundry. 

I could share more with you, but since I’m certain I’m listed as a “right wing extremist”, I won’t egg anyone on talking about the self-defense measures that can be realized with lemon juice as well J

7)     Salt: You’ve heard biblically of salt being a critical component.  Perhaps after seeing all of these uses you’ll understand why I always take advantage of sales on simple table salt.  In addition to all of the ways salt can be used, it’s also a necessary nutrient that many underestimate.  Salt can also help:

a.      saltPrevent lettuce from wilting

b.      Repel ants

c.       Prevent food from sticking to your griddle (just rub it in)

d.      As a wood preservative (boil your clothespins in them and they will last a LOT longer)

e.      A boiling water accelerator (faster boiling means using less fuel)

f.        Remove mildew (when used with lemon juice)

g.      Remove stains (even works on grape juice in your carpet—but hey, who’s going to really care about the carpet in an emergency, right?)

h.      Kill weeds

i.        Prevent your laundry from freezing when you hang them out to dry in cold weather

j.        Make your milk last longer with a dash of salt

k.      As a plaster substitute (when mixed equally with starch)

l.        Substitute for toothpaste (with equal parts of baking soda)

m.   Relieve sore eyes (when rinsed with salt water)

A pinch of salt also improves the flavor of a lot of items that may taste stale otherwise such as cocoa, gelatin (it sets more quickly as well), fruits (when putting them in also water—this also prevents them from turning yellow), tea, cooking apples and warm milk (makes it more relaxing as well).  Also, egg whites and whipping cream whip up faster with a pinch.  And last but not least, when you soak your shelled nuts in salt water overnight, all you have to do is gently tap the edge gently and they will easily come open, providing a whole nut instead of crumbles that you have to hunt to find among the shells!  


In addition to all of these items, I would also recommend you Google multiple uses for vinegar, wheat, rope, isopropyl and rubbing alcohol and apricot seeds, among other things.  Obviously it doesn’t cost you any money to at least gain this knowledge. And you may end up being a real, live MacGyver in the end.

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

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