Monday, November 17, 2008

Sanitation, Part 1

"In an emergency situation, the most pressing concern will be to have proper clothing and shelter against any extremes in heat and cold, followed by having sufficient water (at least a gallon per day per person). If the emergency situation should last any time longer than a few days and water supplies (including sewer capabilities) should be stopped, the level of preparing for the situation will profoundly go up. Somewhere between the need for sufficient water and having sufficient food will be the need for having proper sanitation.

In any major disaster situation, such as the tsunami in Indonesia, where tens of thousands of people may die, many times more people will die in the weeks following such an event. The primary reason for this is the lack of proper sanitation. Disease takes its toll on those who succumb to disease from bad water and bad hygiene conditions. You will be much more in danger from disease than from the possibility of starving if sanitary conditions break down.

I would like to share with you some things to consider as a part of your emergency preparedness planning in being prepared for any sanitation concerns you may have for you and your family. The usual waste produced by Americans, including waste water, exceeds 200 pounds per person per day. In an emergency situation, where waste removal may not be in service for garbage and waste water, we will need to be very careful in how we dispose of and remove waste. Flies, rodents, rats and other pests will be attracted to waste and can become carriers of disease if they get into our homes and yards. Wastes can be put into three general categories: human waste, liquid waste (washing, kitchen and bath), and solid and semi-solid waste (food waste, paper, glass and other general “garbage” items).

Human waste (both solid and liquid) in even very small quantities can become sources of disease-producing germs if it is not properly dealt with. Diseases can come from what can be called the five “F’s”: feces, fingers, flies, food and fluids. Improperly handled food or water that has been contaminated by improper sanitation or contact with vermin can quickly spread diseases such as dysentery, cholera and typhoid. Keeping everyone’s hands washed clean and watching where fingers “go” will be important. Clothing and especially underclothing will need to be kept clean in an environment where there may be a shortage of water to do washing. Eating utensils, dishware and cookware will need to be kept clean of old food to keep the next meal from possibly becoming contaminated. A good disinfectant solution is to add one teaspoon of liquid bleach to a quart of water to sanitize your utensils. If there is a disruption of culinary water and sewer services, it may become very important to have a portable emergency toilet.

If there is a disruption of your home’s water supply, it will not be a very good idea to try to use your toilets without a supply of water to flush the waste away. If you have stored water, you will want to use it for much more important uses to keep you and your family alive. A portable toilet will become very important. It will be easier to use and put to use rather than trying to dig a proper sanitary latrine in your back yard. A “cat hole” is not a good answer to long term sanitary needs for it will contribute to disease. You may have a portable chemical toilet, but it will still need some amount of water to be useable and you will still need to have an effective means of disposing the waste water, where it will not come into contact with your environment or be accessible to vermin.

An effective and low cost solution is to get an emergency portable toilet that you can get at sporting goods outlets which consists of a six gallon plastic bucket and a “pop-on” toilet seat cover. Use heavy duty plastic bags as liners that will not leak upon removal. You will want to have a fairly deep hole in your back yard (three or four feet deep) or else a tight fitting lidded container that won’t leak. When in use, it may be a good idea to use items like saw dust or some other liquid absorbent filler to keep the liquid sloshing down. Having a bit of lye or some kind of household disinfectant or soil to cover or suppress the odors will help. When the plastic bag is filled to a point where you can carefully dispose of it, you will want a tight-fitting leak-proof container you can put the filled bags where insects and vermin cannot get at, or you may want to have a fairly deep hole (at least three to four feet deep) in your back yard where you can safely dispose of the bag, cover with a few inches of soil at each disposal and have a cover to keep vermin out and people from falling in. Of course, it goes without saying that it would be good to have a good supply of toilet paper on hand and hand soaps or sanitizers.

The material for this information comes from a very good book on preparedness: The Sense of Survival, by J. Allan South, c. 1990 by Timpanogos Publishers."
(Source: R. Hatch, Ward Preparedness Specialist)

No comments: