Posts from — September 2010

Monday Matters! – Disaster Sanitation and Personal Hygiene

What do you mean there’s no water in the toilets and they don’t work? What the #!*%!

Regardless of the situation sanitation and personal hygiene are critical issues both in terms of short or long term emergencies or disasters. The severity of the situation can be exacerbated as you get further from home, while on travel and or in workplace environments. Water is the most critical aspect of the sanitation and hygiene issue as it becomes one of the most valuable assets you have in a disaster. It is not advisable to sacrifice clean drinking water to flush toilets, take a bath or shower even though you and your co-workers are malodorous! It is imperative to establish sanitary ways to dispose of human waste and clean yourself during disaster events.

Let’s tackle the issue of toilet needs first off, because “when you gotta go, you gotta go”! Whether you are at home or trapped in an office on the 62nd floor of a high rise building with no ability to flush the toilet, you have cause for concern. Filling a toilet to the brim with human waste will not win you a prize for being clever. The stench will soon become nauseating and the longer the situation goes on, (God forbid with rising temperatures) the greater the potential for people to become sick due to fecal matter contamination (e.g. diarrhea, E. coli, etc.). It’s a really good idea to make provisions in your emergency sustainment system medical kit for anti-diarrheal, over the counter medications.

There are a number of expedient toilet solutions, however they require some planning and a few resources. Garbage bags can be used to line toilet bowls and household bleach and or Lysol® can be used as a disinfectant. If lining the toilet is not an option, locate a tall bucket, and line it with a plastic garbage bag. A seat can be improvised from boards, heavy duty cardboard or even a toilet seat. Disinfectants should be stored away from any emergency foods and in their original leak proof containers. There are even bulk chemical powders available that are much safer and easier to use than household chemicals that turn the human waste into a gel with little or no odor. After using the toilet, the bag is closed with a handy twisty tie, removed from the area and placed in a designated trash container. A plentiful supply of garbage bags is required and a container with a tight sealing lid is a good thing!

There are also emergency toilets like the ICE PACK™ Personal Hygiene System that utilize a sturdy 6-gallon re-sealable container with a removable soft toilet seat and individually packaged biodegradable waste disposal bags. These work as stand-alone toilet systems that can also be put in the trunk of an automobile, or stored in a supply closet ready for immediate usage. Special attention was given to packaging a “premium” multi-ply toilet tissue, and a generous supply of hand sanitizing wipes. These are items our focus groups said were absolutely essential. We agree whole-heartedly and give two hearty thumbs up to our toilet paper of choice represented by Mr. Whipple!

Disaster planning for personal hygiene must include both genders; male and female. An essential component of which are feminine napkins. A supply of this everyday staple is “absolutely necessary” for emergency sustainment systems for home, travel and office. Research conducted by our product developers found this to be the one single most overlooked item in “disaster kits”.

Just as a friendly reminder to those who work in the food service industry, as well as everyone else, you are supposed to wash your hands after using the toilet. Cleaning your hands keeps you from transmitting harmful bacteria and viruses that make people sick. Since there is no water due to the utilities outage, you need to use a good quality hand sanitizer. If there’s a potential for needing to clean up a real mess, you might even consider adding baby wipes to your emergency supplies. Also clean your hands before preparing and eating meals. You can also use these disposable wipes to clean cans or bottles of food that may have come into contact with flood waters or other contaminates, if you have no other options.

This is a good segue to the subject of cleaning your body, which is vital to maintaining good health especially in hot weather conditions. Baby wipes (disposable body wash towels), when put to good use, are the best alternative to a nice bath or hot shower, under austere conditions. Keeping clean and eliminating body odor helps maintain high morale and good relations with others around you! These are especially good for keeping babies, toddlers and children clean and comfortable under dire circumstances.

Oral hygiene also needs to be factored into your personal hygiene plan. Going several days to a week without brushing your teeth, makes “inter-personal communications” a bit difficult, as dragon breath may be deadly. Include disposable toothbrushes and dental floss with your emergency meals supply. These can be used with a very small amount of water or none at all, and then thrown away.

The ubiquitous plastic garbage bag is perhaps one of the most multi-functional items that can be included in your emergency sustainment system. Garbage bags can be used for improvised wash basins, toilet liners, trash containers, and for waste disposal. Be careful about putting food and water in garbage bags as many are treated with chemicals inside. They can also be used for expedient rain ponchos, broken window repair, privacy screens, or a means to trap body heat to keep warm under survival conditions. We prefer to use two heavy duty types, large lawn bags and trash compactor sizes.

Take action and make your home, office or workplace more resilient against emergencies and disasters, take sanitation and personal hygiene seriously.


September 27, 2010   4 Comments

Monday Matters – Flooding: Before, During and After the Waters Recede

Flooding from hurricanes, torrential rainfall, and dam failures are very dangerous and costly to victims in the path of flood waters. Floods sweep away homes, vehicles and people that do not respect the very real power of rushing water. We are all familiar with the levees that broke around New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, rivers that overflowed banks in Nashville Tennessee, and creeks that became rushing rivers around Atlanta in 2009. These are but a few of the flooding incidents that frequently occur here in the United States with many more occurring throughout the world. The most recent catastrophic floods occurred in Pakistan where more than 20 million Pakistanis lost their homes and many thousands were killed.

Here in the USA, floods and flash floods happen in all 50 states, nearly everyone lives in a flood zone. Flash floods often bring walls of water 10 to 20 feet high and most homeowners’ insurance does not cover flood damage, so get flood insurance now!

Flooding in coastal areas, river valleys and flash floods in low lying areas are not uncommon and in fact happen frequently. It’s even possible that people with vacation and summer homes could have been flooded during their absence and structures outwardly show little or no signs of potential health issues awaiting them inside. Mold, mildew, chemicals, and possibly raw sewage deposited by flood waters have long since dried up. Just an inch of water can cause costly damage to your property. Health issues associated with these contaminates may go unnoticed until later when the structure is further contaminated by operating the heating ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC). Structures thought to be in high ground areas are also potentially vulnerable to basement and ground level flooding during major rain events.

Flood Preparedness Tips & Hints

  1. Have a “Bug Out Bag” (Go Bag) fully kitted and ready to go! Have enough non-perishable food and clean drinking water for at least 5 days per person along with over the counter (OTC) and prescription medications. This includes but is by no means limited to: flashlights, first aid kits, personal hygiene and sanitation supplies, cash, camera, etc.
  2. Have a battery operated radio with spare batteries capable of receiving both local AM/FM, NOAA and All Hazards broadcasts. Have several large zip lock bags available to protect the radio from rain and water.
  3. Make sure your cellular telephone is fully charged and equipped with a vehicle charger and back-up AA emergency power source.
  4. If time allows, move as many important items, heirlooms, etc. to the highest areas of the structure.
  5. Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full in case you need to evacuate.
  6. Keep all important documents such as insurance policies, deeds, copies of credit cards and bank statements, passports, etc. in a waterproof container that you can easily grab if you are evacuated.
  7. Store anything you want to keep dry, like photographs, in the dishwasher.
  8. If you are ordered by authorities to evacuate – LEAVE. You may not have much time!
  9. Turn off the main electrical circuit breaker before leaving.

During the Flood

  1. Do not attempt to walk in moving water – water 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet. Floodwaters can change the level of the ground and make surfaces slippery. Floodwaters can weaken bridges, roads and sidewalks, so travel only if absolutely necessary.
  2. Do not attempt to drive through deep water or water moving across roadways. Two feet of moving water can carry a vehicle downstream in a hurry!
  3. Stay away from downed power lines.
  4. Be aware of swimming rodents, snakes and other creatures!

After the Flood

  1. For your own safety wait for authorities to allow entrance into the flood affected areas.
  2. Check the radio frequently for updates on areas to avoid and areas that have been cleared.
  3. Watch for danger signs – smell of gas, broken wires, sparks, falling objects. Look for roof, foundation and chimney cracks; these could be a sign of weakness and potential collapse. If you notice any of these, do not enter the structure.
  4. Do not enter a flood damaged structure until it has been cleared and deemed safe by authorities.
  5. If possible, turn off the electricity at the main breaker panel if not already done before evacuating.
  6. Watch out for animals – even household pets can become dangerous when afraid and hungry.
  7. Use a stick to poke through debris, as snakes like to hide in debris!
  8. Check with local authorities before using any water, it could be contaminated. If any pipes are damaged, turn off the main water valve. Have wells pumped and the water checked before using and have sewage lines checked as well.

Cleaning Up

  1. Take pictures of every area of the home, including damaged items. Call your insurance agent and document any items that must be disposed of. Document everything!
  2. Always wear protective clothing, including boots and heavy gloves when dealing with flood damaged items. Flood waters pick up chemicals, sewage, motor oil, transmission fluid and other contaminants. Do not allow children to play in the water, and don’t walk through it if at all possible.
  3. Dispose of all food and grocery items that have come in contact with flood waters.
  4. Check with a professional water damage restoration company regarding whether other household items can be salvaged. To find one contact the IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification) at 800-835-4624 or
  5. All contaminated carpet and padding must be removed and disposed of. Upholstered furniture and mattresses must also be disposed of. Solid wood furniture may or may not be salvageable.
  6. Other household items may or may not be salvageable, check with your remediation company.
  7. Drywall must be removed a MINIMUM of 2 feet above the high water line. Wall studs must be power washed, decontaminated and then thoroughly dried to within 4 points of normal moisture content before any drywall is replaced. A professional water damage remediation company has the proper tools and equipment to dry the materials properly.
  8. For more information on cleaning up after a flood, contact the IICRC, FEMA at ( or FloodSmart (

Our thanks to Lisa Jordan for her professional assistance in assembling materials for this blog post. You can follow her on Twitter at ( or visit her website at


September 20, 2010   1 Comment

TRIAD Seniors Group Learns About Preparing for Emergencies

ICE PACK Emergency Preparedness Systems teamed up with the Greene County, Virginia TRIAD Seniors’ group and the Greene County Sheriffs’ Office to teach senior’s about emergency preparedness. Our own Troy Perry and Louise Morrow spoke to a group of about 30 seniors on how to prepare for a disaster–whether it is widespread or personal. Troy laid out three basic steps for dealing with a disaster:

  1. Getting a kit
  2. Making a plan and
  3. Staying informed

We would like to thank the Greene County Sheriffs’ Office, Sheriff Haas, Beverly Heroy and the Greene County TRIAD Group for making this possible!

September 15, 2010   1 Comment