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.



1 Scott French { 10.03.10 at 1:42 pm }

Another great message to help prepare us, if the worst day happens upon us. Thanks so much for your efforts with these Monday Matters, I learn something useful from everyone! SF

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