Jan 13

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Emergency Sanitation

 By Joe Cherry

When the electric shuts down, so do all the pumps that move water and when the water stops moving, things can get pretty nasty real quick when it comes to sanitation.  Being prepared for any emergency will require a sound sanitation procedure plan.  When camping or out in the field for extended periods, personal hygiene is number one on the list to staying alive.  When the toilets stop flushing at home, the health risk runs high and failure to dispose of human waste can lead to disease.

Some things you can do to prevent dysentery and/or disease:

1.  Use a 5 gal. bucket lined with a plastic bag as a temporary toilet.    You will find plastic seats that will fit common plastic buckets on line or at camping supply stores.  You should have a couple.  One for urine and the other for solid waste.  The waste should be treated with lime or Bio-Clean before disposal. The urine is easier to dispose of, so I recommend digging a hole at least 2 feet deep and disposing the waste there.

2.  You can use your toilet if there is no water in it, simply line it with a plastic bag.

3.  Digging a hole and squatting is an option, but if your built anything like me, it would be kind of precarious. 

The following list and information is from author Peggy Layton.  She is an expert in food handling and a contributor to the APN.  


  • 2 (5-gallon buckets with lids) one for urine and one for solid human waste.
  • 2 plastic portable toilet seats.
  • Several rolls of toilet paper.
  • Paper towels, wash clothes and hand towels.
  • 2-litre bottle of water for washing hands.
  • Hand or baby wipes large size (2 packages).
  • Sanitary napkins and personal hygiene items.
  • Biodegradable (if possible) heavy-duty (13-gallon) trash bag liners to line the 5-gallon buckets.
  • Heavy-duty twist ties to seal the liners shut when not in use.
  • Large garbage bags for trash.
  • Disposable gloves.
  • Home Dusk masks.
  • Small collapsible shovel.
  • Plastic quart jar of laundry detergent, borax, lime, or a jar of


  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Small bottle of bleach with a tight fitting lid.
  • Spray bottle to mix 1/8 cup bleach to 1 quart of water (label it) and use it to disinfect with.
  • Spray bottle to clean the body.
  • Soap, hand-held mirror, toothbrush, and personal hygiene items.
  • Diapers if you have a baby.

You will be setting up a makeshift bathroom somewhere secluded outside. If your house is still intact but the sewer system is backed up you can keep the buckets in the house. Sprinkle the human waste with 2 tablespoons of lime, borax, laundry detergent or Bio-Clean after you are finished using the toilet. This controls the smell and bacteria. It is best to use one bucket for urine and the other for waste. Disposable wipes or toilet paper can be put in with the waste. The bucket with urine can be dumped more often and the one with waste in it can be sealed with the heavy-duty twist ties and once per day disposed of by burying it.

To avoid the spread of disease, bury all human waste by digging a hole at least 2 feet deep. Bury the entire bag of human waste in the hole and cover it up with the dirt from digging the hole. The biodegradable liners are the best for the environment.

If you live in an apartment and have no land to bury the bags, double bag them and then seal them the best you can with the twist ties. Place them in a large garbage can until the city can collect the trash and dispose of it.


Bio-Clean is a blend of bacteria and enzymes. The bacteria are all natural, not genetically engineered. The enzyme concentration is the most powerful on the market. Bio-Clean is non-poisonous. It creates no heat or fumes and there is no boiling involved. It does not attack live tissue or inorganic materials, only organic wastes like human excrement, grease, hair, food particles, paper and cotton. This makes Bio-Clean safe for people, plumbing and the environment.


Bio-Clean changes the waste particles into water, carbon dioxide and mineral ash, which become harmless in the outhouse, cesspool, pit, or waste system. These elements are then available to use as compost in the garden. I found out about Bio-Clean from my husband who is a plumbing contractor. He sells Bio-Clean to customers for use in septic tanks to keep them from backing up.

Use A Spray Bottle To Clean The Body

Keeping the body clean in an emergency is very important.  Us a spray bottle with a small amount of antibacterial soap in it. Use paper towels or hand towels to wash up. Water needs to be boiled in emergency situations. Set up a way to boil the water. Let it cool down before putting it in a spray bottle. Be sure to put a washcloth to wash up with and a hand towel to dry off with in the sanitation kit.

Avoid Intestinal Ailments

  • Store drinking water, 1-gallon minimum, per person, per day. Store it now so you will have it ready in case of an emergency.
  • Know how to turn off the water service valve to your home so no contaminated water can come into your home. Have a backup plan for emergency drinking, cooking and washing water if your municipal supply is cut off.
  • In emergencies, boil contaminated water for five minutes. Keep hands clean and all food that has been exposed must be washed with clean water. Keep paper plates, cups, and utensils in your grab and go kit so it minimizes the need to wash dishes.
  • Avoid using foods or liquids that might be contaminated. When in doubt, throw it out.

I use a product called ION Stabilized Oxygen in all liquid to kill bacteria. It will keep the water safe for up to 5 years. It has been found to be very effective in water treatment. Many studies have been done on this product and it is concluded that ION will kill giardia, cholera and dysentery within a few minutes. It doesn’t have any of the harmful side effects that are associated with chlorine or Iodine. ION is a high concentration of oxygen.

One 2-ounce bottle will treat 110 gallons of water.


ION can be used medicinally to fight bacteria in the body. It can be used on cuts and wounds. ION will not harm the normal flora in our bodies. ION can be taken every day (five drops per 8-ounce glass of water). This will help boost the immune system by introducing stabilized oxygen into the bloodstream. It can also help you if you suffer from a bacterial or viral infection. During times of sickness caused by a bacterial or viral infection, take 50 drops every three hours diluted in a glass of water. The ION goes into the stomach and fights the bacteria or virus.

Water Tanks For Emergency Water Storage

Water is king. It is actually more important than food. Without good, clean, potable water, you won’t be able to eat the dehydrated food you are storing stay hydrated, wash dishes or clean yourself up.

I keep water in several locations. I have a 185-gallon water storage tank that sits in the corner of my camping-equipment room. It needs to be located in an area that won’t freeze or overheat. The ideal temperature to store water in is room temperature or below (65-45 degrees Fahrenheit). This water tank can be purchased on my website    www.peggylayton.com.

I also keep smaller 5-gallon containers filled with water and ready to grab if needed. Any food-grade plastic container can be used to store water in. The bottles that apple, cranberry or grape juices come in are ideal for water storage. Never use milk jug type containers because they are made to break down after about six months, and they will start to collapse and leak.

Below is an article from   Phlush.org  This is another way of sanitary disposal.

How to Make and Use the Christchurch Twin No-Mix Emergency Toilet

What do you need?

  • 2 to 4 plastic buckets (5 or 6 gal. size)
  • Lids for buckets
  • A toilet seat
  • Carbon material: 1 or 2 gal. plastic bags of sawdust, shredded paper, pulverized dry leaves or peatmoss.

Supermarkets and bakeries often will give you used buckets for free though they may lack lids.  Lids and buckets are sold at hardware stories and online. At least one lid should have a good seal. Buckets are useful for storing other emergency supplies.   Toilet seats that fit buckets are available at camping stores or on line. You can also adapt smaller ordinary seats to fit buckets.  Your emergency supplies should also include hygiene items: toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soap, sanitary napkins, plastic collection bags of various sizes and this instruction sheet.


How do you use the toilet?

  1. Mark the twin buckets “pee” and “poo” (or #1 and #2 or urine and feces, or yellow and brown, etc).
  2. Set them up in a private space. The seat can be moved from one to the other.
  3. Scratch your head and decide if you need to use the pee bucket or the poo bucket.
  4. Try not to pee in the poo bucket. This is really important but it is understandable that this isnʼt always possible. The pee is the component that produces the bad smell in toilets that mix.
  5. After using the pee bucket remove the seat and cover with a lid that closes well.
  6. After using the poo bucket, sprinkle about a half cup of the carbon material so that it completely covers the surface of the poo. This will eliminate odors and ensure flies don’t make themselves at home.
  7. Toilet paper is just fine for the poo bucket but not for the pee bucket.
  8. Put the toilet seat back down ensuring it’s not airtight. Give your poo some air and it will dry out and reduce in volume.

Remember that in an emergency people are vulnerable and scared.  If your flush toilet doesn’t work and the sewers are down, folks in your household will appreciate the comfort, hygiene and safety that come with this simple twin toilet.

What do you do when buckets fill up?


The really great feature of the Christchurch Twin is that it is No-Mix. It separates pee and poo, makes each of them easier to handle and almost completely eliminates odor.

A day’s worth of pee has almost 10 times the volume of poo. So the pee bucket will fill up a lot faster.  The volume of pee is why  a single bucket camp toilet fills up quickly and the mix is a mess to deal with.  The great thing about pee is that it’s clean (unless someone is sick) and getting rid of it is not difficult.  If you have extra buckets and lids, you can store it until it can be put in the soil (6 to 8 inches below the surface) or added to a compost pile.  In a real emergency you can dump urine in a street drain or the river, although a wooded area is preferable. What’s special about the Twin, it that it works even for high-rise apartment dwellers.

It’s the poo bucket that contains most of the pathogens. But the great thing about poo is that it doesn’t take up much space.   Left to dry in a bucket with some carbon material, poo simply decomposes into compost.  In a small household it will take a couple of weeks for the poo bucket to fill so just leave it be and give it some air. Poo is manageable, although there will still be pathogens.

Note: Compost that is safe to reuse on gardens requires extra work.  At www.composttoilets.co.nz the New Zealand team explains how to safely use urine and composted poo as fertilizers for crops.  On this site see sections on Emergency and Ecological Sanitation.

Related articles   Humanure Composting,  Composting Human Waste

Permanent link to this article: http://survivaltechniques101.com/emergency-sanitation/

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