Emergency Sanitation

When You Lose Water Service

If you have no water service during an emergency, turn off all faucets, valves and outlets. This includes the valve at your toilet. This will prevent flooding when water service is restored. Turn off gas or electricity to your hot water heater. If it runs out of water and keeps heating, the heater will be ruined or might explode.

With no water service, you must find a way to safely dispose of human waste and garbage. If you don’t, you will soon be spending your time taking care of sick people, including yourself. The leading cause of illness and death during disasters is inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene, and contaminated water supplies.

There are three kinds of water

Potable water is drinkable and can be used for cooking and bathing. Gray water is leftover from cooking, washing and other hygienic purposes. It can be used for irrigation of plants or flushing toilets into a septic system or a functioning city sewer. The third kind is black water, sewage containing human waste. You will be responsible for disposing of black water if your septic/sewage system is not working.

A Luggable Loo or bucket toilet can be a good option to have along with your 72 hour kit. Keep basic supplies inside the bucket. They can include toilet paper, baby wipes, garbage bags, disinfectant wipes, feminine products, spray deodorizer and chlorine bleach or other sanitizing chemicals.

Setting Up Emergency Sanitation

bucket toiletTo set up a bucket toilet for use, put a garbage bag inside the bucket. Mix one cup of liquid bleach to two quarts of gray water and pour into the lined bucket. Add a little more disinfectant after each use. Change the bag when it is one-third to one-half full. Carefully tie the top and place bag into a larger lined can. Close toilet lid after each use to control odors. There is a variety of commercial chemicals which will make your emergency toilet smell much better.

If you are able to shelter in place, make a permanent port-a-potty out of your toilet, assuming you do not have sewage backing up into your toilet. With advanced planning, you can have an automatic sewage back-up prevention valve installed on the sewer pipe which exits your house. This will be worth it’s weight in food or gold, if the sewer system fails. It will also prevent rats from crawling up an out of commission sewer pipe into your home.

To set up your in house toilet, make sure the water supply is off. Empty the toilet bowl. Insert a large rag into the exit hole to keep sewer gas from coming up and entering the house. Line the toilet bowl with a 13 gallon plastic trash bag. Duct tape the edges around the back and sides of the bowl completely. Then insert a second bag inside the first. Tape this bag lightly around the sides and lower the seat to hold it in place. Pour a small amount of disinfectant into the bag after each use to help prevent the spread of germs and disease. You may want to add sawdust or poo powder to solidify the liquids. The bag may be used several times before changing.

To change the bag, lift the seat and carefully remove the inside bag by loosening the taped edges. Twist the top edges together and seal the bag. To avoid accidental spills, place an empty bucket right next to the toilet and lift the bag into the bucket. Use this bucket to transport the black water waste outside. Put in a fresh bag, lightly tape and repeat as above. Cover the entire toilet with a 30 gallon trash bag to control odor.

How Much Waste Per Person?

emergency sanitationEach person creates an average of five gallons of human waste each week. The waste, if not handled properly, will stink and make people sick. Never throw human waste on the open ground. If no other alternative is available, bury it in deep trenches and cover with two to three feet of soil,  100 feet away from your house or water supply to avoid contamination. (LDS Preparedness Manual)

 

October 2013, Every Needful Thing       Billie A. Nicholson, editor

Emergency Communications

There are two major aspects of communication

First is remaining informed. What is the current situation, what alternatives are available and how can you get this information? The second is keeping in touch with family members to implement your personal emergency plan, and contacting emergency service personnel, should you require immediate attention.
The biggest problem with keeping informed will come if electricity is out. This means no television or radio and no internet.  Your computer can run on batteries for a while, but without internet you will not be up to date. What do you do?
A battery operated radio, tuned into an AM channel (AM radio waves are omni-directional) will provide some news and weather updates. A hand cranked radio will not require a stock of batteries. Emergency alert radios broadcast weather forecasts and warnings provided by the Emergency Broadcast System. These radios have an alarm system that comes on automatically to give warnings if an alert has been issued in your area.
Citizen Band radio (CB) popular a few years back, can provide useful information about road conditions, but don’t have a long range.

Local emergency scanners will let you listen in to local communications between fire, police, local safety personnel as well as government transmissions. These are more expensive and most useful if you are involved professionally.
Ham radios, also known as amateur radios, are reliable and involve thousands of operators throughout the world. In addition to equipment, and a tower, an FCC license is required. [http://www.aarl.org]

Emergency communications when separated

If an emergency occurs when your family is separated, your stress level as to their location and condition will raise. Your first thought will be to grab your telephone. Is it working? If it needs electricity and the power is out, it is useless. An old, landline phone will.
Hopefully, you have kept your cell phone batteries charged. As long as the towers are functioning, it will work. In a local disaster, the circuits may be jammed with users doing exactly what you are. Shift modes to text messaging. These take less band width and will go through easier.
Also consider that a long distance telephone call may be easier to make than a local one. When you make your Family Emergency Plan, include an out-of-town contact as your family’s contact person. Everyone in your family should have a copy of this contact information and be instructed to phone that number to check in. Take the time to make hard copies of this just in case high-tech equipment doesn’t work.
Emergency CommunicationsAnother option is to have a set of “walkie-talkie” radios. Formally referred to as a hand held transceiver, these are useful for communicating with others while hiking,  biking, and working; keeping track of family members in a crowded public event; checking with travel companions between cars; or talking with neighbors and arranging meeting places. The Cobra Microtalk set we have also has a NOAA all hazards radio channel.

 

October 2013, Every Needful Thing                               Billie A. Nicholson, editor       

 

Public Shelters

Searching for a Shelter?

To search for an open shelter, use your cell phone and text SHELTER and enter a zip code to 43362 (4FEMA). The Red Cross will have shelters after a disaster, too. You will be able to search online: Local Chapter.  Red Cross also has an iphone Shelter Finder  app available in the iTunes Store. They have a website where you can register first and last names and a brief message. Concerned family members can check this site to learn if you are safe and well.

What Do You Need to Know about Shelters?

When you arrive at a public shelter, there are some things you need to know. First of all, make up your mind to be one of the good guys. Every person in the shelter is a refugee, some in better condition than others. Mass sheltering puts many people in a small space, so your part will be limited. Respect the rights and privacy of others. Most public disaster shelters can provide some water, food, medicine and basic sanitary facilities. Keep your emergency kits with you, and in your immediate control, so you will have the specific supplies you need.

Requirements at the Shelter

You will be required to sign in before being admitted to any shelter. The name and contact information of a “next of kin” not in the shelter is required. You will sign an agreement to abide by the shelter’s regulations, which means you will be required to stay until an authority determines it is safe to leave. You will be responsible for your personal belongings. Keep valuables locked in your car or with you at all times, as the shelter will not be responsible for lost, stolen or damaged items. Begin making alternative plans to leave as soon as you are settled.

If you are part of a family in the shelter, plan to take turns on watch duty to make sure your belongings don’t grow legs. Keep your supplies contained and concealed. You will decide if you are willing to share. If you know other families in the shelter, team up to help one another.

Prohibitions in a Shelter

No weapons will be allowed, except those carried by security personnel. No alcohol or illegal drugs are permitted. Parents are responsible for controlling the behavior and location of their children at all times. Keep your space in the shelter clean and organized. Noise levels must be kept low. Quiet time is observed after 11 PM. Be sure to tell the shelter registrar if you have any medical condition that needs attention. You will be referred to a paramedic for treatment.

The amount of time you need to be in a public shelter may be short or long, depending on the conditions that brought you in.  Take turns listening to radio broadcasts to stay informed.

Additional information: Red Cross  and  FEMA

October 2013, Every Needful Thing                                 Billie A. Nicholson, editor

Before Evacuation

Semper Paratus – Always Ready

This Latin phrase is most well known as the motto and the official marching tune for the United States Coast Guard. Perhaps it should become the motto of the emergency preparedness and food storage specialists as well. In the September issue we discussed the basic needs of preparedness. This month, we will continue this conversation beginning with what to do when we have to evacuate. What reasons would cause you to leave your shelter? Make your list of top 10.

When Sheltering in Place is Not Possible

When sheltering in place is not possible and you know you must go, there are some steps to take to secure and minimize future damage to your property.

Assuming that you have already prepared your evacuation kits (each family member has one), often referred to as “bug out bags,” get them into your escape vehicle, which you NEVER , EVER let the gas tank drop below half full.

Identify where you are going, get the address, and look at your maps to determine alternate routes to the shelter before you get on the road. Take the maps with you.

Remember to take your stash of cash. Hopefully, you have small bills and some coins, too, in case you need to have exact change in vending machines.

Grab your important papers, including emergency contact telephone numbers, extra glasses, medicines and any supplies for children and pets. And don’t forget to pack the children and pets.

Secure the following items:

  • Find your main electric breaker and turn off the main power switch.
  • If you have city water, find your water meter. The shut off valve will be there. This can be a handle (move it perpendicular to the pipe) or a knob (turn it clockwise to close). If you have a well, shutting off the electric will suffice.
  • Turn off any natural gas valve. This will be at the gas meter. May need a wrench.
  • Secure outdoor furniture so they do not become missiles.
  • Lock all doors and windows.

October 2013, Every Needful Thing                                 Billie A. Nicholson

Emergency Preparation – Your Family Emergency Plan

PLAN TO PROTECT YOURSELF & YOUR FAMILY

Prepare yourself and your family for a disaster by making an emergency plan. Most important thing: update and practice your plan.

Download the Family Emergency Plan, print the pages and fill them in offline. This is an In Case of Emergency (ICE) communications listing. Basic descriptions of all family members and contact information are listed. Each family member should have a copy with them at all times. Even if you do not have a personal telephone, with the numbers you can call when you do have telephone access.

Your emergency planning should also address the care of pets, aiding family members with access and functional needs and safely shutting off utilities.

You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at work, daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Read more about school and workplace plans.

Once you’ve collected this important information, gather your family members and discuss the information to put in the plan. Practice your plan at least twice a year and update it according to any issues that arise.

September 2013, Every Needful Thing                              Billie A. Nicholson

Emergency Preparation – Basic Need: First Aid

First Aid

Photo by: Dreamstime.com

They don’t call an event a disaster if there are no injuries! Get over the sight of blood or other injuries, your life or another’s may depend upon your First Aid Skills. We could make an entire newsletter containing First Aid lessons. In this issue, we’ll touch on some basics related to emergency preparedness and include some links for further study.

Immediately after an unpredicted or forewarned disaster, there are generally two types of response. One is Panic and the other is Normalcy Bias or Negative Panic.

Using these responses people are either running around screaming and maybe bleeding or just staying right where they were when the event occurred, in a state of disbelief.  Both types of reactions are dangerous. People in panic mode can cause additional damage and injuries. People not responding can become participating victims by not responding to get away from the danger.

As difficult as it is to imagine bad things happening, we need to think about what kinds of events could happen in our homes and communities. Is your community subject to hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes? Do you know what accidents can happen and what can be done before help arrives?

What kind of accidents can happen in your home? Falls, cuts, electrical shocks, burns from explosions? Multiply that by a large number of people involved and it is easy to understand what pandemonium will be like.  Now is the time to get out the First Aid book and assemble a First Aid Kit. A few basic items can make a big difference in survival.

The proper response is to quickly evaluate personal danger and respond accordingly. Only when you know that you are okay and will not be in danger while assisting others, can you be of value. Many fatalities occur because victims received help too late or because people on the scene administering first aid didn’t know what to do. During an emergency situation, often there are more injured people than helpers, so helpers should establish the priority of victims to aid first.

When you find a victim, check for a response. Ask “Are you OK?” and whatever other actions make sense, like touching. If there is no response, send or call for help. These are the 4 B’s of First Aid:

  • Breathing – are they? Includes airway obstruction and breathing impairment
  • Bleeding – covers circulation and deadly bleeding
  • Breaks – includes all bones, including spine and skull
  • Burns – bad ones turn into blisters filled with fluid that isn’t in the blood where it belongs

 

First Aid kits for home use can be procured in a variety of stores from big box to pharmacies. When you get your purchase home, open it and review the contents. Make sure your kit includes tweezers that actually grasp, hydrocortisone cream for itching insect bites, pain relievers, gauze and tape, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, allergy medications as well as assorted sizes of bandages.

Next, before an emergency event occurs, take time to learn some basic techniques. MedicineNet.com  has online first aid essentials slide shows with photos and explanations. Local Red Cross chapters and most volunteer fire departments offer training. Community colleges also offer EMT and paramedic training. Community emergency response teams (CERTs) are in need of volunteers and will provide the necessary training to teach members how to assist in a disaster until other help arrives.

September 2013, Every Needful Thing                              Billie A. Nicholson

Emergency Preparation – Basic Need: Fire

Fire

Photo by: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For centuries humans have carried fire wherever they have gone.  Whether you shelter in place or have to create a temporary shelter, you will need an energy source to provide some warmth, cook food and even serve as a signal. Before starting a fire, take a minute and decide where to put it. To benefit most, it should be near some sort of backdrop, perhaps that lean-to shelter you just built. It will absorb and reflect some of the heat. If you sit between the shelter and the fire, you will get the most benefit. Don’t build a fire in the shelter. Build a fire pit with stones or a sand berm to keep the fire contained.

The four things needed to start and maintain a fire are tinder, spark, fuel and oxygen. Those waterproof matches in your pack will provide a spark so all you’ll need is some dry tinder. Small, dry twigs (like in ‘been dead a long time’ dry), some dead dry plants parts including leaves, lint and dry, soiled tissues in your pocket, pine tree shavings or needles, tree fungi, and bark can all be used with your spark (water-proof matches or fire starter flints). As you are searching, locate a source of water or sand with which to douse the fire, if it gets out of hand. Gather enough dead, dry wood of varying sizes to keep the fire going. You will start with the smaller pieces and add the larger ones after the fire is established. Stack the items cross-ways to allow space for the fire to breathe (let in oxygen). Tip: Taking leftover sparklers from a patriotic celebration, cutting them into three inch strips, sealing them in mylar and adding them to your pack will give you a hot (4500º) fire starter. Remember to seal in a ziplock bag to keep the remainder together after opening the mylar. This flare will start even the wettest wood. One more thought, never leave your fire unattended. If you are leaving the area, put it out completely.

Fire can also be used as a signal for searchers, if you are lost. Add some wet, pitchy – like evergreens, or green wood to create smoke. The wood will not burn, it will smolder, creating smoke but not much warmth. This can be seen easily by searchers.

The following Checklist from “The Preppers-Playbook” lists some fire starting materials.

Fire

Thanks to Joe Marshall of www.SurvivalLife.com for use of this table from his book, “The-Preppers-Playbook”.

If you are making a fire outside of your non-electrified home and have all your appliances available, your SunOven® can be used on sunny days,  reducing your needs for cooking fuel.

Along with the need for fire is the need for light. A fire will add light in one area, but not all around. Flashlights, battery operated lanterns and even decorative, outdoor, LED solar lights can be carried as you move about a dark area. Candles and oil lamps have been used historically and are even available in the 100 hour burning kind. You get to choose. Then practice using them, so you can operate them in the dark or near dark. Try going for a night using only alternative lighting. You will develop an appreciation for light quickly and will probably go to bed earlier than usual.

 

Emergency Preparation – Basic Need: Shelter

Our homes protect us from inclement weather and from the intrusion of other people. We live and store our personal property there. It is the center of our daily activities, and contains a place to prepare food and sanitary facilities. It is our home and we have the right to defend it. It is our obligation to maintain our shelter by paying attention to the need for repairs, whether we do the work or have someone else do it, repairs mean safe shelters. Security also involves habits like locking the door behind you, having screens on windows, and  placing dowels in sliding doors.

ShelterAdd a steel plate over the frame of doors to reinforce the deadbolt area. This will reinforce the door locks. Remove existing door trim, screw in steel strip. Make sure your screws don’t interfere with the bolt positions. Replace the door trim. The door will not give way easily.

During disasters, our first instinct is to shelter in place at home.

If our home is damaged, we may have to leave it and find protection from the elements elsewhere. Depending on the situation, we may be able to find a public shelter in a school or other facility manned by a humanitarian organization.  If the disaster is widespread, you may need to make do with items you have in your emergency supplies or apply some wilderness survival techniques to make one. If you find yourself in this situation, preparing a shelter will be a first priority. You will want to get it finished before nightfall.

This will be the time that you are happy to have an emergency kit. Items included in your kit like a flashlight, rain poncho, hand warmers, extra clothing and waterproof matches will be welcome. You may not have an air mattress, but that thermal space blanket and plastic tarp will help avoid hypothermia.

There are many ways to improvise a shelter, based on the situation you find yourself in. It may require some creativity on your part. To stimulate your creative juices, here are some suggestions.

Thanks to Joe Marshall for use of this table from his book, “The-Preppers-Playbook”.  Joe is an average guy with a passion for sharing everything he learns. He is managing editor for www.SurvivalLife.com. Joe is graciously making this book available to Every Needful Thing readers at a special price. Click on The-Preppers-Playbook link.

Shelter

Remember the 4th Survival commandment: “Adapt to the surroundings, wherever they may be.” Gaye Levy

September 2013, Every Needful Thing                              Billie A. Nicholson

Emergency Preparation – Basic Need: Food

Food storage has three major components:

What to store, where to keep it and how long to hold it. The first thing to consider is what kinds of food will you and your family eat? You can start with a short term, say three days. Select items that your family likes to eat and that can be stored without needing refrigeration. Select small containers that can be consumed in one meal, that come with easy open lids (be sure to have a manual can opener in your stash), and do not need to be heated. Items like tuna,  chicken or peanut butter will store well and can be eaten on the go, if necessary. Be sure to check the “best if used by” dates on cans or packages. This will give you an idea of how long to hold items and when to begin to rotate them. For longer term storage, assuming that you will be sheltering in place, break your food storage down into different types of ingredients, like baking components, canned or freeze-dried goods (vegetables, protein sources like meat, beans and eggs, as well as fruit and soups), seasonings, and starches. Date items when acquired and store them with the oldest items out front for easy access.
As you shop each week get extra cans of  the food you eat, like tomato sauce, green beans, fruit or soup. Do the same with dried beans, canned tuna, and starches, etc. This way you can begin to accumulate the items you like. It will not take long to realize what a benefit this is for non-emergency times.  Not everyone is so organized that they plan a week’s menu in advance. If you have extra items on hand, you can be creative and spontaneous. Remember to include replacements for the items you eat each week in your shopping list.  You can include non-food items like paper towels, toilet paper, toothpaste and soap into this longer term storage plan as well. With extra items on hand, you can watch for sales and save money as well.

Variety will be key

Variety will be key as you accumulate extra food items. Mix in some frozen things for short term storage (most frozen foods will keep three months). They will taste different from canned items and will need to be processed and eaten quickly should there be a long term electric grid failure.

food storage

Setting up a storage place

Setting up a storage place to keep your extras will be necessary when kitchen cabinets and pantry spaces are full. When selecting a space, keep in mind that the best temperature for food is generally 40º to 50º F. Higher temperatures will shorten the shelf life (the time food is at optimal nutritional value) and locations with temperature swings are worse. The space you choose should be dry. High humidity will cause cans to rust and mold to grow in flours and cereals. Good air flow will reduce the moisture impact. Round cans allow better air flow than rectangular ones. Store foods in a dark place to combat the effects of light. Cardboard boxes added protection to items stored in glass jars.
The presence of oxygen can be a problem for some dry foods. It causes oils to go rancid and allows insects, fungi and aerobic bacteria a place to grow. Food purchased for long term storage is processed to exclude oxygen. Items you buy in bulk will need to be repackaged with oxygen absorbers (see July, 2013 – Every Needful Thing). Stored grains are often contaminated with insects. Canning jars and mylar bags are good oxygen barriers. Dry foods, nuts and crackers that can go rancid should be rotated more often.
Protect your storage space from rodents. They can squeeze through the smallest spaces.

September 2013, Every Needful Thing                              Billie A. Nicholson

Are You Ready for a Disaster?

How will you respond to a disaster?

How will you respond to a disaster, whether it be an electric grid failure, a major storm or an act of terrorism? Do you have a plan in place that will sustain you and your family for a minimum of 72 hours? Eventually outside help may arrive, but the first 72 is on you. This month’s newsletter discusses six of the major topics of survival that will be evident very quickly when a disaster strikes. Unfortunately, we can be thrust into the middle of turmoil without any warning, so it it imperative that we think through the types of disaster that could strike in our area and work out a plan that will be useable. Living through a disaster requires the courage to plan ahead.

  • Do you have a source of safe, clean water for drinking if your regular supply is disrupted? How can you purify water? What about other water needs, for cooking and cleaning up?
  • Can you provide sufficient, healthy food for yourself, your family including any disabled members and family  pets if food were not available at the local grocery?
  • Do you have an energy source for cooking and to provide heat for your home in cold weather?
  • Will your home have light when the sun goes down? Can you get around in your home safely without it?
  • Who can you contact for assistance or to let family know you are OK?  What will you use?
  • Can you provide first aid for family members?
  • Will you be able to leave your home with three day’s worth of supplies for each family member in five minutes? Do you know how to shut off the utilities to your home before leaving?

Customize Your Family Emergency Plan

Your family emergency plans should be customized just for you, remember to include all your family in the planning process. Make it a family project. Everyone needs to understand the the necessity of such a plan and buy into it, accepting that some major changes in lifestyle will occur, at least temporarily. The adventure begins when you not only make the plan but also practice it.

September 2013, Every Needful Thing                                     Billie A. Nicholson

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