Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The First 72 Hours: Hygiene & Security

Part 3 of a continuing series on prepping for a disaster, with an emphasis on how and where to start while on a Blue Collar budget.


Since the disaster I am most likely to face is an earth
quake, this is what I am planning around. Your prepping plans need to consider your local conditions and change them accordingly.

Let's say that the ‘Big One’ hits your area. Everyone is home safe and your EDC, GHB and CSK equipment worked as planned.

Let’s look a bit at what should be in our ‘Get Home’ supplies:
  • Hand sanitizer. I work around contractors, builders and their employees (truly the unwashed masses), so I wash my hands multiple times and use sanitizer when I can’t get to a sink. It also makes a dandy fire starter. I think I found this at Walgreen’s.
  • Toilet paper, pocket pack tissues or baby wipes. Do you need a diagram?
  • Soap. I found this in the local health food store. A little goes a long way. 
So you are home and someone uses the toilet and things don’t move down like they should. What is your plan for dealing with human waste? Your plan should include items for short-term and long-term waste disposal.

Short Term (Less than 72 hours)

If you can find a toilet that has not backed up, line the toilet with a heavy duty trash bag and use that. If all toilets are backed up, use a 5 gallon pail with the center of the lid cut out, lined with a bag. To help control odors, kitty litter or a 1-to-10 chlorine bleach to water mix can be added. Bleach is one of the most effective sanitizers and is an item most people have on hand. Remove the bags when ½ to ¾ full, seal tightly and store away from direct sunlight in a cool, dry place.

Do not pour bodily waste into storm drains, creeks or into any body of water! You or someone downstream may be using that as a source of drinking water soon.

Long Term (More than 72 hours)

If after 72 hours conditions haven’t improved and evacuation is not an option due to:
  • Bad roads or directions to shelter in place;
  • Limited mobility or family obligations;
  • Being at your ‘Round Up’ or Rally location;
... then other, more permanent solutions are needed.

Latrines and other methods

This is only an option to those with access to open areas at least 200’ to 300’ from any camp, buildings, food storage area, springs, wells and water pipes. I am not going to detail how to build large latrines or pit toilets (those plans are all over YouTube and the Internet), and I hope not to be required to do any of those ever again.

Apartment and city dwellers may have to continue with small scale waste disposal methods. My small scale waste disposal method is a biological treatment method like this pet waste disposal system with super digester powder. Solid waste goes in, the enzymes and bacteria are added along with a small amount of water, and the solids are dissolved and absorbed into the soil. This requires soil that drains fairly well to work as advertised. If you have flower beds or the ground digs easily, this might work for you. Certain cities don’t allow what is actually a doggie septic tank, so check first. This works best in warm climates, so cold areas may be out of luck.

A larger version (for up to 6 people) uses a 5 to 15 gallon metal pail with 4 rows of ¼” holes spaced 2” apart drilled around the pail, starting 1” up from the bottom.

  • Paper waste cannot be used in this system, as it will clog the drainage holes! Paper or wipes need to be collected in a separate container and buried or burned.
  • Hand washing needs to be a priority! More people get sick and die around the world from bad water and poor food handling than get shot, so keep on top of washing utensils, bowls and food preparation areas. 


This is going to be even less exciting than hygiene, but keeping the people in your house safe in a disaster is possibly more important. Evelyn Hively is doing a wonderful series starting here, and be sure to follow along through the other parts!

Part of being prepared for earthquakes is the bracing of furniture, cabinets, closets and objects hanging on walls. There are specialty suppliers of strapping and hold-downs for all items in your house like (this), many of which can be duplicated on the cheap:
  • Old web or leather belts can be used to keep tall cabinets and dressers from falling. Cut the belt into 12” long pieces and screw one end to the top back edge of the cabinet and the other end into the wall. 
  • Screws in the wall must hit studs and have to be construction grade, not black drywall screws!
  • Velcro strips attached to stereos and other boxy items on shelves will hold them in place. This will work for many TV’s, but pedestal Flat Screens need extra care. See these Quake Hold pages for how they do it and modify from there.
  • Glassware and other trinkets can be secured with Museum Wax and Putty, also from Quake Hold. I don’t have any better suggestion than to use the best!
  • Kitchen drawers can be retro-fitted with child safety catches similar to these, from many suppliers. 
  • Cabinets, hutches and other furniture with 2 opposing swinging doors can be secured with these
  • Pictures need to be secured to walls with closed end hooks, or secured around the wall hook and hanging wire with tie wire or zip ties. 
  • Nothing should be mounted to the walls above beds, desks or other areas where people of limited mobility will be!
The State of California has several very short PDF files on Emergency Preparedness located at the bottom of this page. Look over all of this information, adapt it to your situation and remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

Next week: How Are We Doing? A recap of my progress, on a Blue Collar Prepping budget.

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