Hygiene and Sanitation Following a Disaster
Hygiene and sanitation is often overlooked when it comes to our preparations. Following a disaster, it might not be the first thing on our minds. However, I can not stress enough how important hygiene and sanitation following a disaster is. It should become one of your main priorities.
By keeping up with proper hygiene and sanitation, you will help to prevent any infection and illness. Whenever possible, you MUST follow the correct hygiene practices and stay as clean as you can. Hand washing especially is one of our strongest tools to fight the spread of germs and disease. This becomes even a higher priority if you have any injuries and cuts as these must always be kept clean to reduce the risk of infection.
After an emergency, there may be special guidelines to follow to ensure safe and proper sanitation.
Listen to the Authorities
If you can’t leave your home, stay tuned in to local news and await further instructions from the authorities. If your local area has been badly hit by flooding, the water from your taps may not be safe to drink or even bathe in. Listen and follow all the advice that the authorities give. Do NOT use the water from the taps until you have been told that it is safe to do so.
Find Safe Water
We have already covered in earlier posts here on the site at just how important it is to have a stockpile of safe clean water. If you have followed the advice of not only mine but others as well then you should not only have a safe supply of drinking water, but you should also have enough for hygiene and sanitation purposes.
Making Water Safe
If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t get to your clean supply of water then you will need to find a supply around you and make it safe for use.
Finding Water Inside the Home:
- Water from your home’s water heater tank (part of your drinking water system, not your home heating system)
- Melted ice cubes made with water that was not contaminated
- Water from your home’s toilet tank (not from the bowl), if it is clear and has not been chemically treated with toilet cleaners such as those that change the color of the water
- Liquid from canned fruit and vegetables
- Water from swimming pools and spas can be used for personal hygiene, cleaning, and related uses, but not for drinking.
Finding Water Outside the Home:
- Streams, rivers, and other moving bodies of water
- Ponds and lakes
- Natural springs
You have a few options when it comes to making it safe but the main ones are:
Boiling – this is more efficient in killing bacteria, viruses and parasites. Bring the water to a boil, let it cool and then bottle it up.
Chlorine Bleach – household bleach can be used for the same purpose as purification tablets. Mix 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) of unscented household chlorine bleach per 1 gallon of water. Let it stand for 30 minutes and then store in clean containers.
Filter – portable water filtration devices can be convenient for quick removal of bacteria, parasites, and heavy metals. Since most portable filters will not remove viruses, it is best used in combination with another disinfection method such as chlorination.
I see some sites suggesting that you store wet wipes and antibacterial gels as part of your preps, and these will work if you don’t have any other options but are not going to get you really clean if you have been badly dirtied up following a disaster.
When the Toilets Don’t Work
If your toilets don’t work, you are going to need a way to do your business. Let’s have a look at some options:
Composting Toilets – these can be purchased online and basically the waste goes into a sealed bucket and is treated with bleach to kill all bacteria and parasites so that it can be dumped into your waste pit or latrine.
Cat Holes – go outside away from any water source and dig a hole, do your business and cover it back up.
Bucket – if you have no other option you could just grab a bucket, add a bin liner and do your business in there.
What other ideas can you share for hygiene and sanitation following a disaster?