LDS Emergency Preparedness

Be Prepared, Not Scared!

Emergency Sanitation

Posted by Elise on November 20, 2009

sabiec (

Dave & Peggy Balmforth

Shelley Idaho South Stake

October, 2009

One of the most important aspects of sanitation is waste, which is the predominant cause of disease after an emergency.  The three most important things to do are:

  1. Bury or store all garbage and human waste at least 100 feet away from water wells or open water.
  2. Keep flies, roaches and animals out of the sewage and garbage;
  3. Wash or clean your hands whenever you handle something dirty and BEFORE you handle anything that you will be putting into your mouth or someone else’s mouth.

Disposal of Garbage and Rubbish

Garbage may sour or decompose, rubbish (trash) will not, but offers disposal problems in an emergency. Garbage, or any mixed refuse containing garbage, must be carefully stored and handle if odor and insect nuisances are to be prevented. Since rubbish alone is fairly easy to dispose of, garbage should be kept separate from it and not mixed. The following suggestions will make it easier for you to take care of the refuse problem.

  1. Garbage should be drained before being placed in storage containers. If liquids are strained away, garbage may be stored for a longer period of time without developing an unpleasant odor. After straining, wrap the garbage in several thicknesses of old newspapers before putting it into your container. This will absorb any remaining moisture. A tight-fitting lid is important to keep out flies and other insects.
  2. You should keep one or more 20-gallon cans on hand for emergency use, if possible. If you live in an apartment building, get the largest kitchen garbage container for which you have space.
  3. Other rubbish may be burned in open yard areas (if permission is granted by authorities under existing conditions) or left at dumps established by local authorities.  Cans should be flattened to reduce their bulk. Do not deposit ashes or rubbish in streets or alley ways without permission. Such material may interfere with the movement and operation of fire-fighting and other emergency equipment.

Final disposal of all stored garbage and refuse can be accomplished in the following manner, provided there is no danger from radioactive fallout:

  1. All stored garbage should be buried if collection service is not restored and if unpaved yard areas are available — keep a shovel handy for this purpose. Do not dump garbage on the ground, because it will attract rats, skunks and other scavengers. Dig a hole deep enough to cover it with at least 18-24 inches of dirt, which will prevent insect breeding and discourage animals from digging it up.
  2. Do not establish a community dump without permission from the proper authorities. Garbage dumps quickly become infested with rats capable of carrying disease germs over a wide area. If necessary, local authorities will pick sites where refuse may be left for supervised burning or burial as soon as conditions permit.
  3. Other rubbish may be burned in open yard areas (if permission is granted by authorities under existing conditions) or left at dumps established by local authorities.  Cans should be flattened to reduce their bulk. Do not deposit ashes or rubbish in streets or alley ways without permission. Such material may interfere with the movement and operation of fire-fighting and other emergency equipment.

Emergency Sewage Disposal

Proper management of toilet facilities during times of emergency may have greater affect on your health than any other single element of sanitation.

Unsanitary toilet conditions can be lethal, yet with proper planning and precautions it is very easy to insure good health.

  • Water flush toilets cannot be used when water service is interrupted.  The water remaining in the fixture is not sufficient to flush the wastes down the sewer. Clogging may result and your living conditions then become just that much more uncomfortable.
  • Even if the water is on, if the electricity is off there is no way for sewage to be pumped through the lines and the sewage will back up overflowing your toilet.
  • Even if water is available, local authorities may ask you not to use flush toilets, wash basins, and other fixtures connected with soil pipes. The sewer mains may be broken or clogged, which would make it impossible to carry off such waste; or water may be needed for fire fighting or other emergencies. It is necessary for every family to know emergency methods of waste disposal in case such conditions arise.
  • Failure to properly dispose of human wastes can lead to epidemics of such diseases as typhoid, dysentery, and diarrhea. At the same time, sewage must be disposed of in ways that will prevent contamination of water supplies used for drinking, cooking, bathing, laundering, and other domestic purposes simple steps that any family can take to dangers and discomforts.

If the water lines are damaged or if damage is suspected, do not flush the toilet. Avoid digging holes in the ground and using these. Untreated raw sewage can pollute fresh ground water supplies. It also attracts flies and promotes the spread of diseases.

Emergency Toilets Disposal

Toilet – It takes many gallons of water to flush a toilet. You must choose if you want to use your water for flushing or for drinking. You may want to use an alternative type of toilet to save your water. Or just flush once a day!

Outhouse – When making an outhouse you must dig deep – to prevent animals from digging the area. After each use, sprinkle chlorinated lime over the waste to control bacterial and disease

Bucket – A plastic bag lined bucket works for a make shift toilet. If you put a toilet seat or portable seat on the bucket it makes it more comfortable

Plastic bags – If a bucket is going to be planned for your emergency toilet, make sure you also store extra plastic garbage bags so that you still have some bags for trash.

A tightly closed trash can, can be used for storage of waste.

STORING CHLORINATED LIME in your garage is a good idea for use with any of these temporary toilets. You need to be concerned with bacteria and disease during a time like this.

Toilets – #1 – If the toilet bowl and seat in your home are still usable (not wrecked) scrub the bowl clean using one part of laundry bleach to ten parts of water (10:1). When clean, drain the bowl and dry it. Line the bowl with a plastic or paper bag.

Line the inside of the first bag with a sturdy plastic bag and lay the toilet seat on it to keep it open. Use the toilet as you normally do. After every use, sprinkle the waste with the bleach/water solution mentioned above or cover it with a layer of sawdust, wood shavings, lime, dry dirt, grass clippings, etc.

Limiting the liquids that go into the bowl will make it easier to change the bags. When the bag is full or you can’t stand the smell anymore, carefully tie the top of the bag tightly closed, remove it, and replace with another bag. Dispose of the waste using the instructions below.

Disinfectant: When using bleach use ¼ cup bleach to 1 quart water.

Other chemicals that can be used in place of liquid chlorine bleach are: HTH (calcium hypochlorite swimming pool supply stores and is intended to be used in solution. Following the directions on the package it can be mixed and stored.

Caution: Do not use calcium hypochlorite to disinfect drinking water as it kills all the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract and thus causes mild diarrhea. Portable toilet chemicals, both liquid and dry, are available at recreational vehicle (RV) supply stores. These chemicals are designed especially for toilets which are not connected to sewer lines. Use according to package directions. Powdered, chlorinated lime is available at building supply stores. It can be used dry. Be sure to get chlorinated lime, not quick lime which is highly alkaline and corrosive.

Caution: Chlorinated products which ar intended to be mixed with water for use can be dangerous if used dry. You may also use powdered laundry detergent, Lysol or other household cleaning and disinfecting products such as chlorine bleach, baking soda, alcohol, or creosol or an insecticide to keep down odors and germs.

 Supplies for Disinfecting and Odor Control:

Baking Soda: will help to control odor; it stops mold, fungus mildew, and is a natural Whitener. Baking soda relieves heartburn, indigestion and it neutralizes acids in a sour stomach associated with diarrhea. Use 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 1 cup of water and drinks it down. Baking soda plus a little salt will help clean your teeth.

3% Hydrogen Peroxide (Put in a small spray bottle, no water added) Hydrogen Peroxide is an antiseptic, and a cleaning agent for minor cuts and abrasions. It can be used as an oral rinse and gargle. To disinfect toilet seat just spray it on and wipe off.

White Distilled Vinegar: Put in a small spray bottle, no water added. Studies show that vinegar kills 99% of bacteria, mold, and 80% of germs (viruses). To disinfect toilet seat just spray it on and wipe off.

Combining Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide:

Spraying solutions of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, one after the other, in any order, kills virtually all Salmonella, Shigella or E. coli bacteria on heavily contaminated surfaces.

Borax: This is used to cut down the stench. (1 teaspoon every time you do your duty)

Lyme: This is used to break down the waste. (1 teaspoon every time you do your duty) Store this in its original paper bag and off the floor.

#2 – If your toilet bowl is not usable, use a five or six gallon bucket, wooden box or some other container sturdy enough to sit on. Sit the seat from your toilet on the bucket or make one from layers of heavy cardboard glued together, two boards laid across the top with a gap between them or cut a seat from plywood. Line with bags as outlined in #1 above. Dispose of the full bags using the instructions below.

#3 – If the emergency will only last for a day or two, you can use “cat holes” outside. These are small, onetime personal use holes you dig in the ground and squat over. The hole should be deep enough to cover your waste at least 18 inches deep when filled. Do not do this any closer than 100 feet from open water or water wells or the germs in the sewage will get into the water.

#4 – If the emergency will last more than a week and your toilet or bucket commode no longer will do the job you need to make a latrine. Use a shovel or posthole diggers to dig a pit four to six feet deep and about one foot wide. Place a bucket, box, barrel, or anything with a hole in it that you can sit on over the pit. Whatever you use must cover the pit tightly so that flies cannot get in while no one is using it. The seat and box must be cleaned regularly with the bleach water solution mentioned above and kept tightly covered when not in use. When the pit fills to within eighteen inches of the top, fill the hole in with clean dirt and mound it over. Cover the mound to keep animals from digging it up.

Where radioactive fallout does not present a hazard, a temporary  pit privy may be constructed in the yard for use by several families. This offers a good method of waste disposal over extended periods of time.

The structure need not be elaborate, so long as it provides reasonable privacy and shelter. The pit should be made fly proof by means of a tight-fitting riser, seat, and cover. A low mound of earth should be tamped around the base of the privy to divert surface drainage and help keep the pit dry.  Accumulated waste should be covered with not less than 18 inches of earth when the privy is moved or abandoned.

NEVER deposit human waste or garbage on the open ground. If you have no other alternative for disposal, it is safe to bury waste in trenches 24-30 inches in depth.

Emergency Chemical Toilet

5 or 6-gallon plastic bucket (with tight fitting lid) (6 gal. is higher & easier to use & stores most of the following items)

  • 2 large boxes of garbage can liners (30 gallon size)
  • 2 boxes trash can liners (8-10 gallon size)
  • 4 pairs of rubber gloves
  • 1 gallon liquid chlorine bleach or other chemical
  • ½ gallon white distilled vinegar
  • 2 boxes baking soda
  • Pinesol® or Lysol®
  • Ammonia – as an aid in disinfecting
  • 1 large bottle of hand sanitizer
  • 6-8 rolls toilet paper
  • 1 roll of paper towels
  • 1 large package of baby wipes
  • 2 – 1 liter bottles of water
  • 3 – spray bottles
  • folding camp shovel with serrated cutting edge – for digging latrines and disposing of wastes.
  • feminine sanitary supplies

To use this toilet simply remove the contents from the bucket, insert a large plastic garbage can liner into the bucket and fold the edges over the rim of the bucket.  Mix one cup of liquid chlorine bleach to one-half gallon of water (one to ten ratio — do not use dry or powdered bleach as it is caustic and not safe for this type of use) and pour this solution into the bucket. This will kill germs and insure adequate coverage. Though the bucket may be somewhat uncomfortable to sit upon, it certainly beats the alternative. For greater comfort you can remove the seat from the toilet and secure it to the top of the bucket.

After each usage replace the lid securely upon the bucket to keep insects out and to keep the smell contained. When the bucket is one-third to one-half full, tie the garbage bag liner shut and dispose of it appropriately (i.e., burying it, placing it inside a large covered metal garbage can for later disposal, or placing it in an approved disposal location). Put another liner inside the bucket and continue as above.

Controlling Odors and Insects

Insecticides and deodorants should be used when necessary to control odors and insects breeding in containers that cannot be emptied immediately. At least 2 pints of household bleach solution should be kept on hand for disinfecting purposes.

Other Supplies

Keep on hand an extra supply of toilet tissue, plus a supply of sanitary napkins. If there is illness in the house that requires rubber sheeting or other special sanitary equipment, make sure that adequate supplies are available. At least a week’s accumulation of daily newspapers will come in handy for insulating bedding from floors, and lining clothes against cold, as well as for the sanitary uses already mentioned. Other possible items include a plastic bedpan, laundry detergent and bleach – another plastic bucket could be used as a washing container, clothes pins – to hang up wet clothing, Cotton dish towels or bath towels, paper towels, sponges and scouring pads for cleaning, bar soap, liquid soap or disinfecting disposable cloths, baby wipes, etc. for cleaning hands, etc., Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, Cornstarch, rat, mouse & insect traps — if you think that you don’t have a rodent and insect problem now — YOU WILL!!!

 Solutions for Apartment Dwellers

Persons in city apartments, office buildings, or homes without yards should keep a supply of waterproof paper containers on hand for emergency waste disposal. Where flush toilets cannot be used and open ground is not available for the construction of privies, such disposable containers offer a practical method of emergency waste collection and disposal. Building managers should plan for the collection of such containers and for their final disposal. Before collection, the used containers may be stored in tightly covered garbage cans or other water tight containers fitted with lids. Homemade soil bags for this purpose can be prepared very easily by putting one large grocery bag inside another, and a layer of shredded newspaper or other absorbent material between. You should have sufficient grocery bags on hand for possible emergencies. A supply of old newspapers will come in handy for other sanitary uses also, such as wrapping garbage and lining larger containers.


If you have a baby in your home, you may find diaper laundering a problem under emergency conditions. It is best to keep an ample supply of disposable diapers on hand for emergency use. Or, any moisture resistant material can be cut and folded to diaper size and lined with absorbent material. If these are not available, emergency diaper needs can be met by lining rubber pants with cleansing tissue, toilet paper, scraps of cloth, or other absorbent materials.

To help insure proper sanitation it is imperative that you store a sufficient supply of disposable diapers, disposable wipes, and plastic garbage can liners. Change infants and toddlers regularly and keep them clean. Dispose of the soiled diapers in the plastic garbage can liners and keep them tightly sealed when not in use to help prevent the spread of disease.

Be sure to wash your own hands regularly when working with infants (especially after each diaper change). Typhoid fever, amoebic dysentery, diarrhea, infectious hepatitis, salmonella, and giardiasis are diseases that spread rapidly in times of emergency and threaten all, yet are all diseases that can easily be controlled by simply following the rules of good sanitation.

 Tips for Staying Clean in an Emergency

As much as possible, continue regular hygiene habits such as brushing your teeth, washing your face, combing your hair and even washing your body with a wet washcloth. This will help prevent the spread of disease and irritation as well as help relieve stress.

  • Keep your fingers out of your mouth. Avoid handling food with your hands.
  • Purify your drinking water. Use chlorine bleach, purification tablets (check bottle for expiration dates), or by boiling for 10 minutes.
  • Sterilize your eating utensils by heat. You can also rinse dishes in purified water that has additional chlorine bleach added to it. (Use 2 1/2 teaspoons bleach per gallon of purified water.)
  • Keep your clothing as clean and dry as possible, especially under-clothing and socks.

There are dozens of other small things that people can do to keep themselves and their families safe and disease free during an emergency. One of the most important and least-thought about things is constant hand-washing. This is important during regular circumstances, but during a disaster, it should become a top priority. You should sing the kids alphabet song clear through TWICE while washing to thoroughly kill all germs.

Wash and disinfect hands before preparing or eating food, after going to the bathroom, after changing diapers or caring for someone who is sick, after handling anything that could be infected or germ-ridden, and before treating any cuts or wounds, no matter how minor. When hands are visibly dirty, they should be washed with soap, even if people are diligent about using alcohol-based hand sanitizer. If soap or water isn’t available, keep using the sanitizer consistently.

Although sanitation and hygiene are sometimes unpleasant topics to dwell on, people must think about them if they want to get through a disaster disease-free. If they follow the above instructions, as well as following their regular sanitation routine (i.e. face-washing, tooth-brushing, and bathing regularly) as much as possible, then they shouldn’t have any trouble staying clean during an emergency.


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