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Sanitation in an Emergency

In a disaster situation, plumbing may not be usable due to disrupted water and sewer lines. Each household should know how to properly sanitize and dispose of human waste in order to avoid infection and the spread of disease.

If the water is off but the sewer lines are unaffected, toilets can be flushed with stored water If sewer lines are broken but the toilets in your home are usable, the bowl can be lined with plastic bags. If it is unusable, substitute a plastic bag in a bucket.

    Four types of disinfectant may be used:

    • If water is available, it is best to use a solution of one part liquid chlorine bleach to ten parts water [Don't use dry bleach, which is caustic and not safe for this type of use].
    • HTH, or calcium hypochlorite, is available at swimming pool supply stores. HTH is intended to be used in solution. It can be mixed and then stored.
    • Portable toilet chemicals, both liquid and dry, are available at recreational vehicle supply stores. These chemicals are for use with toilets that are not connected to sewer lines. Use as directed.
    • Powdered, chlorinated lime is available at building supply stores It can be used dry. Be sure to get chlorinated lime and not quick lime, which is highly alkaline and corrosive.

    CAUTION: Chlorinated products that are intended to be mixed with water for use can be dangerous if used dry.

    Emergency Supplies Recommended:

    • Several five-gallon plastic polyethylene buckets with tight-fitting lids or five-gallon metal containers with tight-fitting lids should be stored as makeshift toilets. A seat can can be fashioned from a hole cut in the seat of an old chair, or a toilet seat can be purchased for use with your temporary toilet. Porta-potties can be obtained from emergency supply distributors for around $20
    • One or more large metal covered garbage cans should be available to contain waste.
    • A supply of plastic liners [5-6 gallon size] should be stored.
    • Disinfectant spray.
    • Deodorizer tablets and air fresheners.