Maintaining hygiene and sanitation is an essential part of ensuring that you and your family survive in an emergency situation. Sickness and diseases can arise if you failed to keep your home clean and hygienic. And also, keeping the surroundings clean is important not just for disease control but also for keeping the morale of your household high during crisis situations.
It’s easy to keep your house clean if there’s power, but most households in the city lose their supply of running water when the power goes out. And when there’s an extended power outage, you have to deal with having no water flowing in your pipes.
Here are some ways on how to deal with sanitation when power is out:
Human Waste Disposal
The average person produces around 2 to 3 pints of urine and one pound of poop daily. Multiply that by the number of people in your home, and in a short time, your water supply will run out flushing these things away in an extended power-down situation in the city. For those living in rural areas and suburbs, they have a land wherein they can dig cat holes and trench latrine for these situations. But if you’re an urban dweller, here are your options:
1. Flush toilet manually
If you have a septic system, but you don’t have running water, you can still be able to flush. You can fill up the bank tank of your toilet until the water reaches the float, and then hit the flush lever. Alternatively, you can use a bucket and pour water directly in the bowl so the toilet will flush on its own. This will do if you have enough water supply, and the power outage is short-term.
2. Line toilet with a trash bag.
In case you don’t have excess water to flush water, then you will need to plan alternative human waste disposal. The good news is, you can still use your existing toilet. First, you have to remove as much water as you can from the bow. It sounds icky, but you have to do it. Then, double line it with a trash bag. Tape the trash bag to the underside of the toilet seat, and let the bag fill the cavity of the bowl. After each deed, instruct each user to add kitty litter wood ash, sawdust, or quicklime to keep the stench down. When the bag is filled with 2/3 of the volume of the toilet bowl, add some more wood ash, cat litter, or any disinfectant. Tie up the bag securely and place it in a temporary, sealable trash container and keep it in until you can find a good time to dispose of it.
You can invest in a powder waste treatment that can gel and solidify liquid and solid waste to make disposal less icky. This powder neutralizes odor and breaks down solid waste.
3. Create a make-do toilet with a 5-gallon bucket.
Another option is to use a 5-gallon bucket and double line it with trash bags. Then, attach a toilet seat cover that’s designed for 5-gallon buckets. If you don’t want to spend on that, you can use two pieces of 2×4 woods or other similar objects on the rim of the bucket to create a makeshift seat. Do the things recommended for option 2 for preventing the stench and disposal.
Portable toilets for camping are great for situations like this. If you’re a camper and you own one, now is the time to make use of it regularly. If not, you can buy one.
You may not have running water for a shower or brushing teeth, so here’s what you can do for the meantime:
1. Keep your hands and bodies clean.
Keeping a hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol is great for killing germs, but it doesn’t remove the dirt. Soap is the best cleanser, but it needs water. In situations like these, baby wipes are your friend. It provides the cleaning agents, gives a refreshing feel, while also removing dirt as well. For the time being when you can’t shower, wiping down your hands and body with baby wipes can make you feel fresh.
2. Keep your teeth clean.
Take care of your mouth and teeth at least once a day by brushing it like normal. While water is short, you can brush your teeth and rinse with bottled water. You may also rinse with mouthwash. This will help keep your mouth clean while you don’t have a supply of running water. Salt or baking soda can also be used in place of toothpaste if you need to do minimal rinsing. Don’t skimp on tooth and mouth cleansing when the power is out because having a toothache and mouth infection is the last thing you want to deal with when you’re trying to survive.
When the power is out, you have to take other methods for cooking and preparing food. Why? Because sanitation is a big part of food consumption. You have to clean the food before you prepare. You have to wash the dishes after you eat. But if the water supply is not available, you have to revert to these recommendations during power outages:
1. Use disposable cutlery, plates, and bowls.
Using plastic forks, spoons, and knives; and paper plates and bowls can help reduce the need for water for cleaning things. This will allow you to use real utensils while the water supply isn’t available. While it’s not classy nor environmentally-friendly, these disposable goods can help provide a clean surface for placing and eating your food. While it’s not a long term solution, it can help reduce water consumption in the meantime.
2. Use napkins and paper towels.
If you use cloth napkins regularly, you know how it adds to your laundry load. During a power outage, it might be better to revert to paper towels for cleaning spills and wiping surfaces.
Keeping House Clean
In the meantime, you may not be able to do laundry and other house cleaning tasks that make use of water a lot.
1. Use bleach or bleach-based cleaners.
Bleach is one of the most effective cleaners and killer of dirty and unsanitary things. While you can debate whether a sterile environment is a good thing, chlorine bleach is the way to go for kitchen counters, since you have to prepare food on it. Another option would be bleach wipes – these can clean the counter, floor, or toilet in an instant.