Post-Disaster Clean Up
Natural disasters, social breakdown, economic collapse, or a terrorist attack. Any one of these things could happen without warning.
And if they do, you could quickly find yourself without access to basic services.
You may find yourself without power or water. Or both.
Either way, post-disaster situations can cause some serious problems.
Regular readers of the Ready for Anything Report know I often recommended that you make sure you have plenty of personal hygiene supplies on hand.
That’s a good place to start. But in today’s update, I want to go a little further. I want to give you a post-disaster action-plan for protecting your health and your safety.
After all, you can’t get ready for a disaster when it’s in full swing.
If you’re stocked up on essentials like soap, bleach, and toilet paper already, that’s great.
But they won’t do you much good if you don’t know what to do with them with the lights are out and the water is off.
The Real Killers in a Disaster
After a major disaster, your risk of becoming ill from disease or infection goes up. Way up. Limited or no access to power and water will only make matters worse.
The best way to protect yourself and your family from disease and infection is by maintaining general sanitation and good hygiene.
Sounds simple, right? That’s easier said than done when you don’t have access to clean, safe, running water.
Let’s start with the basics. In an emergency that takes the power grid and water supply off line, at a bare minimum you’ll need:
- Easy access to a way to thoroughly clean your hands throughout the day
- A way to safely bathe at least once a week
- A plan for dealing with human waste if your sewer system is down
- A way to treat and clean cuts, scrapes, burns, and other injuries
- A way to safely brush your teeth at least once a day
Bathing, and Tooth-Brushing
Clean water is the best tool you have for keeping your body clean and free from disease. You can’t get ready for a disaster when it’s in full swing. So before a disaster strikes, you should locate alternative sources of water, and then learn how to treat it properly.
Once you do that, set up a central hand-washing station. A water jug with a spigot and a bottle of hand soap or a bar of soap work well. Soap and cold water work fine for keeping hands clear of disease-causing microbes.
Tip: If you run out of soap, you can wash hands with vegetable oil, vinegar-water (in a one-to-one ratio), or with a salt scrub.
Wash your hands often, including:
- Before and after food preparation— especially if you’re handling raw meat
- Before you eat
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- After using the restroom
- Before and after treating any injuries
- After handling pets or pet food
- After handling garbage
- After your sneeze or cough into your hands
In order to maintain good hygiene, it’s important that you bathe at least once a week. When water is at a premium, this can be tough. I recommend purchasing a hanging shower bag— you can find these at camping supply stores. Just hang it from your shower head to make a low flow shower, even when your water service is not on.
Stock up on hand-wipes now too. You can use them to clean off once a day between bathing.
Only use water that you are certain is safe for brushing your teeth. Brush and floss your teeth at least once a day. If you run out of toothpaste, you can use salt or baking soda as an alternative.
When You’re Indisposed
Setting up a latrine system when the sewer is down is absolutely critical. The easiest way to do this is with cat litter and heavy-duty garbage bags (two items you’ll want to add to your reserves).
Turn the water off on your toilet at the base, and then flush. This will empty the bowl. Then, line the toilet with a garbage bag. Instruct everyone to sprinkle cat litter into the bag between uses to control odors. When needed, tie off the bag, remove it, and replace it with a new one. If your city has no plans for waste removal, dig a hole to bury the bags in. Make sure it is well away from any water sources.
Keep Your Space Clean
Keeping your hands, body, and mouth clean is your first line of defense against infection and disease during the aftermath of a disaster. But you also need to keep your space clean.
Have a designated area for garbage disposal and remove garbage from your living space promptly.
Change into clean clothes— especially socks and underwear— on a daily basis. You can wash your clothes with un-sanitized rainwater or any other water that is not contaminated with sewage or toxic chemicals.
An easy way to wash clothes is to place dirty clothes into a bucket with water and detergent. Let them soak for a while, agitating them occasionally. Remove them from the soapy water and rinse them. Wring them out and hang them from a clothesline.
When it comes to washing dishes, you want to use the same water that you are using for drinking, hand-washing, and tooth-brushing. Thoroughly wash dishes after each use – this is imperative to avoid foodborne illnesses at a time when your risk is higher than ever.
Good sanitation and hygiene can make the difference between an uncomfortable post-disaster experience and one that is miserable, or even life threatening.
P.S. Good sanitation and healthy hygiene are important whether you’re sheltering-in-place or bugging out. Having a surefire way to purify water is just as important as having an adequate water reserve. My favorite water purification system is easy to use and it’s a multi-tasker… You can also use it as a topical disinfectant and as an alternative to antibiotics. It is completely safe, has nearly a 100-year track record, and it’s easy to do.