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Ready or Not #20: Latrines and Sanitary Concerns

Updated: Dec 31, 2022

Several posts ago, I wrote about how miserable I was when my parent’s water wasn’t working at their house in St. George, Utah. I also told you that it took eight 2-liter bottles of water in order to flush the toilet. What I didn’t tell you was that because I didn’t want to have to keep filling the toilet up each time I used it, I decided to cut back on how much water I drank. Stupid! Me, of all people, cutting back on water intake! Keep in mind that I usually drink a lot of water and so I become somewhat dehydrated, but that wasn’t such a big deal, right? Wrong! My body was used to having water and instead of just being thirsty I got a urinary tract infection (UTI). That’s right, I was miserable.

Now, I am not telling you this because I want sympathy. No, I’m telling you this because I think that it would be a good idea to talk about our sanitary situation during a disaster. First and foremost, don’t limit your water intake, make sure that you have enough water for your body to stay healthy. UTI’s are very painful and if not treated, can lead to death. (Two gallons of water per person, per day, for a two week period).

Next, most disasters like severe storms and electrical power outages won’t disrupt the use of our sewer and water systems, but if we have an earthquake and our water and sewer lines are disrupted, what will you do? And how long will you be able to do it? Are you going to use the bathroom in your trailer? Do you have a trailer? Or do you have a port-a-potty? How long will it be before it is filled up? How will you dispose of the refuse?

What will your children do if they are at school without facilities? Does your school district have a plan in place for this type of problem? What is it? We do have a portable restroom company that is local, but could they deliver them? Are the roads usable? How many people would they be able to serve? Who would get priority? And how long would they be able to keep up with the demand, and would they even be able to dump them or service them at all?

I have lots of questions and I don’t know all of the answers. I do think that as families and communities we need to think about this before we are confronted with it. My biggest fear is that people will get desperate and just start using “the bushes.” I mean, how can you say no to a child? Do we need to have our city leaders call somebody in the community to be The City Latrine Master (or whatever other creative name we can come up with – Emergency Sanitation Engineer, or Privy Person, or – whatever, but I digress).

Can we build latrines in our back yards? What are your city’s rules and regulations on that? Maybe there should be a latrine for each neighborhood. Who’s property would it go on and who would clean it out once the disaster is over? So many questions, but better to ask and answer them before a disaster than to make unhealthy decisions in the middle of the disaster.

My biggest concern out of all of this is the disease that follows when sanitary issues aren’t addressed. More people died in the Civil War from dysentery, diarrhea, and cholera (all caused because of unsanitary conditions) than from war wounds. What a miserable way to die.

Keep extra water on-hand to make sure you wash your hands and keep as clean as possible. Have wet wipes and hand sanitizer available. You don’t want to get sick when you can avoid it.


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