Urban Survival - Sanitation and Hygiene During a Disaster
By David Hardin
Following a disaster, sanitation and hygiene is one phase of survival that is often overlooked, with sometimes disastrous results.
Following a flood, tornado, earthquake or hurricane, sources of water that are normally safe can instantly become contaminated. Septic tanks, sewer systems and water reclamation ponds overflow and contaminate wells, lakes, ponds and creeks. Refuse and animal carcasses add to this contamination. People do not dispose of human waste correctly. Waste disposal sites, fuel and oil from submerged vehicles all contribute to the contamination. Survivors end up, sometimes literally, wading through this toxic soup.
Following a disaster, hot water is usually in short supply. Poor hygiene, sleep deprivation and increased stress levels can lower our immune responses and make us more susceptible to disease.
Conditions in many evacuation shelters can be as bad if not worse. Think back to the images we all saw following Hurricane Katrina and you will know what I mean. Hundreds, or thousands of people, crammed into tight quarters is an invitation to the rapid spread of disease. Toilet facilities and running water frequently fail under such demand. After two or three days, refuse begins to pile up until conditions in the shelter are often worse than those outside.
When preparing your household for disaster, be sure to include enough supplies to reduce the possibility of disease as much as possible. Two commodities that are always in short supply following a disaster are drinking water and toilet paper.
The following is a partial list of items that should be included in a survival kit.
In a survival situation it is extremely important to stay as clean as possible.
Frequent hand washing, or use of an antibacterial hand sanitizer, is mandatory.
Extra care should be taken when handling and cooking foods.
When using stored water be careful to not contaminate the bottle cap or neck of the bottle.
In a survival situation extra precautions should also be taken to prevent cuts, scratches, or scrapes. Any time the skin is broken the wound, however slight, should be treated, immediately. Watch children closely. They tend to ignore minor injuries, fearing treatment more than they do disease. Many elderly people also ignore minor wounds because they do not want to be a bother.
When you are in the survival mode it is important for each person to watch the others in the group for signs of fever, rashes, insect bites and other symptoms that they may not be aware of, themselves.
The author is currently certified by the Emergency management Institute under the auspices of FEMA and The Department of Homeland Security. He has been actively involved in disaster preparedness and survival techniques for more than half a century. You can get free up-to-date downloads and information about all areas of Urban Survival at: [http://www.davehardinonline.com]