Sanitation in an Emergency

Do you remember returning from your family camping trip smelling like Big Foot? I bet that first hot shower felt amazing, washing away all the dirt and grime. Perhaps you even needed a second shower to get the campfire smell out of your hair. Imagine being out in the elements and never being able to get clean? Even worse, imagine an emergency situation where the spread of filth and disease is unpredictable because there isn’t sufficient sanitation to contain it. That need to get clean after a camping trip underscores the need to make personal hygiene a part of your emergency preparedness.

When Would You Need a Sanitation Station? 
During Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, one of the biggest problems was the human waste that piled up because the city’s sewage system was knocked out. It does take a category 5 hurricane to cause a sanitation emergency, though.  Overheated power grids can cut power to sewage/water stations. Storms, sabotage, and other factors can also affect our sewer systems.  At that point, even your home can become a bacterial nightmare.

That’s okay. Your emergency preparedness plan includes your sanitation needs. Because you’ve prepared, your family can stay clean and disease-free. Here are some tips to get your sanitation station going.

Staying Clean with Limited Water
Of course, washing your hands is one of the most important parts of personal hygiene. This is when your water storage comes in handy.  A  water container with a spigot is a great asset in your preparedness plan. The water container can be used over a sink or bucket to keep your flow of water going and your hands clean.

If you don’t have access to clean water, there are options.  Keep wet wipes (preferably antibacterial), hand sanitizer and paper towels on hand. Remember that household cleaning wipes (like Lysol or Clorox) are NOT safe for skin.

Keep Surfaces Clean 
Speaking of household cleaning wipes, these should be part of your sanitation preparedness plan.  Surfaces in toilet and eating areas will be susceptible to germs spreading. Premoistened disinfecting wipes are a great way to kill germs and prevent bugs/rodents from infecting your space.

Toilet Needs
Part of a good sanitation plan is understanding toilet needs. Since toilet areas are breeding ground for germs, you’ll want to make sure you have a specified area for human waste, as far away as possible from food and living areas.  If you are sheltering at home, you can use your established toilets, just line the inside of the bowl with a trash bag or disposable bathroom bag. (Use a drop or two of bleach after each use to minimize bacterial growth. Having portable toilets, disposable bathroom bags (preferably with biodegradable gel/powder to break down waste), and a handwashing station will help contain germs to one area.
(Note- Find out what your city ordinances regarding human waste disposal are before you put full bags in the trash.)

Your Sanitation Kit
Make sure you have the items you need in your 72-hour kit to stay sanitary and sane.

  • Water Container with spigot
  • Wet Wipes
  • Sanitizing wipes
  • Soap
  • Body Wipes
  • 5 gallon bucket toilet
  • Toilet Paper
  • Toilet bags with biodegradable gel
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss (Cleanpaste)
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Lotion
  • Baking Soda
  • Lip balm
  • Travel Towel
  • Nail Clippers
  • Body Powder
  • Comb
  • Hair Brush
  • Hair Ties
  • Straight Razor
  • Deodorant
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • Small Scissors
  • Feminine Hygiene
  • Contact Solution
  • Extra Pair of Glasses in Case
  • Contact Case

What else do you keep in your sanitation kit?

Image thanks to My Honey’s Place

Cooking During a Blackout

The power has just gone out. You find the flashlight and light some candles. You realize its dinner time and the kids are hungry, now what? Going out to dinner might not be an option if the power is out in the whole city. Crackers and a jar of peanut butter might be okay for one night, but what if the power outage lasts for longer than that? Power outages can happen at any time. They could last a few hours or even a few days.

Order of Operations  It is important to start by using what is in your refrigerator first. When the power goes out, the fridge will be able to keep food cool for 24-48 hours. Don’t open your fridge more than you absolutely have to. Know what you are looking for, open and close the fridge quickly and efficiently. If the power is still out, eat what is in the freezer next. Food will remain frozen for 2-3 days as long as the door stays shut.

Alternate Cooking Methods  Our ancestors have used fire to cook food for millions of years. Learn from their ingenuity and adjust your own cooking methods.

Fire Starters Fire has come a long way in the last several years. Products like EasyFire make building and maintaining a fire as easy as ever.  Using nontoxic inert minerals, paraffin wax, and recycled wood, you can create more than enough heat to safely cook any meal. Use a firepit, fireplace, or other safe, ventilated container to maintain an easy fire.

Cooking Outdoors A functional and fun trend is the backyard firepit. This is a great area for cooking during a blackout. Take a note from the Boy Scouts of America and make a good old fashioned tin foil dinner. A tin foil dinner can contain just about anything. Take a sheet of aluminum foil and fill it with meat and potatoes. Add a few herbs and some salt and pepper. Roll the edges of the foil together and toss it in the fire for a while. Bury the tin foil dinner in a bed of hot coals so it cooks all the way through. Check to see if it is done, if not roll it back up and put it back on the fire until everything is tender and cooked.

Barbeques, grills, and camp stoves are ideal for the 4th of July, they are also the most obvious ways to cook during a power outage. Since they run on propane or charcoal they won’t be affected by the blackout. DO NOT grill indoors on a charcoal or gas grill. It will produce lethal carbon monoxide.

Emergency Stove Candle or Stove-in-a-Can stoves use wax hydrocarbon fuel. Chafing dishes use the same principle to keep food warm. You’ve probably seen the blue flames under trays at parties or other catered events. These little cans are great for heating up food during an emergency. They won’t be able to cook a full course meal, but they are able to heat up a can of beans just fine.

Use Your Food Storage People sometimes protect their emergency food storage, assuming that a bigger emergency is around the corner. In reality, events like blackouts are exactly when you should use your food storage. It provides convenient, easy meal prep.  For instance, MREs have built-in MRE heaters to cook without needing any other cooking method.  If you have more freeze-dried food, that’s almost as easy. Freeze-dried meals only require hot water to produce a full, delicious meal.

Use Your Car Your car engine gets hot enough to heat food. Simply wrap your food in several layers of aluminum foil, open your hood and place the foil on the engine. Close the hood and turn on your car. (PLEASE make sure your garage door is open so you have plenty of ventilation.) Cook your food until the internal temperature is safe (usually 160 degrees for meat). You may need to flip the foil back and forth to ensure even cooking.

Alternative Cooking Methods 

  • Backyard BBQ
  • Camp Stove
  • Firepit
  • Fireplace
  • Chafing Dish
  • Sterno Stove
  • Self-heating MREs
  • Just-add-water freeze-dried-foods

Do you have any advice for cooking without power? We’d love to hear from you.


Do You Know Where Your Emergency Shut-Off Valves Are?

Do not wait until disaster strikes to try and find the emergency shut-off valves in your house. Part of your emergency preparedness plan should be to  familiarize yourself with the set-up of your home. There are several different setups for home utilities. If you have trouble finding your shut-off valves, contact your local plumber or electrician for help. Getting a bit of help now could prevent a major bill in the future.

Emergency shut-off valves are usually located in the dark, forgotten corners of the home. Be sure you can find them in a hurry, keep a flashlight around just in case. Emergencies don’t send a warning. Keep in mind many home repairs also require gas, water, and/or electricity to shut-off first. Knowing where the valves are in your home will help you complete all of those DIY weekend warrior projects you have planned.

Gas  – Gas leaks could cause a deadly explosion. It is vital you know how to shut off the gas in an emergency. Most homes have a ball valve somewhere on the gas line, typically near where the gas line enters the house. If the handle is parallel to the pipe the gas is flowing. Turn the handle to close the valve and shut-off the flow of gas. New homes have high-pressure lines. Look for a flexible copper pipe usually near the furnace, the shut-off valve should be there. Older homes might not have a gas shut-off valve inside of the house. There should be a street-side shut-off near the meter. If the rectangular nub is parallel gas is flowing, use a wrench to turn the nub a 90 degrees to shut the valve. Most gas companies don’t want you to operate the street-side valve so only use it during an emergency, if you’ve been given permission. Using it without instruction from your gas company can cause extreme damage.  Contact your gas company for assistance.

Water – Leaking water pipes can cause a lot of damage to a home. Make sure you know where your main water supply shut-off valve is. If you live in a house with a basement or crawl space the valve is typically on a wall near the front of the house. If your home is on a cement slab look for the valve near the water heater or in the garage. Turn the valve clockwise to turn off the water flow. If you can’t find a shut-off valve inside the house, check for a buried box near the curb. This is the water meter box, the residential water supply for your house. You’ll need a meter key, a long T shaped rod, to turn it off. A crescent wrench and screwdriver can be used in place of a meter key if you don’t have one. Turn the valve clockwise to shut off water to the house. It is important to release the pressure from the pipes, run both the hot and cold water until the water flow stops.

Electricity – An electric shock can be deadly. Make sure the power is off before starting home improvements that involve wiring. Locate the main breaker panel, typically a grey rectangular box. Look in the garage, laundry, or next to the furnace. In older homes, the circuit breaker or fuse box might be on the exterior of the home. Larger homes may have multiple boxes, make sure you can locate all of them. If you are having trouble finding it contact an electrician for help. To shut off power to the whole house locate the main power switch at the top of the box, and pull them to the off position. Fuses are round and screw into sockets. Circuit breakers will have rows of switches for individual areas of the house. You can shut the power off in one area of the house for repairs and still have power in the house.


Photo Credit:

Compression-Only CPR

Recent research has shown that compression-only CPR or hands-only is just as effective as traditional CPR, if not more so. New statistics from The Journal of the American Medical Association show that bystanders who perform compression-only CPR instead of conventional CPR do, in fact, save more lives. Adults who experience cardiac arrest are 60% more likely to survive if they receive compression-only CPR instead of traditional CPR or no CPR at all. Hands-only CPR is more beneficial because it eliminates the need to interrupt chest compressions with rescue breathing, which can inhibit blood flow.

Hands-only CPR is easy to learn and remember. During a five-year public awareness campaign which focused on hands-only CPR,  rates of compression-only CPR increased from 19.6 percent to 75.9 percent. Traditional CPR courses focus on the ratio of chest compressions to breaths, cycles of CPR per minute, and time between breaths. That is a lot of information to remember and think about during an emergency situation. Compression-only CPR is much easier to remember and perform. Untrained individuals can use chest compressions to save a life.

Compression-only CPR is widely accepted. Those without medical experience are more willing to perform hands-only CPR since it doesn’t require mouth-to-mouth contact. Rescue breathing masks are available, but you might not always have one with you when you are faced with an emergency situation. Hands-only CPR eliminates the need for breathing masks. Since only 6 percent of people who experience cardiac arrest outside of the hospital survive, teaching the public about compression-only CPR could double or even triple their chances of survival.

Hands-Only CPR

  • Call 911
  • Get directly over the chest. Remove clothing with buttons or zippers for better access to the chest area
  • Start chest compressions
  • Place the heel of one hand in the center of the chest. Place the other hand on top of the first interlacing the fingers together.
  • Push hard and fast in the center of the chest. Compress the chest 100 to 120 times a minute.
  • Sing Staying Alive by the Bee Gees to keep the rhythm of compressions going. This song has a 103 beat-per-minute rhythm, helping you maintain the correct compression rate until you can be relieved.
  • Maintain compressions until medical help comes. If needed, switch off between other people to maintain energy.


How Much Do You Need in Your Savings Account?

So you have a savings account, now what? How much money do you need to put in there? Financial experts talk about having an emergency fund, but what does that really mean?

An emergency fund is not your savings for a car, house, or other large purchases. Savings for a downpayment on a home should be in addition to your emergency fund. The emergency fund is there for a rainy day (car breaking down, expected medical expenses, etc.) and not for a weekend trip to Las Vegas.

During a disaster or a job loss, your emergency fund will allow you to keep living your life and more importantly paying your bills. So how much do you really need? The bare minimum should be six months of expenses. In other words, what does it take to keep a roof over your head for six months? Say your mortgage is $1,500 a month, plus $300 for utilities, $400 for groceries, $100 for the phone, $89 for life insurance, $400 for health insurance. You’ll need $16,734 in your emergency fund to live off of for six months. This does not include going out to dinner or to the movies or on that family cruise to Mexico.

Though in reality, most people don’t cut their expenses back when faces with finical disaster.  Err on the side of caution and save more than you think you’ll need. It is better to be safe than sorry. What are your household expenses? Not just the mortgage and groceries. How much do you eat out? How many movies do you see a month? A weekly date night of dinner and a movie would be around $50, that is $200 a month.

Take an honest look at your spending. It is easy to say I’ll cut out this or that, but it is harder than you think. How much are your really spending each month, add that up and times it by six to eight months. $2,789 for the mortgage, etc., plus $200 for weekly dates, $100 for ballet lessons, $100 for soccer practice. $25,512 will allow you to live with your current lifestyle for eight months. This is how much money you really need in your emergency fund.

On average it takes one to two years to find a new job after a job loss. The bare minimum of six months of essentials won’t last long. Plan to save eight months of your real expenses you will be much better prepared. Then if you cut back to the essentials your emergency fund will last much longer.

Are you spending more than you are making? If you have massive amounts of debt your emergency fund will quickly be eaten up. Look at your real expenses and compare them to your monthly income. Does it add up? Ideally, you should have some money left over to put into an emergency fund, if not it’s time to cut back. Saving six to eight months of income should allow you to meet your needs and have some left over. This will cushion your funds and make them last longer if necessary.

Photo Credit:

Bartering 101

Before the advent of paper money bartering or trading was the way people got what they needed. Farmers often specialized in certain crops or livestock. The chicken farmer might trade 3 chickens with the wheat farmer to get 10 lbs of wheat to make some bread to feed his family.  Similarly, if you have 100 cans of beans but no can opener you are going to need to trade a few of those cans with someone that has a can opener. You might trade a few more cans to someone with a lighter or stove so that you can cook those beans. The value of the item will depend on the needs others and how easy said item is to come by. In other words supply and demand. If you are the only one on the block with sugar and everyone wants some you can set the price as you see fit.

During a crisis, anxiety will increase. This will be especially challenging for individuals with addictions. Alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, and tea will be in high demand. Stockpile these items or learn how to make moonshine at home. Alcohol also has medical uses.

Soap will be necessary to stave off infections. Shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and floss will keep you clean and help you feel more human again. You would be surprised what people are willing to pay for a hot shower. Lotion and chapstick won’t just make you feel better but they can help your skin from cracking and getting irritated.

Many people stockpile food but not everyone thinks about how they are going to cook it during a power outage. Firewood and lighters will provide a warm meal. Propane and a camp stove will make cooking even easier. MRE’s and dried beans aren’t too exciting after a while. Salt, sugar, and other spices can make all the difference. Salt a critical part of our diet. Hard candies are a luxury which are easy to store and trade. Without clean drinking water, you will die. Water filters and water purification tablets will be in high demand.

Everyone is going to need a warm and dry place to sleep. Sleeping bags and camping tents will be essential. Even just a tarp and a bungee cord will go a long way. Candles and flashlights will be used to light homes and tents during power outages. Keep a variety of battery sizes for trading.

Gardening tool and seeds will provide food for the long-term. Google and the internet will be long gone so books will be the only source of knowledge. Books on different subjects will be great for bartering. People will have to learn new skills. Maybe you already have some skills you could barter with such as fishing, nursing, or engineering.

Essential Items for Bartering 

  • Alcohol
  • Cigarettes
  • Batteries (variety of sizes)
  • Silver and gold
  • Toiletry items (toothbrushes, floss, etc.)
  • Soap
  • Toilet paper
  • Shampoo
  • Food
  • Cash
  • Solar shower
  • Ammunition
  • Lighters and matches
  • Propane, fuel, gasoline
  • Water purification tablets
  • Medical supplies
  • Skills (mechanics, nursing, etc.)
  • Candles
  • Condoms
  • Coffee
  • Water filters
  • Hard Candies
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Spices
  • Seeds
  • Duct Tape
  • Fishing Gear
  • Gardening Tools
  • Lotion and Chapstick
  • Baby supplies (diapers, wipes, formula)
  • Books (gardening, childbirth, etc.)
  • Papers and Pens
  • Rope and Bungie Cords
  • Tarps
  • Sleeping bags
  • Camping Tents
  • Camping Stoves
  • Can Opener


Greatest Pandemics in Last 100 Years

Contagious diseases spread like wildfire and can kill millions of people.  The most well-known pandemic was probably Bubonic Plague or Black Death. The Black Plague ravaged Europe, Africa, and Asia from 1346-1353. It is estimated to have killed anywhere from 75 to 200 million people. Infected fleas traveled on the backs of rats stowed away on merchant ships. Port towns were the perfect breeding ground for disease as densely populated urban areas.

Influenza or the flu is most common killer as far as contagious diseases are concerned. According to the Center for Disease Control, the flu kills around 36 thousand people in the United States each year. Most deaths are caused by complications from the flu. Children under 2 years old and adults over 65 years old are the most vulnerable to the virus.

Thousands die every year from the flu, however, it is only considered a pandemic if the disease spreads across a wide geographical location, such as a continent. The disease must also affect an especially high proportion of the population to be considered a pandemic.

Sixth Cholera Pandemic (1910-1911) 

Cholera Pandemic has occurred several times, hence the name Sixth Cholera Pandemic. Cholera is caused by drinking contaminated water. It causes severe watery diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and even death if left untreated.

This pandemic started in India and spread to the Middle East, Northern Africa, Eastern Europe, and Russia. The disease spread to the United States. Thanks to quarantines and fast-acting medical professionals only 11 people died in the USA. This was the last Cholera outbreak in the United States. Cholera outbreaks still occur in India.

Spanish Flu (1918)

The 1918 Pandemic or Spanish Flu killed 50 to 100 million people. It is unclear where this disease originated, possibly China, but maybe the United States. Thanks to World War I and global trade it quickly spread around the world infecting one-third of the world’s population. The mortality rate was 10 to 20 percent, with 25 million people dead in the first 25 weeks. Unlike other stains the flu, this variant took the lives of young and healthy individuals instead of young children or elderly adults.

Doctors recommend getting a flu shot every year because influenza mutates and changes each year. Your body builds up and immunity to the flu when exposed to illness or the flu vaccine. Your body is able to recognize small changes to the influenza virus and fight the disease off. Major changes to the disease won’t be recognized and could be fatal. This was the problem with the 1918 outbreak. The population had not been exposed to this new variant (H1N1) and were vulnerable.

Asian Flu (1956-1958)

The Asian Flu was a shift in the influenza virus (H2N2). Major shifts in the influenza virus leave the population vulnerable because they do not have natural antibodies for this new stain. It started in China and spread to Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States. It is estimated the Asian Flu killed 2 million people, 69 thousand in the USA alone.

Flu Pandemic (1968)

The Hong Kong Flu or Flu Pandemic of 1968 was yet another shift in the influenza virus (H3N2). Again the major shift in the virus left people vulnerable, with no natural antibodies to fight off the disease. It spread from Hong Kong to Singapore, Vietnam, The Philippines, India, Austraila, Europe, and the United States of America. The Flu Pandemic claimed the lives of more than 1 million people, including 500 thousand individuals from Hong Kong, 15 percent of the population at the time.

HIV/AIDS Pandemic (2005-2012)

HIV and AIDS were first discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976. Since then it has spread worldwide killing 36 million people. There are currently 31 to 35 million people living with HIV. Most live in Sub-Sharan Africa where 5 percent of the population is infected. Awareness and new treatments have greatly reduced the spread and increased life expectancies.


DIY Emergency Toilet

A natural disaster has just occurred and the sewer line is broken. What do you do? Are you prepared? The kids really need to use the potty. Where are they going to do go?  You can make a simple emergency bucket with a 5-gallon bucket and some trash bags. Ideally, you should have two separate buckets one for urine and one for feces. Keeping them separate will cut down on the smell.

Emergency Toilet Bucket 


  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Pool Noodle
  • Heavy Trash Bags
  • Toilet Paper
  • Pliers
  • Drill
  • Utility Knife
  • Small bungee cord
  • Gloves
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Flashlight
  • Tarp and rope
  • 2-gallon bucket
  • Wide Mouth Bowl
  • Kitty Litter


  1. Start by popping out the handle on the 5-gallon bucket. Use pliers to bend the end of the handle. This will make putting it back together again much easier.
  2. Measure about three inches from the hole for the handle. Drill a small hole through the first layer of plastic. Don’t go all the way through the bucket.
  3. Thread a roll of toilet paper on to the handle. Place the end of the handle in the newly drilled hole. This will allow enough room for the toilet paper roll to fit quickly nicely.
  4. Line the 5-gallon bucket with heavy duty trash bags. Ensure its a snug fit so it won’t fall down. This will keep the bucket clean. Don’t get the cheap bags, a ripped potty bag is the last thing you need.
  5. Cut a three-foot section from the pool noodle. Cut a line down one side of the pool noodle. Line the edge of the bucket with the noodle. This will provide some padding and make your emergency bucket a bit more comfortable to use.
  6. Drill another small hole near the edge of the toilet paper roll. Remember only to drill through the first layer of plastic. Don’t go all the way through the bucket.
  7. Wrap the bungee cord around the handle and through the hole. This will hold the toilet paper roll away from the bucket and make getting to the roll a lot easier.
  8. Fill the 2-gallon bucket with extra supplies; gloves, hand sanitizer, flashlight, and kitty litter. Gloves will make cleaning the bucket less messy. Soap or hand sanitizer will allow you to wash up afterward. A flashlight will make using the emergency toilet in the dark easier. Toss in a scoop of kitty litter or dirt after using the bucket, this will prevent it from smelling and attracting flies.
  9. Turn the 2-gallon bucket over and place the wide mouth bowl on top and it becomes a wash basin. You can even add a towel to dry off with.
  10. Use the tarp and ropes to section off a private place to use the potty.
  11. Store all the supplies inside the bucket when not in use. When a disaster comes you’ll be prepared. Simply pull out your emergency toilet bucket and get down to business.

Escaping a Captivity Situtation

The world we live in can be a dangerous place. You never know when you are going to be the target of a kidnapping or a violent crime. Here are a few simple steps you can take to better prepare and protect yourself.

Tips for Escaping 

  • Keep a razor blade in your shoe. Wrap razor blade in duct tape so you won’t cut yourself. Hide the razor blade under a large band-aid on your body just in case you are stripped and your shoes are taken from you.
  • All hand-cuffs are keyed the same. One key will open all of them. Keep one on your person just in case. Hide it in your shoe or under a bandage on your body.
  • Look for the glow in the dark release locks if you are trapped in a car trunk. If the car is 2008 or older you’ll need to dig through the carpet to find the release.
  • Newer cars have a release on the back of the seats. You’ll need to kick down the seats in older cars.
  • The truck normally has the spare tire and jack. Find the jack and use it to break the lock.
  • If you are hand-cuffed, find something thin and sturdy to shim handcuffs, a bobby pin will work. Place the bobby pin in between in case and the teeth. Make the hand-cuffs tighter first then they will release.
  • Use a seat belt to prie the hand-cuffs apart. Place the seat belt in the gap and twist until the hand-cuffs open. This will hurt and you will bleed, but in a life and death situation, it won’t matter.
  • T.E.D.D. Time. Environment, Distance, Demeanor. Change up your daily schedule. Someone following you will know your time schedule making it easy to attack, so be unpredictable. Go to different places than you normally do.  Be aware of your surroundings. Increase and decrease distances between errands. Make it harder for someone to find and follow you. Look like you are on guard and ready to put up a fight.
  • Make sure loved ones know where you are and when to expect you back.
  • If you are being followed remember to Run, Hide, Fight. If you can get away then run. Hide behind something bulletproof if possible. Fight if necessary. Resistance and loud noises will stop most attackers. If it isn’t easy they will likely look for another target.