Sanitation and Hygiene During an Emergency
During an emergency, it is important to your survival to keep yourself healthy. The best way to
maintain health is to keep yourself and your living area clean and sanitary. Poor hygiene and
unsanitary conditions can cause sickness.
Sanitation items are easy to gather. You may prefer a pre-assembled emergency kit which
already contains necessary items for grooming and sanitation. Because many kit items are sold
as a unit, you may find that purchasing a kit is an inexpensive and convenient way to prepare
all that you'll need during an emergency.
Another option may be to assemble your own emergency kit so you can choose brands or
items your family is accustomed to using. Often, you can purchase your favorite brand of soap,
toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper, deodorant and other items in bulk or extra saving packages
so you can afford to set some aside for your emergency kit.
Here some areas of consideration:
Toilet paper. When it comes to emergencies, any kind of toilet paper, smooth, soft, rough,
printed, colored, plain, or scented is a luxury. By preparing ahead of time, you can insure that
you don't experience unneeded discomfort by having to get used to a new texture of paper.
Also keep in mind that it is common for those in emergency situations to develop stress and
diet related stomach problems that can intensify your sanitation difficulties.
Toothbrush. People with sensitive teeth may want to store their preferred brand of toothbrush
in their emergency kit. It is probably a wise idea to store several toothbrushes to give away to
someone who neglected to store one. It may also have another useful purpose such as
cleaning or scrubbing.
Toothpaste, mouthwash, and breath fresheners. Emergencies present stressful situations
where human communication is crucial. Sometimes water is scarce or unavailable which causes
dryness in your mouth. A breath freshener may be a nice addition to your preparedness
Feminine hygiene products. It is important to be prepared in all areas. These items are
definitely important to have available in any emergency situation.
Deodorant. With several choices of deodorants including antiperspirants, made-for-a-woman
brands, gelled, etc., you may want to decide ahead of time what you'll need during an
emergency. Air fresheners or deodorants may also increase your level of comfort during an
Hair supplies. Shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, combs, brushes, and other items may not be
necessary for survival, but they can help make an emergency situation more comfortable and
clean. Be sure to store smaller sanitation items in your emergency kit and be aware that you
can over stuff your emergency kit. If it is too heavy, you may not be able to leave with it during
For people who take prescription medications for heart disease, diabetes, asthma, depression,
or any other condition that requires regular medication, you should talk to your physician
about having a back-up supply on hand for emergencies. Medications for diarrhea,
constipation, headaches, allergy and other minor conditions should also be included in kits for
Laundry Detergent and Soap
During some emergencies, you may be required to evacuate the area or may be stranded in
some remote area. Because you won't have lots of clothing, you will want detergent to clean
your clothes and soap for bathing and for washing utensils. Hand sanitizers are also great to
have on hand (no pun intended).
You can prevent illness by washing your hands often; before eating, after using the bathroom,
after you change a diaper, and any other time you may need to freshen up. Because water is
such a precious commodity during an emergency, you should remember to use purified
drinking water first for drinking, cooking, washing dishes and then for other purposes. Be
organized and choose a designated bathing area. If you wash in a river or stream use
biodegradable soap and always be aware of others who may be down stream. With a little soap
you can also wash yourself in the rain. Other washing alternatives include moist toilettes, a
spray bottle, sanitizing lotions, or a wet washcloth. Be sure to wear shoes to prevent parasitic
infections and to protect you from cuts and puncture wounds that can easily become infected.
Choosing the right location for your sanitation needs is as important as staying clean. Your
waste place must be located downhill from any usable water source. It should also be a few
hundred feet from any river, stream, or lake. It also helps to have your waste place downwind
from your living area, and yet not too far from your camp that the distance discourages people
from using it.
With a little preparation, you can have a decent emergency toilet. If you have a medium sized
plastic bucket (5-6 gallon), lined with a heavy-duty garbage bag, you have a toilet. Make sure
you have a lid to cover it. A plastic toilet seat can be purchased to fit on the bucket for a more
comfortable seat. If you don’t have an extra plastic bucket available, you can make a latrine by
digging a long trench approximately one foot wide and 12 to 18 inches deep and cover as you
go. When you dig too deep a latrine it can retard the bacterial breakdown process. The long
latrine approach is appropriate for large groups camping in one spot for a long period.
For those back country hikers, packing out all solid waste is always appropriate, and some
authorities at high-use rivers usually require this process.
You can make a seat for your latrine by laying logs across the hole, leaving an area open for
you to use. After use, cover the waste with small amounts of dirt to decrease the odor. A
covered toilet reduces more of the odor than an open one. Make a toilet cover with wood or a
large leaf. If the odor becomes unbearable, fill in the latrine completely with dirt and dig a new
one. Build a new seat and burn the old wood that you used for the last toilet.
Getting Rid of Refuse
If you cannot dispose of refuse properly you should always bury biodegradable garbage and
human waste to avoid the spread of disease by rats and insects. Dig a pit 12 to 18 inches deep
and at least 50 feet but preferably 200 plus feet downhill and away from any well, spring, or
water supply. Fill the pit with the refuse and cover with dirt.
Keeping Food Sanitary
All food scraps should be either burned or buried in a pit far from your living area to keep
bears and other wild animals away from you. Keep all your food covered and off the ground.
You may keep your food in a tree, but be sure tree dwelling creatures can’t get into it. Replace
all lids on water bottles and other containers immediately after use. Do not wash your dishes in
the area where you get your drinking water supply. Instead, wash your dishes away from a
stream. Use clean plates or eat out of the original food containers to prevent the spread of
germs. Wash and peel all fruits and vegetables before eating. Prepare only as much as will be
eaten at each meal.
With a little knowledge and preparation, you can stay clean and healthy, even during an