May 29, 2017

Survival Sanitation

Survival sanitation is a subject that doesn’t get much attention. It’s not surprising. This isn’t a subject for polite conversation and, it’s gross. But, not knowing what to do with waste in a grid down situation can lead to a dire survival situation. This is fair warning; this information is important, but will cover some information that is a bit disgusting.

In researching this article, I found a series of three articles at Tactical Intelligence, that cover almost everything I wanted to write on. So instead of writing a similar article, I am going to ask you to take a look at his articles and I will just add my $.02 here.
Survival Sanitation: It all Begins with the Hands

This article covers how many diseases are spread from bodily fluids to hands then to the mouth. He even gives instructions to make your own chlorine bleach, as well as good and bad hand hygiene habits.
Survival Sanitation: Disposing of Garbage Off-Grid
Out of the three, this is the one area I think people should hold out on. Only go this route if garbage pickup is on hold for a long time. That is, unless you live in a densely populated area such as New York. Due to the day after Christmas blizzard in 2010, New Yorkers went without trash collection for a week and limited collection for another. There were mountains of it and soon the rats came out. This is good information to be aware of.
Survival Sanitation: How to Deal with Human Waste

This is a topic that while mildly unpleasant, is very important. If you are on city sewer and water, in a grid down situation there won’t be power to the water pumps to provide water for disposing of the waste. This article explains what to do if you have water available and what to do if you do not.
Backflow Valves

I only have one other thing to touch on and that is the back-flow valve. A back-flow valve will keep sewage from flowing back into your plumbing. hosts the image below. They explain the need, based on your location, hypothetically; on a hill in a flooding situation.

I also contacted a local plumber via e-mail asking if the power going out would have any impact on sewage back flowing.

“Hi Chris,
The back water valve is only required if the plumbing fixtures are below the manhole in the street. ( most are but some houses are on hills ). The power going out has no effect unless you have a lift station in your home.

You can tell if you have one because they are required by code to be accessible. ( somewhere in floor ).

They are not a huge project but we would need to locate the drain, remove the concrete, install back water valve and patch the floor. There are any variables that would raise the costs but a minimum price would be $450.”

Where I live, back-flow valve installation became code in 2009. It might be code where you live. If you have an older home and think you might be in danger of back-flow, contacting a plumber in your area now might be a prudent idea.
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  1. You should read about this problem in AK. They still use honey buckets, a five-gallon can, fitted on the inside with a garbage sack. Upon filling the bucket, with human waste, a family member takes the garbage sack out of the honey bucket and proceeds to the community disposal (big latrine). I agree with the article, that grey water is the key to using existing sewer/leach field systems. The building industry makes no effort to conserve water in the home. Drains from roof downspouts, washing machines, sinks, could be collected and used to flush toilets or water lawns. Sinks should have two drains, one for grey, the other for waste. In a short term grid down situation, you could also seal the buckets until grid restored. Long term, look for a grey water solution. BTW, back water valves should be on any home that might have to deal with 500 years floods.

  2. Nice web site find!

    My favorite solution to Human waste when speaking survival sanitation.

    I was rudely introduced to the truths of hand cleansing when I volunteered in the shelter in Bossier City Louisiana that housed many coming up out of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans after Katrina hit. These poor folks had been in filth and filthy water for days and had not had the opportunity to clean themselves until arrival to our facility. Included in my information person duties was hand sanitation. I handed out hand sanitizer and flyers about scrubbing the hands thoroughly with announcements over the PA system to our some 1300 visitors reminding them to sanitize regularly. I’ll never forget the importance and the health necessity of simple cleanliness. We take so much for granted. Thanks for helping bring this to light Chris.

    The best trash burner I have seen is a metal 55 gal. barrel with a blower attached. It literally turned into an incinerator. I’ve been looking at alternatives for a non-electric society. I found plans for a fukisashi bellows (a box-type air-pump). I believe this simple system could be incorporated into a burn container situation to incinerate massive amounts of trash without electricity. It’d take some work, but a lot of things we take for granted now will take considerable work in a post electrical society.


    • Chris Ray says:

      I have heard of the book and of the composting toilets, but haven’t looked at them thoroughly, thanks for the links, I’ll check them out.

  3. Chris,
    I have an off grid property that I use for recreation and some entry level wilderness survival classes. We have found a product that solves the problem in a most effective way. The PETT is a toilet system that uses a bag containing chemicals that will neutralize the waste into a harmless gel like mass that is safe to throw into the the regular trash. They are somewhat expensive to use for a long term solution, but for a short duration situation or as a transition to a long term method they would be great. is the web site for the complete kit. Bags alone are also available to use in other devices( 5 gallon bucket, your toilet, etc.) Also available at other vendors.

    • Hi Art,

      I seem to remember reading about a similar product when I was going through CERT training. I’m glad you mentioned it and have some some experience with it, thanks for bringing it up.

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