FAMILY FORUM Shelter Sewage Solution

This material is from the encyclopedia S.O.S. (Systems of Survivai), the newsletter FORESIGHT, and the Civilian Survival Series "REFUGEE--U.S.A." by Richard E. Oster, Sr. and carries the same copyright as do these original publications--1986.
Journal of Civil Defense: June 1987 Page 29
--Richard E. Oster, Sr.

QUESTION: If you have a sheltered area in your house, with bathroom access, how do you dispose of waste products with no running sewer after a NUDET?

ANSWER: In most cases you will not have running water, electricity or a sewer system. In fact, your accessibile bathroom will function more as a water storage area than as a bathroom. If you have time you should fill the tub, bowls, commode tank, etc. with water. Disconnect the commode flush handle so it cannot accidentally be flushed. If any of the tub, sink etc. drains leak, cover the drain with a flat (no corrugations or ridges) piece of rubber, or other smooth material. (A good source is an old hot water bottle cut up.)

Waste management comes in two parts. The first is containment. Some people believe in chemical toilets, water and chemical recycle toilets and even composting toilets for a shelter. I do not because the waste is still "with you" in the shelter. Instead, I recommend that you get a low cost toilet that uses plastic bags (such as the portable John . . . by American Camper). Plastic bags are attached to a commode seat and stand and are sealed after use (be sure to seal loosely so the gas will not build up and rupture them). Use this scheme for both types of elimination (and the men must sit down to urinate . . . if you don't do this you will have a problem that is almost impossible to contend with in a closed shelter).

The plastic bags are then TEMPORARILY stored in a large garbage can. If a metal can is used line it with an old blanket (to keep sharp edges from cutting the large plastic bag you install in the can). Be sure you have a tight fitting lid. If the shelter has a good air supply you can use a little disinfectant spray in the Iarqe can. DON'T SPRAY IT ALL OVER THE SHELTER. This is the "containment phase."

The second phase is the disposal. Knowing an attack is probably coming (NOT very easy to find out) you need to dig a pit close enough to some shelter opening (the door) so you can throw the small plastic bags, containing the waste, into the pit. It should be several feet wide and several feet deep. (You could also rig a two pulley clothes line, with a dump line, so the bags could be transported over the pit but most would not go to this effort.) Mound the dirt up around the hole so rainwater will not run into the hole (if you have a 2" rain the hole will get 2 inches of water . . . without the mounding it could overflow from the runoff). Once a day, have your best quarterback throw the bags into the hole. If you had the foresight to make a push-pole (a long pole with a board across one end) you could also push a little dirt from the top of the mound into the hole each day, to cover the bags.

Incidentally, this is not new advice. Several thousand years ago, we find in Deuteronomy 23:12/13, these instructions to the people of that time: Each person is to have a spade as standard equipment. A toilet area, away from the encampment, was designated. Each person was to dig a hole at this location and after using it to fill it in with dirt.

Personal waste is not the only waste and sanitation problem in the shelter. You will also have spilled food to worry about. Not only will this encourage bacterial growth but it will send a signal to insects, snakes, frogs and what-have-you (maybe even bees and hornets!). You don't need this in your shelter.

NEVER open a container of food without putting a newspaper, cloth or something under it. In spite of all the best intentions it is all too easy to spill something, especially in the tense environment of a shelter. Keep all containers sealed. I find that coffee cans are excellent containers. You cannot leave food in cardboard boxes (such as cereal, sugar, etc.).

When you eat a meal make a newspaper tablecloth. This is better than a regular tablecloth as you can roll this one up (outside edges to center) and then discard it--into the garbage can and eventually into the pit.

Throwup (vomiting) is another problem and it is realistic to expect it in a shelter. Provide everyone with a personal bag for this and explain to them that it is not a sin to throw up but it is a sin to do it outside of the bag! Explain to them that the life of everyone in the shelter (including them) is at stake if sanitation is degraded too far.

Personal hygiene is all-important. Your skin is your body seal against germ invasion. If you don't keep it clean it will respond with rashes and sores. Take a light sponge bath each day (OVER NEWSPAPERS). Prewetted wipes are good for this. You can buy them in most drug stores and supermarkets. Some heat powder (corn starch is good) is also recommended.