Letter Re: Sanitation–It Takes Picks and Shovels

Hi James,

Since I returned from Haiti, I have given a lot of thought about the field sanitation problems that would occur when the Golden Horde after a disaster starts entering an area to set up camps. I live in a pretty remote area that would be attractive to people leaving larger communities. This area is one where hunting and winter snowmobiling is popular.

What can be envisioned is people who can make it this far, who are familiar with the few water resources, and the limited game would probably wind up. There is also a national wildlife preserve nearby that would be attractive to people desiring to live off of the bounty of nature, and of course forget about any Federal laws protecting that preserve. A group of ham radio operators in the region are also concerned. Some are prepared and fully expecting a disaster, We are planning in advance because we know there will be some form of disaster eventually. Lets face it: Words like, Indonesia, Katrina, Haiti, and Chile should really keep people in the preparedness mode. Disasters happen!

Personally, I have become very focused on field sanitation the past couple of weeks. I believe that having some extra shovels, picks, digging bars around, and making up some basic booklets or fliers on how and where to dig latrines will be in my preparedness larder. I fully expect when something happens here that I should expect what could become a health problem to be created by people, who have no idea how to survive, and thrive in the out door environment.

The Boy Scouts program isn’t as popular as is was 50 years ago. Most people in today’s society are totally unprepared on how to properly be safe and sanitary in the outdoor environment, unless there is a plastic Porta-potty parked there to use. And somehow magically gets pumped out and cleaned every few days by the person who has the nastiest job in the country, who by no mistake is pretty well paid by their employers to take on such a job.

Methinks it to be very prudent to take on an extra responsibility, to have extra preparations for this eventuality. To ensure that disease doesn’t become something that could and would cause extreme discomfort and even death to wipe out a community.

I know I am not in the best place for a Rawlesian retreat, but this is where the Lord planted me. He did it for a reason, always does. I believe facing this in a prepared and focused way will possibly prevent a second disaster, Like the one we will soon see raising its ugly head in a few more weeks in Haiti, and has already started unfortunately.

Latrines are something that has been neglected in the camps in Haiti, They will not be neglected where I live, if I have anything to say and can do about it. I am also going to start building some portaloos out of five gallon bucket, and buying some seats to attach to the portaloos, filling them with toilet paper (TP) and handy wipes, baby wipes. etc just to have on hand for this possible event. They will be part of my charitable offerings to those people I would encounter in my area of operations (AO).

Something to remember when digging a latrine, is to always keep it a minimum of 100 feet away from any wells, or surface water sources. They should be at least three feed deep, a foot wide, and four feet long to accommodate about ten people. they should have a shovel there to use in order to pitch in a little dirt after each use. When the latrine has only about 18 inches of depth left, then it should be filled in, and a fresh one dug for another cycle of use.

In the Army, our units built plywood four holers with toilet seats installed. the units were hinged and latched so that they could fold up and could be used over again, they had rigging on the sides so four men could pick them up with two long poles, and move them easily to the next location. Since I was in the Signal Corps, we had females in the units too. thus two units for each company were made. I think that having separate men’s and women’s latrines will be very necessary, along with privacy screening made out of tarps.

Keep in mind that people will congregate, for safety and community. Being a loner isn’t practical or prudent. So if your in an area like me, if possible think ahead, and have a plan ahead of time. Thus, when the problem raises it’s ugly head, all of the possibilities are addressed.

There are military field sanitation manuals available online. Extract the pages that would be thought most useful in your situations and make some basic copies. Then place them in a large plastic bag and keep them available in your preparedness larder.

Portaloos are fairly cheap and easy to build, a bottle of bleach and a toilet brush would also be a good addition for them too.
These can be useful for people living in tents, they are easy to transport to a latrine and cleaned out for further use. the cleaning is fairly easy. To fasten the toilet seat on for easy removal, install two long 1/4-20 bolts with washers and nuts holding the bolts in place with the ends pointed out. Install the seat using large flat washers and wing nuts. It will make it easier to remove the seat for transport, emptying ,and cleaning. Storing the cleaning supplies and TP inside the unit with the standard bucket cover is more convenient. Home Depot has orange [non-food grade] HDPE buckets available fairly inexpensively. I think a trip there or other similar store one can purchase everything needed to outfit a portaloo for about thirty dollars or so. Blessings and peace of mind in preparedness. – Dave M. in Oregon (A Blessings For Obedience World Missionary Radio volunteer)