Preps and Practice- Part 2, by ArmedSafety

In A Disaster, Remember To Listen To Your Body

If you ever find yourself in a disaster recovery situation, keep in mind to “listen to your body”. Whether you ride out a storm or evacuate and come back later, guess what? The mess will be there. August and September in south Texas aren’t fun for anyone that must work outside. Those that do work daily in the heat and oppressive humidity get somewhat acclimated to it. Others may have an inside job and spend very little time in the heat. The clean-up seems daunting at first, but always be sure you listen to what your body says. Take it easy. The debris isn’t going anywhere; trust me. Take breaks when needed, work at a steady slower pace, cool down when it’s necessary, and wear the proper clothing and sunscreen. It’s no fun having a sunburn on top of everything else.

Electrolyte Replacement Drinks and Pickle Juice

Electrolyte replacement drinks are invaluable in an austere environment when physical labor is required. Drinks like Gatorade or Powerade work well, but care must be taken not to drink too many in a day. There is a lot of sugar in those drinks, and when you have too many, diarrhea will ensue. This completely goes against everything you are trying to accomplish by drinking those drinks. A good rule of thumb is to use the 4:1 ratio. For every four waters (say 20 oz bottles) have one of those sports drinks. (I like the 12 oz versions). Don’t shy away from those drinks with sugar in them either, but use them in moderation. Most of the sports drinks are making a “lighter” version using artificial sweeteners.

Do a quick Google search on artificial sweeteners and see if they are what you really want to use. (I wouldn’t.) Another great product I found that works wonders when you get a little overheated is pickle juice. I’ve used both the pickle juice that pickles come packed in as well as drinks made by “The Pickle Juice Company”. Both work well, but the latter goes down a little smoother. One of the first signs of overheating is muscle cramps. If you take a break and drink one of these pickle juices at the onset, and cramping will go away within about 10 minutes normally.

Other environmental factors will require different ways to work in them. Know what and how to do it before you are thrust into a situation where you have to do it.

No Major Damage To Home

We were blessed in the fact that we didn’t have any major damage to our home. A few shingles were gone, our wooden fence was down, and an outdoor light was mangled. Cleanup was quick at our house. Now our goal was to survive with no city power, no city water, and worst of all no sewer. The power really didn’t faze any of us. We had a generator, plenty of flashlights (with a load of extra batteries), hurricane oil lamps, and a camp stove. My house now is all electric (which, again, I know is not good for SHTF), so cooking would have to be done the old-fashioned way.

Duel Fuel/White Gas Camp Stove

When I purchased this camp stove many years ago, I opted to go for the white gas (Coleman fuel) model instead of the propane burners (Editors Note: You can turn a dual fuel stove into a tri-fuel stove with this adapter from Stansport. You can then use the one pound propane canisters as well, or with the addition of a hose, use a 20lb propane tank – We have used ours for over 10 years). I did this for a couple of reasons:

  • First, those little propane bottles can be hard to find at certain times of the year, depending on geographical location. White gas is usually easily accessible. And the model I got is a duel fuel stove, so in a pinch I can run gasoline to cook up some grub. I have never had to use gasoline in mine, but I can speak of the white gas. Compared to the propane models (I’ve had both over the years), I get much more cook time using white gas. A full tank will go for a very long time.
  • Lastly, I like the nostalgia of pumping up the little tank. It reminds me of when I was very young starting out in the Cub Scouts and then moving up to the Boy Scouts. If we weren’t cooking over an open fire pit, we were pumping up the little tank on one of these stoves. So lack of power was not really an issue.

Water, It Goes Quickly

Water, though, is one of those pesky little things you need to keep on kicking. I felt I had a handle on the water. Under beds, back of closets, and when all else fails just stick it against a wall somewhere. I have no idea how much water I started with, but let me tell you water goes quick. They suggest one gallon of water per day per person. This may work if really rationed out, but in real life the water goes quick. The oppressive heat caused most of it to be used internally, but there is also a fair amount of water used for cooking and cleaning.

If I had it to do all over again (and living on the coast I’ll probably have another chance), I would suggest getting one of the tanks that you stick in the bathtub and fill up before a disaster strikes. It comes with a built-in hand pump and holds about 100-gallons of fresh water for your enjoyment. (I’ve got one on the way.) I would probably get some odd glares if I had one of my bathtubs occupied by a 100-gallon water tote year-round, but I guess you could do it. The thing with a hurricane is, you know it’s coming days before it gets to you. In my situation, I can just have one handy and fill it up before the water is shut off. Some other disasters don’t have the “last minute” prep time. Again, prep accordingly.

Backup Water Plan

Water wasn’t an issue for us for the two weeks it was either shut off or under boil order, but if it had lasted longer, it very well could have been. I did have a backup for this potential situation as well though. A few years ago, I purchased a Sawyer mini water filtration kit for everyone in my family. They work much like a Lifestraw, but there are more bells and whistles with the Sawyer. The Sawyer is as good or better in most cases as far as filtering out the bad stuff. The two cost about the same, but the Sawyer is more versatile. I have tried mine but not in really bad water, and I didn’t have the opportunity to try it during this hurricane.

So food and water weren’t the issue, but what goes in must come out. This was the biggest hurdle to overcome.

Biggest Hurdle- Managing Without Sewer System

The sewer system for the city had been shut off with no timeframe for when it would be back on. Great. I’m not much more than a shade-tree plumber, but I know the two basic rules: “It” runs downhill, and don’t bite your fingernails. Most city systems, unless the grade is just perfect, have lift stations strategically placed around town to pump the waste to the waste treatment plant. Aransas Pass is no different. So, in theory, if you lived in the right place, the sewer line from your house may run directly to the treatment plant, but more than likely it does not. With no electricity to power the lift station and if people keep flushing and the lift station fills up, “it” is going back from whence it came.

Our Toilet Solution

We decided not to tempt fate and instead use a bucket with plastic bags. (We double bagged and then double bagged again.) Sitting on a bucket to do my business is not in the least fun. I began thinking for an alternative that would be more like using the toilet.

Why not just use the toilet, not to its full potential of course? I started by removing any water that was left in the bowl. I then placed a contractor-grade trash bag in the bowl and set the seat back down. We placed a generous portion of kitty litter, which was widely available at the stores in the area once they opened back up, in the bottom of the bag. With this, you were ready to do your business. Once done, sprinkle more litter and a few sprays of bleach, and done.

While it wasn’t the most pleasant smell, the litter-bleach combo did wonders to keep the smell down. Then after a few “deposits”, the bag could be removed and taken for disposal.

Biggest Prepping Mistake

After several days of being home, I realized my biggest mistake in prepping. I was the only one who knew how most of the tools and gadgets worked. My job site was shut down, due to damage incurred from the storm. The company that I work for has multiple locations around the country, and they called to send me somewhere else. This was good for a paycheck, but it was not so good for my girls at home.

I was going to have to leave them to take care of everything while I was gone and hope for the best. My wife has always been supportive in my prepping but has shown little interest in how these preps will help us. I just assumed that I would always be there when SHTF. Yet, with one phone call, I was not going to be there.

I spent the day before I left giving them a crash course in how to do stuff. Thankfully, while I was away, no looters tried to break in, the food and water held out, and the electricity was back on 4-5 days after I left, followed shortly by the water (although still under a boil order for a week or so).

Final Thoughts

So my final thought on this disaster area survival is to have the tools needed to survive for several weeks. Food, water, shelter, and protection are the necessities. Know how to use what you have, and have a backup plan for when that doesn’t work. Teach those around you how to do it. Get everyone involved in every step from canning food, using a camp stove, making a toilet, shooting a gun, and every other step.

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been another entry for Round 73 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

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Round 73 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. RE: Preps and Practice Part 2
    Unfortunately there is an additional problem to be considered with the municipal sewer system should there be an extended power outage. If you happen to be closer to the bottom of the hill near the lift station and you have neighbors up on the top of the hill merrily flushing away, “It ain’t going back from whence it came.” As a matter of fact, their waste is probably going to come back up in your bathtub. You need to have some method of blocking off the sewer line from the street. Something maybe like this.

    1. The above comment is very true and smart. Not only for neighborhoods, but for high rises or multi story condos as well. The sewage will back up eventually – esp if the uphill homes have access to water.
      For those who don’t want to spend 25 bucks for the above linked inflatable device, a small nerf football – available at walmart or the like for a few bucks, can be shoved down a homes’ main sewer line via the “cleanout” access. Best to properly wrap it in something that will allow it to be removed – even if it’s just an old synthetic t-shirt

  2. I can tell you from experience having to use a bucket
    for a toilet is not very great. Two years ago before Christmas we had trouble with our septic tank line plugged up. I tried most of the after market remedies- none worked. I determined the line had a major blockage.My wife ask me what will we do? I when out to the garage and returned with a 5 gal. bucket with the snap on lid and seat. After the second day it got really bad.Three days later the plumber made it back home, as it was over Christmas. As we live in a small town 50 miles from a good size town. He fixed it in a couple of hours as we had a blockage.
    I have most everything on the farm in the way of equipment to do most jobs, but nothing to unplug a septic tank blockage.
    Mt wife and daughter told me no matter the cost get us something that is better than a “Bucket”.
    I found a composting toilet. Check out “Nature’s Head “. It’s great and there is no smell.
    Good Luck, – The Gman

  3. you could save sawdust from your construction work to have a less offensive odor than cat litter and bleach.the pine odor should be more pleasant. toilet seats specifically for buckets are available. if you dispose of double bagged human waste in landfill you are taking something easily composted and encapsulating it for a long time. please dispose with this in mind. thanks for sharing your experience. i too need to educate others at home as some things are known only by myself. thanks again. this comment is only intended to help .

  4. A good solution to the p & poo issue is a porta potty. We have been using them for years when camping. 2 reside in our basement at the moment with a dozen packets of chemicals for them. There is no smell to deal with and you only need to dig a hole to dump them in and bury the waste, if your sewer is working at all or you are on a septic just dump them down the old potty. It will bio degrade in time. The other thing is guys pee in the back yard or the woods.

    The Porta Potties use only a little water per use and are more comfortable than a bucket. I bought mine at garage sales and have about $20 each invested. I have seen them on sale for about $70, new. Being married I consider this a very good investment for the comfort of my wife, and a good solution for temporary needs.

  5. One other tip….pee tubes. Get a 4 to 8 inch diameter pipe, dig a hole the diameter of the pipe in a discrete location, insert pipe into hole. Pee into pipe. We did this quite a bit in Kunar province at our FOBs where water was limited. Second big tip….ALWAYS enforce hand washing/sanitizing. ..or else everyone with you will get the poo squirts and you get sanitation crises.

    One prep item for any groups is a couple boxes of food service gloves. Never allow anyone to touch your food between the stove and your mouth without them. Cooks should wash of course… but others who wipe, and then come to eat, are always present.

    And it’s sadly amazing at the number of men you see who never wash their hands before leaving the men’s room. It’s more than 50 percent.

    Think about your next lovely episode of stomach flu and it’s ‘pleasurable pains’ and you’ll understand how important it is to up your game.

    Some forms of cholera in Kansas in the late 1800s killed within 48 hours according to witnesses.

    Stay clean and God Bless.

  6. Concerning the use of “sports drinks;” they also contain a TON of salt.

    In my younger days, I engaged in “fast recreational cycling.” We carried several water bottles, and used Gatorade in powdered form. The first bottle was mixed full strength. The second was mixed half-strength, and the third, half that of the second. Any other bottles would be straight water. Which bottle was grabbed depended on what we thought was needed. It’s easy, actually. If you drink full strength sports drinks and they taste “heavy,” or don’t quench your thirst, it’s straight water that you actually need. If you go for straight water, and it doesn’t quench your thirst, the sports drink is what you need.

    By the way; powdered Gatorade stored indefinitely, and also stores “smaller…”

  7. For water Emergency essentials sells 160 gallon water tanks that I’ve found to be pretty handy. I got two, which I figured was enough water for a month or so at 2.5 gallons a day per person at 4 people.

    Also, some 5 gallon stackables water jugs are handy.

  8. Some years ago I purchased a honey bucket and installed a rv hose connection off the bottom of it. Mounted it on wheels for portability and i move it to the septic tank and hook it up. Do all the business you want and then flush into the tank when done. I spray painted mine in camo colors.

  9. I enjoyed your article and learned some useful things. Always enjoy the actual experiences of trials. I would not recomend pickle juice for hydration except in very small amounts due to high amounts of salt. It will add to your thirst.

  10. As a replacement for the “Kitty Litter” in the toilet solution, you might run a test using Equine Pine Bedding Pellets. Far less expensive and tends to absorb odor better than the kitty litter.

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