Let’s face it: lots of us were drawn to the “prepper movement” because of, well, the romance of the possibilities. The purity, the sheer glamour of testing one’s mettle against anything the world can throw at you. No Big Brother looking over your shoulder. No government taking what you worked hard for to give to someone who didn’t. A great reason to stock pantries and rifle magazines, loading the shelves with crates of ammo and freeze dried food, huge containers of water. You and you alone are 100% responsible for what happens to you. I’ll admit, it definitely has a primal allure!
But one of the most overlooked things I see when people get ready (probably because it is far less romantic that geeking out over gear) for that big apocalyptic event is sanitation and waste disposal…specifically human waste disposal. For those of us here in the sticks, it’s not nearly the looming disaster that it will be for those of you in urban areas, living in multi-story apartment buildings, or even suburban layouts. But after a few days, we all end up in the same pot (no pun intended): I don’t care how many bullets the magazine in your multi-thousand dollar tricked out AK-47 holds; shooting your shitter ain’t gonna help when it fills up and you have no way to flush it, chief.
So a great, region-wide event occurs. In the big city, the power grid is down. City water no longer flows. It’s the middle of summer. People have no AC, no running water to wash the sweat off their worried brows. People are dealing the best they can at first, but basic needs and instincts kick in. The toilets everywhere very quickly fill up with no water to flush them. Once the toilets fill, the urinals fill up. Then the sinks and bathtubs. Within three days, any toilet in an urban area is overflowing with feces, festering and fly-covered in the sweltering summer heat. The stench and sanitary conditions are repulsive, and people start migrating out of their comfort zones to do their business. Closets, corners, alleys, dumpsters, even vacant cars are quickly turned into makeshift bathrooms. Humans, knowing deep down that water equals sanitation, relieve themselves near public water ways, park ponds. Within two weeks, by my best guess, a large city with no running water or sanitation facilities, and no paid public employees to clean them up, will become a giant cesspool of filth, sickness and disease, largely because that little porcelain doohickey in your bathroom won’t flush. People start heading into the surrounding areas to get away from the spectacle, and then the people in rural areas start feeling the pressure. So what can you do to protect yourself from the basic issue? This isn’t something you can overlook.
The easiest way to counteract the immediate issue is water. Lots and lots and lots of water. If you live in a home with a septic tank, you’re made in the shade, more or less…IF you have a steady supply of water, like a nearby pond or river. Once your toilet is full (don’t let it go too long, or it will clog), you can take a bucket of water and either full the back tank on the toilet until it engages the float, then flush, or you can simply dump water in the bowl until suction occurs, and the toilet will flush on its own. This system is a luxury, though, and can’t be counted on. Luckily, gray or non-potable water can be used for this task, but count on a couple gallons per flush. If you have a city septic system or sewer, try to ensure the system is still functioning and not clogged. If it’s not, then you can use the water-filling method with your toilet. If it IS clogged, sewage could back up, causing big time problems.
If you don’t live in a home with a septic tank, you have some planning to do. Not only do you have to supply a way to get rid of the waste from the immediate area, you will have to deal with the fact that you will have to deal with the possibility of built-up waste and smell from others around you (say, if you live in apartment building). YOU may have a way, however basic or complicated, of dealing with the issue, but those around you who did not plan ahead will possibly make the area unbearable to be in. Keep that in mind and have a second location to go to if necessary.
If you plan on bugging in during a long-term event, a nice, simple portable toilet is a 5-gallon bucket. It’s not extravagant, but if you line it with trash bags or some other catching system it works surprisingly well. I find that the plastic bags that grocery stores use to pack your groceries in can work OK…just check them for holes first! They usually have “handle” holes built into them, which you can run 2×4′s through to keep them in place while acting as a makeshift toilet seat. Once you’re done with your business, pull the bag out, tie it up using the handles, (it won’t be airtight) and dispose of it elsewhere (preferably outside if possible.) If you line the 5-gallon bucket with a heavy-duty trash bag, you can use it multiple times; just be sure to sprinkle wood ash, kitty litter, or even dirt over the waste between uses to keep the smell down and the flies and other vermin out of it. I’d probably try not to urinate in this bucket and keep it solid-waste only, just in the off chance you utilize the bucket for other uses that might require some degree of cleanliness. This toilet system is dirt cheap and very portable. You can also line your (emptied) existing toilet (if you have a really good magazine rack by it, say) with a trash bag and use it the same way. Having a disinfecting spray made up of bleach and water will keep things sanitary and knock the smell down too.
If you live in a rural area with some real estate around you (and hopefully privacy), you can dig cat-holes. These are basically one-time use holes, preferably around a foot deep, where you can leave your business behind after you bury it. Or, if you’re staying where you are and you’re pretty sure it’s permanent, you can dig a latrine (a large, deep trench in the ground) or even build an outhouse if you have materials. The really big thing to watch for with these ground-dependent receptacles is proximity to drinking water. If you’re pulling water from a well, keep your waste 100 yards or further away. Bacteria will get in your drinking water, and I’m sure in a serious SHTF event, you won’t want to get sick.
They also sell completely non-electric, non-water dependent composting toilets for the prepper with a few bucks. These convert poo into usable compost, supposedly, though I’d do my research first before I bought one, and make sure that it’s right for your conditions. Chemical toilets may work OK too, but they need to be flushed and re-filled with chemicals to work properly…and who needs another thing to stock up on?
Speaking of stocking up, toilet paper, toilet paper, toilet paper! I’m pretty sure my wife would rather die than have to wipe her bum with a series of nature’s own leaves. Yes, it’s bulky, but TP provides a level of comfort that’s hard to parallel. Have you ever cleaned your backside with leaves? Any serious prepper should go out and try it sometime…yeah, you heard me. When you get done reading this, go take a crap in the woods, back to a nice sturdy tree, and wipe up with green leaves. (Dead leaves break and crumble, with obvious consequences.) You will immediately go buy stock in Charmin. Trust me on this one…I know frontiersmen and explorers cleaned up with leaves for millenia, but we have the technology…put that little bit of SHTF romance behind you (hah! I kill me!) for as long as you can. It would also pay off to research poison ivy, oak, and sumac to know what NOT to contact your derriere with. Nobody wants to fight the zombie horde with an itchy nether region.
Hand sanitizers, antibactetrial soaps, and disinfectants should be kept on hand for obvious reasons. Stock up…staying clean means staying healthy. And while you’re at it, keep things as fly- and vermin-free as possible. Flies have no problem walking around in poo then stamping around happily on your next meal…the more you can keep that sort of thing OUT, the healthier you will be as well.
What did I miss? THere must be a million ways to handle this subject; I just touched on the matter at hand. What do you have planned to dispose of solid human waste once the SHTF?