Dealing With Death After The SHTF

Life and it’s counterpart Death have been on my mind lately. (When they can compete against the thoughts of food.) Death presents some interesting challenges, depending on the type of SHTF event that you’re dealing with.

How prepared are you for death?

Let’s look at a few scenarios. An epidemic, a large earthquake, and the absolutely certain.

An Epidemic –  Doesn’t matter what the disease is. The hospitals have enough beds for the first what, 300? 500? Maybe the first 1000 if you’re at a large hospital.  Eventually families will just have to deal with the dead and dying on their own.  Having enough medical supplies to comfortably house and care for the sick and the dying takes more than any grocery store first aid kit will supply. I’m thinking you should know how to make and administer oral rehydration solutions.   As long as you store sugar and salt, you can make your own. You should have sufficient masks for a 2 week (or more) quarantine. (Rangerman’s recommendation) And you’ll need a way to clean and sanitize LOTS of laundry. Your community would need a place to bury all the victims to avoid recirculating the disease.  If funeral homes shut down due to illness themselves, or from excess demand, the public will have to familiarize themselves quickly about the realities and responsibilities of dealing with their death.

A Large Earthquake –  The midwest is due for one, the San Andreas is due for one, it could happen. Hospital and funeral homes and morgues, all would be in the same danger as every other structure during an earthquake.  Victims would be hard to find if there was enough rubble.  The immediate need would be to tally the dead, so that you can account for the living. No sense in assuming someone is dead, if in fact they are alive and in need of help.  Tied in with this is the identification of the dead. Tatoos, piercings, scars, these can all help with identification if dental records can’t be had. Knowledge of tourniquets, pressure bandages, head injury care and bone splinting would all come in handy. Again, that pre-made first aid kit isn’t going to cut it for long.

Everybody Dies – It doesn’t even take an earthquake or epidemic, it’s just going to happen. Have you discussed with your family what you want done when you die? Do you want to spend your hard earned money on chemicals to preserve your remains? How about a hermetically sealed box made of metal and plastic? That’s what the average $12-15K that most Americans spend on funerals will get you. Then your body full of it’s poisons, safely in it’s super-fund box, gets crammed into a landfill full of other poison filled corpses. It’s not cheap and it takes a certain amount of energy and infrastructure.
There are other options of course, but most require a bit of pre-planning on your part as well as the willingness to convey your wishes to those you’ll leave behind. Cremation is an option, coupled with a fabric shroud or unfinished wood box, it’s quite a bit easier to arrange. It’s also an order of magnitude cheaper.
And then there’s the old standby shovel + hole = burial. You might not think it, but 43 out of 50 states preserve families’ rights to bury their own dead, including Iowa. There’s paperwork to get done, if you’re really doing things DIY.
But families in seven states (CT, IN, LA, MI, NE, NY, UT) face legal obstacles. Astonishingly, those states have seen fit to require families to engage a funeral home for everything from filing the death certificate, to transporting the casket, to getting the body released from the hospital. Whether the family wants to hire a funeral director or not, whether they can afford to pay one or not.

Talk to your family about your wishes, make some arrangements, double check that your beneficiaries on policies and savings accounts are all correct. Make sure your spouse knows how to log into the joint checking accounts and access loan agreements and medical information.

A selection of links to get you thinking in the right directions.

Home Burials in Vermont – A Guide From the Health Department – A very helpful guide to the necessary paperwork families must complete if they choose a home funeral. Josh Slocum of FCA, and Lisa Carlson of the Funeral Ethics Organization, co-wrote and edited portions of the guide in cooperation with the state of Vermont.

California Consumer Guide to Funeral and Cemetery Purchases – A plain-language guide to funeral consumer rights under California law, including instructions for home-funeral families.

Kansas Board of Mortuary Arts FAQ – a quick rundown of funeral consumer options, with brief instructions on legal requirements for home funerals.

– Calamity Jane

6 comments… add one
  • Spook45 March 22, 2012, 8:53 am

    Dig a hole, as deep as possible, cover it up. Fill in the hole.

  • Jason March 22, 2012, 10:09 am

    Quite an unusual thing to contemplate ….

    When I am dead I will not care what they do with me – filling me with poisons won’t hurt me, tossing me into the incinerator isn’t a worry either because I am dead.

    However, I think the real subject is what’s next ….

    The only worry while your alive is what’s next – Heaven or separation from God forever. Maybe you believe He doesn’t exist or shake your fist at the unfairness of a cosmic meanie as you deem it or you believe you reincarnate to some other form or person or …. no matter – when you die, you’ve already made your choice & there is NO changing it.

    So why not prepare for eternity – it’s a whole heck of a lot longer than our our invisible spot on the timeline.

    Some people are willing to bet their entire eternity that God is wrong or doesn’t exist – not me, I am not that brave.

  • J March 22, 2012, 1:49 pm

    I used to think it was a wonderful idea to offer coffins that were simply made of heavy walled PVC – like a giant tube, maybe three feet across and threaded on each end – into which ones’ departed loved one could be slid, and which could them be sealed, perhaps with a mild vacuum or filled with an inert gas – which would preserve and protect the body, for those who feel that is important; take up less space, as they could be buried almost touching one another, or even vertically if the bodies were held in place – they would last for centuries and be extremely inexpensive. Some people thought it sounded barbaric but for whatever reason, i could never seem to get anyone interested in it as a project.

  • Djinnter March 22, 2012, 2:19 pm

    I would like to point out that the M95 masks are useless for people trying to protect themselves from the flu. They are worn by surgical doctors to prevent the spread of the surgeon’s germs and not the patients. The seal on the M95 is mediocre at best. Most emergency responders are recommending a p-100 respirator for protection from particulates.

  • Ranger Man March 22, 2012, 4:37 pm


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