I’ve been doing some research on the early migration into the US western territories and was amazed to read about the large numbers of pioneers that died on their way out west due to cholera and other sicknesses brought on by poor sanitation. These were healthy people that KNEW how to stay clean and apparently had no problem doing so up until they hit the trail in large groups. I wasn’t planning to write a basic hygiene article since it seemed like it was common knowledge but reading about the western settlers and, more recently, the cholera epidemic in Haiti changed my mind.
We’ve all heard or read about living conditions immediately after an earthquake or flood and, in my opinion,it is cause for concern. Our cities, suburbs and apartment complexes could turn into a festering mess in a very short amount of time. Here is what we’ve done to prepare ourselves for less-than-sanitary conditions.
We recently had our septic system fail which forced us to “hook” our home’s wastewater into our city’s sewer system. I’m not sure at what point a long term power outage would cause our sewer to stop working. Thankfully, we are sitting at one of the highest points in the area so our sewer should be one the last sections to be unusable.
Our secondary plan is to convert one of our smaller outbuildings into an outhouse. I estimate that we could make the conversion in less than a day and we always have the necessary materials on hand.
Our area doesn’t flood regularly but we do get a pretty good amount of springtime rain that saturates the ground and sometimes causes the septic systems that are still in our area to “slow”. We don’t have many neighbors using their old septic sytems anymore but we’ll be sure to let the oldtimers know that they are welcome to use our facilities if necessary.
There’s no shortage of survival water articles and videos so I won’t be getting into our basic water collection and storage methods. We will also ONLY be collecting and reusing the gray-water that our home produces for toilet flushing or garden irrigation. I am cautious around any “used” water and see it as the most probable source of illness.
Showering outside is our most likely option for cleaning ourselves, definitely in the warmer months anyway. We have a shower stall in our basement that can be quickly and easily re-plumbed for gravity feed. One family in our group uses the Solar Shower and highly recommends it. I’ve thought many times that a similar system could be placed in the hot attic of one of our outbuildings. Also, some folks I know keep a hand-operated portable spray tank on hand for mobile showering.
Bar soap is cheap and easy to buy right now. We have several years worth on hand. While there’s no immediate need to know how to make soap, it is a good skill to acquire. A good friend of mine held a soap-making demonstration and workshop a couple years ago and I am very glad to have taken part in that. Since then I’ve been thinking of ways and places to save our wood ash for lye production.
Shampoo and deodorant: We don’t keep much of either in storage. My wife is probably more concerned about these items than I am.
Shaving supplies,: We made a single large bulk purchase several years ago. It is likely that we’ll never have to buy another razor in our lifetimes and our kids will probably be inheriting what’s left of them after we pass on.
Oral hygiene: We also made a bulk purchase of toothbrushes and have a good supply of toothpaste. Making our own homemade tooth powders is something that I’m currently researching.
Laundry and dish soap: This is another item that we tend to buy in bulk when we can catch a sale. We generally use liquid and try to keep at least a year’s worth in storage. Additionally, we have found the bulk powder laundry soap sold at the warehouse stores is a good option. It is sold in 5 gallon buckets and stores well.
BLEACH, BLEACH and more BLEACH… we take advantage of the end-of-summer sales and buy the pool chlorine in cake or powder form. It can be converted to a liquid bleach concentrate (CAUTION) and then MUST be diluted further for using around the house.