Rothco camping toiletDisaster zone & emergency toilets

  • DISASTER ZONE TOILET GUIDE - CONTENTS: How to provide toilets for use in an emergency or disaster zone: flushing methods, toilet alternatives, plastic bags, buckets. How to flush existing toilets when there is no building electricity or water supply. How to make and use a makeshift or emergency toilet for use in an emergency or disaster zone. How to Test Whether or Not You Can Safely Flush Building Toilets After a Flood, Hurricane, Etc. Other emergency toilet options for use when your home or building have no power, water, etc. include these expedient methods
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about Toilets for use in an emergency or disaster zone: flushing methods, toilet alternatives, plastic bags, buckets, sanitation concerns
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Disaster zone toilet options:

This article describes how to make an emergency toilet in a disaster zone or how to flush existing toilets in an emergency. Emergency services needed in area of flood, hurricane, storm, & wind damage control & building inspection include ways to provide toilet facilities.

This article gives options including possible use of building toilets or various makeshift toilets and sanitary facilities that can be used if there are not other or no better toilet facilities available in an emergency or in a disaster zone such as following a flood, hurricane, or earthquake.

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Emergency Toilet Flush Methods, Disaster Zone Toilets, & Camping or Portable Toilets

Toilet with tank lid on seat(C) Daniel FriedmanQuestion: Disaster zone toilet guide - emergency toilet flushing procedure & alternatives - can I use lake water to flush toilets?

Post hurricane sandy question:

Can I use lake water to flush my toilets. We still have no power, heat or water in Stamford, Connecticut - S.D., Stamford CT 11/5/2012

Reply: Suggestions for emergency flush procedures for conventional toilets when heat, electricity, or water are not available

Here are some suggestions for & warnings about using lake water or other reasonably-clean water from other sources to flush toilets in an emergency.

In short, S.D. yes you can use lake water to flush a toilet. Rather than living with un-flushed toilets, you can use lake water, snow melt, rainwater collected at a downspout, etc. to flush conventional water type toilets (or urinals or bidets) in a building connected to a public sewer or private septic system. But be sure to read our warnings and procedures (next) that may help avoid a mess.

Watch out: If you know that your public sewer or private septic system is still flooded or under water, do not try flushing water type toilets in the building or you will probably find that the toilet will overflow into the building.

Watch out: even if your septic system is itself is no longer visibly flooded, nevertheless the septic tank may have become flooded, even filled with mud and silt, and the drainfield may still be saturated - meaning that there is still a significant risk of a sewage backup into your building when you try flushing a toilet. See SEPTIC SYSTEM FLOOD REPAIR for procedures for checking out and repairing a septic tank that has been flooded.

How to Test Whether or Not You Can Safely Flush Building Toilets After a Flood, Hurricane, Etc.

Flood waters rising at Wappingers Creek (C) Daniel FriedmanIf you are pretty sure your septic tank and fields are at least not under water, or that the public sewer is no longer under water and flooded, you can test the private or public sewer system to see if you can safely begin flushing toilets:

  1. Select water that is free of debris and is clean as you can (it does not have to be sanitary, clear lake water would be fine) - don't use water loaded with weeds or other trash to flush a toilet as you risk clogging the drain system.
  2. Test a lowest-floor sink or tub drainage first: try pouring a few gallons of clean lake water (no weeds etc) down a bath tub drain or sink drain on your lowest floor. If that drain doesn't back up and no water comes up in nearby drains (floor drains, sink, shower, tub), then
  3. Test a toilet on the lowest floor next: try flushing the lowest toilet in the building - you can fill the toilet tank to the fill line and then flush, or (messier) you can try pouring some water directly into the toilet bowl until it begins to flush. We chose a toilet on lowest floor to avoid the unpleasant surprise of flushing an upper floor toilet only to see the sewage boil up out of a lower floor toilet in the building.

Watch out: if you flush via the toilet tank and flush valve and the toilet starts to back up or overflow, quickly

Other emergency toilet options for use when your home or building have no power, water, etc. include these expedient methods for holding feces, toilet paper, and if necessary, urine

Rothco camping toilet

In the event that there are no public toilets or sanitary facilities working nearby or simply for convenience if there are those who need to make frequent use of an indoor toilet during an emergency, one of the disaster-toilet methods described below may work for you.

  1. Camping toilets or porta-potties: illustrated above and described in detail at at CAMPING & EMERGENCY TOILETS such as portable johns, port-a-potties if you can obtain one of these devices; if possible, also pick up some chemical deodorant to use if the type of portable toilet you can find makes use of such chemicals.
  2. Ammo box 30 cal used as an emergency toilet for camping or in a disaster zone
  3. Home made emergency toilet: any container, a plastic trash can, even a metal ammunition box (described in the article just above) can be used as an emergency toilet. Line the "toilet" with a plastic bag that can be closed and later carried to an appropriate waste disposal site.

    Exact details of using a small container as an emergency toilet can be read at How to of an army-surplus ammo box or ammunition can for an emergency field toilet.

    Watch out: Emergency toilet tip #1 - especially for children, elderly or disabled, if you are using a plastic-bag-lined bucket as an emergency toilet, it would be smart to locate it in a corner where there are railings or heavy furnishings that can assist people in sitting down and getting up off of the makeshift toilet.
  4. A plastic zip-lok or similar sealable bag can, with some care, be used to catch feces, toilet paper, as needed. Typically these are a one-use per person per bowel movement solution.

    After using, place the used toilet paper in the bag with the excrement. See our tip about bleach or disinfectant immediately below.

    Squeeze out excess air before closing the bag. In an emergency situation where you must make use of disposable bags to serve as a toilet, collect the bags in a larger plastic garbage bag, doubled if necessary for strength, in order to provide a sanitary means of later carrying the waste to a suitable disposal location. Do not dispose of waste by leaving it on the ground exposed to weather where runoff may contaminate public surfaces, streets, or nearby water sources.

    Definition of flying toilets: in some areas where people live in crowded urban conditions with no public sanitation (such as the Kiberia Slums, East Africa's largest informal settlement), the frequent use of plastic bags as emergency or even regular use toilets has led to the popular term flying toilets - a reference to the practice of tossing the plastic bag of waste into a nearby vacant lot or onto a nearby rooftop. [9]

    Watch out: Emergency toilet tip #2 - avoid burst or exploding sealed plastic bags of feces: seal the plastic bag after use as an emergency and store it in a cool dry place if possible, inside of a larger plastic trash bag to await proper disposal.

    If you have bleach or a similar disinfectant, mix your bleach as one part bleach to three parts water and pour a few tablespoons into the plastic bag before sealing it - this will reduce bacterial action and gas formation and might avoid a burst bag.

    Emergency toilet tip #2 - Provide a bucket of clean water and soap for washing hands, something that will be particularly appreciated if people have to try using a small plastic bag as a temporary toilet.


Continue reading at CAMPING & EMERGENCY USE TOILETS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see ALTERNATIVE & WATERLESS TOILETS for a discussion of camping toilets, chemical toilets, emergency-use toilets, waterless toilets, graywater systems, composting toilets, home health care toilets, incinerating toilets, outhouses, and latrines





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