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Sanitation SOS: How to Maintain Safe Sanitation in Emergencies

Your health depends on proper sanitation. During natural disasters and intense emergencies, people lack proper waste disposal methods and infectious diseases quickly spread. The microorganisms contained in human waste can easily enter—and damage—the body through contaminated water and food.

In most emergencies, diarrhea, typhoid and cholera spread throughout cities and nations and, when a population who is already under strain contracts an infectious disease, mass sickness and death begin to occur. Unfortunately, Alberta residents aren’t stranger to the damaging effects emergencies have on sanitation.

In early 2013, the Huffington Post Alberta stated, “changing weather patterns in Canada mean things are going to get rougher not better in the natural disasters front. The [Alberta] province already has an intimate history with disasters—natural and man-made—and . . . it’s going to get worse.”

Fortunately, there are things you can do to prepare yourself for emergency disasters and ensure you and your family remain safe, clean and sanitary.


When it comes to natural disasters and other emergencies, the old adage holds true: it’s better to be safe than sorry. While your city, town or province may never experience a major disaster, preparation is still key. Keep these basic supplies in your car, home storage space and safe room, or office:

  • Water (two-week supply; one gallon per person, per day)

  • Liquid chlorine bleach (contains no more than 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite)

  • Ammonia

  • Toilet paper

  • Cornstarch

  • Bath towels

  • Sanitary napkins

  • Liquid soap

  • Petroleum jelly

  • Insect repellent

  • Heavy-duty plastic bags

  • Twist ties

  • Portable camp toilet with tight fitting lid

  • Matches in waterproof container

  • Hand sanitizer

If you have easy access to these items during an emergency, you should be able to maintain sanitation and cleanliness.

A note on water: Commercially bottled water is the safest and most reliable emergency supply water. Purchase an ample amount (never open it before use) and store it in your safe space. Throw out and replace when you reach the “use by” date.

Apart from your store of commercially bottled water, there is no other safe water source in your home. Never drink water from your toilet, radiator, waterbed, swimming pool, or hot tub. During a natural disaster, you can only trust rainwater (don’t drink from streams, rivers, ponds, lakes or natural springs).

Practice Caution

If your province gets hit with a tornado, rock slide, flood, earthquake, or other disaster, practice caution. You never know what sewer or pipeline might burst and contaminate the water supply. Remember, only trust commercially bottled water and rainwater.

If you don’t have access to reliably safe drinking and/or bathing water for days, you can treat water through boiling and chlorination.

Boiling – As the easiest and safest water treatment method, boiling water doesn’t take much preparation. You need three things: water, matches and a pot. Once you have all three, light a fire, bring the water to a boil for one minute, and drink up.

Chlorination – If you intend to chlorinate your water, you need liquid chlorine bleach. Bleach will kill harmful bacteria and microorganisms in the water supply. Add 15 drops of bleach to every gallon of water, stir it and let it stand for 30-45 minutes. Smell the water—it will have a slight bleach odour when clean.

Both water treating methods generally kill most microorganisms and other contaminates, but it’s still wise to strain the water through a paper towel before consumption.

Although natural disasters often contaminate the water supply and lead to plumbing emergencies, our local plumbers will help you get back on track. Our plumbers have the knowledge required to survive a plumbing disaster and the tools to repair your home’s plumbing system. Contact our professional plumbers at EZ Plumbing for more information regarding plumbing and sanitation during emergencies.


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