Lets say you just got home successfully with your 72 Hour Bag on your back and everyone is safe because you adequately prepared for a disaster. The infrastructure is compromised but it is’t Mad Max and you know in time things will begin to get back to normal. Authorities are saying it could be 15 days before power and water are restored. Until then you’re on your own. No city water, sewage or power. What are the priorities now?
Aside from keeping you and your family safe, one of the biggest priorities should be sanitation. This is one major thing people will over look and it will come back and bite them on the ass every time. The biggest reason for this is we live in a country where sanitation isn’t a big deal. Often we don’t even think about it. We don’t have to deal with garbage on the side of the road, disease spreading animals and insects the same way third world countries have to. Our bodies have been removed from most pathogens which cause disease routinely killing a huge percentage of people around the globe every year. This makes us all the more vulnerable. That is why setting up sanitation zones in a disaster is a priority.
I’ll talk about the two most important zones when creating sanitary conditions during a disaster. Your Kitchen and your Bathroom. The first we’ll talk about today and the other we’ll address in my next post – making part II (get it?).
The kitchen should be a secure perimeter which only allows one or two people enter – never let the kids free reign to wander in to the kitchen, they must ask for food and an adult should get it for them. The reason is the quickest way bacteria and infection can spread is through unsanitary cooking conditions. And once disease enters the kitchen it runs rampant through the entire food stock. After that people become sick, get diarrhea, become dehydrated and then quite possibly during emergency conditions die. It happens all over the world daily – yet people in America don’t even think of it because the conditions here very seldom if ever get so bad. But in a natural disaster they can, and will…easily.
How to set up your safe zone secured kitchen. Choose an area which has natural boundaries, along a fence, up against a structure. Create barriers with objects, coolers, benches – what ever it takes to have one entrance. At the entrance have a sanitation station – no one goes in without first washing their hands with soap and water and then rinsing off in a bleach water solution. It should be 5-6% Bleach. A good rule of thumb is if it doesn’t smell like chlorine then add more bleach, it’s better to over sanitize in these circumstances than under sanitize. After washing and rinsing off use a squirt of hand sanitizer – the hand sanitizer should be able to be rubbed in your hands for 30 seconds, less than that and you need to use more. Longer than that and you should use less the next time. Once you’re in the kitchen create work spaces, use the same rules which apply to cooking in the kitchen. Try to set up a workflow triangle and make it as efficient as possible. If you’ve ever been backpacking in the back country then you know how exhausting it can be when you forget something back at your tent or you have to make three trips to do one thing.
Eventually you’re going to run out of paper plates and you’re going to have to wash dishes and the pots and pans you’re cooking in. Make a dish washing area and use a four bucket system. Bucket one for rinsing off debris, Bucket two is to wash with soap and fresh potable water (do not use a sponge to wash dishes, sponges are a breeding ground for bacteria! Use a cloth which can then be washed and sanitized after each use). Use Bucket three to rinse cookware filled with plain potable water and use a fourth bucket for a final sanitizer rinse. For the final sanitizer rinse use one part bleach to ten parts water. After you sanitize the pots, pans and dishes let them air dry. Using a towel and going from dish to dish is a sure way to spread what ever bacteria is on the towel to each and every item you just painfully sanitized. If you are short on water condense this system and try to wash everything quickly so you use less water in the process.
In your kitchen design dig two holes, one for grey water and one hole for composting. These two holes should be a good distance away from the kitchen but convenient enough to wash your dishes. As you add waste to the compost bin spread soil over the contents to minimize the amount of flies which can get to the scraps.
When preparing food remember that you as the cook have the ability to get your entire family sick so take your time and sanitize everything. After the meal is prepared serve people from the container in which it was cooked to prevent putting the cooked food into a container which has been compromised by bacteria. When serving the food have people hold their bowls or plates close to the pot but not in a manner so that if some spills out it will spill back into the pot in which it was cooked. This will cause cross contamination, let it fall to the ground. When the meal is done and the dishes have been washed and sanitized, use the sanitization solution to wash down the dining surface. Try to avoid eating on the ground. Fashion some sort of table which is off limits for anything but meals.
Creating these zones will pay off in the long run. The biggest battle will be trying to modify the family’s behavior. They are used to wandering into the kitchen and grabbing a snack whenever they want. In a crisis because of food rationing and sanitation this has to be controlled.