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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Sanitation in an Emergency

 Sanitation in an Emergency

Sanitation is a hidden, deadly disaster that many people don’t recognize, understand or respect. In fact, dysentery is the #1 killer after a disaster. Normally we flush our toilets, and our trash is taken out every week. Our waste just disappears. In a major disaster, we will lose utilities, including sewer. What is going to happen when we have to deal with our own waste?

Health and life expectancy improved during the 20th century. Antibiotics generally get the credit, but credit largely goes to improved sanitation.

Watch videos below for information on a sanitation kit and how to handle waste.

Handling Human waste

Our city sewage plants operate on electricity. We can lose our sewage services because of storm damage, power outages and natural disasters that move the earth. Anytime the earth moves, in an earthquake for example, the pipes under the earth will break, leaving us without sewer services.

You can make your home toilet into a port-a-potty or dry toilet. Fecal matter is very dangerous. You must be prepared in advance. Practice and know how to handle the fecal matter and keep urine from mixing in. Keeping the solid and liquid wastes separate is important for disposal reasons, and because they can both be used as a resource if handled properly.

Convert your regular toilet to a dry system. It is already stable and comfortable and easy to convert back to a wet system.

  1. Process- turn off water, close valve and empty the water from the bowl (force it down the pipe with a toilet brush).

  2. Wash and sanitize your toilet bowl with tank water. Bowl and tank need to be clean and dry.

  3. Plug hole for health reasons (gasses and critters) with a rubber ball, lacross or racquetball in a sock, or cotton rag coated in shortening.

  4. Put a heavy duty trash bag in the toilet and secure it with duct tape all around the rim. Then put the seat down.

  5. When using, only use the toilet for fecal matter, not for urine. See below for how to handle the urine.

Separate, Cover Carry and Bury

Separate– Separate urine from fecal matter to reduce odor, weight and mass, reducing the number of trash bags needed.

  • For ladies and children, this is not convenient. Do your best.

  • Females can use a urine diverter called Feminette or Go-Girl.

  • Men make a urinal with a large container and a long funnel.

  • Keep the urine collection container right next to the dry toilet.

  • Urine is a valuable resource. High in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Urea is a major component of urine and can be used as fertilizer in your soil. Available when commercial fertilizer is not. Dilute with grey (dirty but not waste) water. Don’t put too much urine in one spot or it will burn. Urine is not toxic and it is sterile unless a person has an infection. UTI bacteria die quickly in the soil. There is no human to human disease transmission from urine.

Cover— If you put dirt, sand, clay, sawdust, peat moss, etc. over the fecal matter in the toilet, it will help with the odor and break it down. Have a bucket of dry organic material next to the toilet, with a scoop and stick to stir. After every use, spread a light layer or organic matter over top of fecal matter. Lay a piece of cardboard over the toilet when not in use.

Carry— lift bag out of toilet and out in bucket to carry outside.

Bury— somewhere away from the garden. Put where it will erode and is protected from animals. Dig a hole about 2.5 feet deep and 1 foot diameter. Place bag of waste beside the hole. Take bag by the bottom and empty contents so that it can be in contact with the soil to break it down. Don’t leave it in the bag! Drop the bag in on top of it and add 2 inches of dirt

Cover— Cover the hole with a board that is even with the ground and put bricks on top of it to keep rodents, insects and dogs out. Keep layering. When it’s time to cap it off (6-8 inches from the top) lay newspaper and lime, then newspaper again. Then cover with dirt. Lime will keep dogs away. In 2-3 years the waste will break down and this is an ideal place for a garden.

Options for Handling Waste

  1. Portable Bucket— You can get sanitation buckets with a plastic toilet seat included. Store the items listed above in the bucket and you can take your potty with you.

  2. Portable Toilet box— Use a plywood box (without a bottom) that is about the height of a regular toilet.

    • How to build: Cut a hole in the top, a little to one side. Hook a regular toilet seat with a lid over the hole.

    • Cut a piece of masonite cut a little bigger than the
      hole to slide under the toilet seat so no flies can get into
      the hole when it is not in use.

    • Can use over a hole dug in the ground or a bucket with a bag in it.

    • Every time you add waste to the hole or bucket, add 1/2 cup kitty litter, sand, clay, sawdust, dirt, etc.

    • Fill until 6-8 inches from the top then dispose of as listed above.

  1. Portable options for your family’s 72 hour kit— This should be highly portable, should seal well, and should be tested so you know FOR SURE that yes, it will work for YOU in YOUR family situation, and how long it will work for.

  • Portable camp style liquid chemical toilet, some use a bit of water to flush the waste into an out-of-sight container, others are simple plop-n-drop models. Know how yours works and what its limitations are by practicing with it.

  • Camp style dry chemical toilet, most of these use a dry powder to gel the waste, significantly reducing moisture content and thus, bacterial growth. Again, know how yours works and what its limitations are by practicing with it.

Short-term sanitation kit:

    1. Trash compactor type plastic bags (line your bucket or toilet with this first)

    2. Heavy 13-gallon plastic trash bags (inside liner for your bucket or toilet)

    3. Duct tape

    4. Twist ties to secure bags after use

    5. Rubber gloves to use for transport

    6. Wet wipes rather than toilet paper because they are more effective and take up less space

    7. Air freshener

    8. Bucket with a handle to carry full bags outside in

    9. Peri bottle to irrigate backsides with water

    10. Crystal type kitty litter

    11. Soap for hand washing (alcohol based hand sanitizers do not work in the presence of organic matter such as urine and feces, they just give you a false sense of security)

    12. 5- or 6-gallon bucket with a Gamma Seal lid

    13. Wood toilet seat with L brackets to stabilize it on your bucket (optional)

    14. Chemical camp toilet with lots of extra chemical and dedicated water (optional)

Other optional sanitation needs to store:

  1. Scrub brushes, brooms, trash bags, grocery bags, cotton rags, spray bottles, wash tubs and buckets.

  2. Calcium hypochlorite (Pool Shock) to make your own chlorine for cleaning and purifying water. Chlorine kills most everything except crypto and giardia. It only has a 6-12 month shelf life.

  3. Ammonia – store Steramine which is a dry ammonia product for sanitizing. Don’t store with chlorine!

  4. Vinegar – sanitizer

  5. Hydrogen peroxide – sanitizer

  6. Iodine – 1 oz. treats about 200,000 gallons of water. Follow Instructions carefully!

  7. Feminine hygiene – Diva Cup, Keeper, Moon Cup (soft silicone cups that are inserted and can be washed and reused.) Glad rags – reusable pads.

  8. Personal protection – gloves (vinyl and rubber), boots (rubber), outer clothing (scrubs), mosquito netting or tents, masks (N95 minimal) 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

 Home Preparation for an Emergency

It's been a little over a year since the last big earthquake in Utah.  I can remember exactly where I was when it occurred.   That earthquake and the ensuing pandemic taught us a lot about preparedness and it's wise to sit up and pay attention to what we learned.

When preparing your home for a disaster, there are some things that will help in any situation:

What to do BEFORE an emergency

Safeguard your home. Check for potential hazards around your home and make sure everything is going to be stable and safe. Your home needs to be your place of refuge.

The physical structure:

  1. Bolt or strap down top-heavy objects, like bookshelves, water heaters and gas appliances, to prevent them from tipping over.
  2. Check electrical connections and gas pipes for faulty joints and connections.
  3. Be sure your home is anchored firmly to its foundation and structurally safe.
  4. Locate potential fire hazards and reduce their likelihood.
  5. Install smoke, propane, natural gas, and/or carbon monoxide detectors and test them regularly.

Items in your home:

  1. Place heavy objects on lower shelves. Securely fasten shelves to walls.
  2. Store bottled goods, glass, vases, china, and other breakables in low or closed cabinets or drawers.
  3. Store essential and/or unreplaceable items in waterproof unbreakable containers.
  4. Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.
  5. Remove hazardous objects (ie. mirrors, bookshelves, heavy pots, hanging plants, etc.) from sleeping areas.
  6. Properly store flammable liquids and gases and other combustible materials.

Be prepared at home:

  1. Keep properly rated and tagged fire extinguishers on hand and teach your family how to use them properly.
  2. Store copies of important documents, such as insurance policies, deeds, and property records, in a safe place away from your home.
  3. Keep a flashlight and or light stick, “jump-in” clothes, an extra pair of shoes and prescription glasses by your bed.
  4. Acquire tools such as an ax, shovels, brooms, rope, chain saws, plastic sheeting & tape, heavy-duty to use in an emergency
  5. You need to prepare your home and your family. Just because you have a safe home doesn’t mean your family will automatically know how to use the safety measures you’ve put into place. These are great family activities that everyone can participate in.
  6. Know where and how to shut off the gas or propane, electricity, and water at main switches and valves. Teach all responsible members how to do this. Instructions HERETape the instructions to the appropriate areas for shut off.

  • Attach a valve wrench to the water line with a zip tie.

  • Write out instructions for turning off water & gas or propane lines.

  • Write out instructions for how to turn off electricity and what to leave on (fridge and refrigerator) if you have a choice.

  1. Work out a plan detailing how you will get back together if you are separated during a disaster.
  2. Discuss with your family what each person will do in case of a disaster.
  3. Remember this plan should be flexible regarding time and location of each individual during any time of the day, week, or year.
  4. Have an out-of-state contact telephone number that everyone can call to check-in with.
  5. Hold occasional drills so that your family knows what to do during and after a disaster.

  6. Find out what to do and where to go in the case of an evacuation of your community.
  7. Learn the shortest and safest routes from your home, work, church, etc., to possible evacuation areas or centers. Take into account that you may not be able to travel in vehicles and may need to travel on foot or bicycle.
  8. Learn the warning signals given by government and local authorities, what they mean, and how to respond to them.

  1. What to do AFTER an emergency

    While preparing, we always hope that we won’t have to use our preps! But the mind is a funny thing. If we are always thinking about it not happening, when it does our mind will have a difficult time switching into the gear you need to react appropriately. Think about these scenarios as very real possibilities and go through what you will do after an emergency has occurred. This is the second level of preparation.

  1. Perform first aid for immediate injuries in your own home.

  2. Check for safety hazards such as gas leaks & water line breaks.

  3. Do not use matches, lighters, appliances, or even electrical switches until you’re sure there are no gas leaks. *Do not shut off gas to the house unless you have reason to believe there is a leak. You have to have the gas company come to turn it back on.

  4. If home is unsafe, leave! Take your 72-hour kits with you.

  5. If home is safe, clean up messes that pose further threats (broken glass, exposed nails, etc.)

  6. Check on your family, neighbors and friends

  7. Prepare for aftershocks or further emergency situations

    • Take remaining wall hangings off walls – store up-side-down under couches or beds

    • Tie kitchen cupboards together, tape doors shut, or remove breakable items.

  8. Remember: stuff can be replaced. Focus on what really matters!

  9. Get on your emergency communication systems for news about the situation

  10. Start working on your basic needs - safe air, protection from the elements, water and food. 

Here in Utah there is a Great Shakeout Event on April 15th, 2021 at 10:15 am.  If you would like to participate, here is more info:

How to Participate
Information for individuals, schools and many types of organizations

Who is Participating?
Participants per county, area, & category

ShakeOut Resources
Audio and video broadcasts, manuals, posters, & much more

ShakeOut Participant Updates

Frequently Asked Questions

There are some special preparation items for earthquake.  These videos explain some of what you may want to do:

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Gardening NOW and in an EMERGENCY

DID YOU KNOW>>The time to start preparing to grow your own food in an emergency is TODAY, not when the power goes out or fuel shortages have stopped the trucks from delivering food. 

Gardening is much more than simply scattering some seeds, watering them a bit, waiting a few days and then harvesting some food. It takes time to prepare the land, nourish the soil, purchase or save seeds and grow the seeds! 

You also need to do things that work, make some mistakes, realize the good and the bad, and learn from them to become a better gardener.

Goals for this month:
  • Acquire some emergency seeds and sprouting seeds.
  • Look for a space you can grow in
  • Make sure you have a source of water

Advantages of Growing Emergency Garden Foods NOW before an emergency:

  • Saves money now that you can use for other storage foods.

  •  Your grown products ARE stored and AVAILABLE in a crisis or food shortage emergency

  • Don't have to go to the store or depend on the food supply chain.

  • Food can be grown totally organic.

Steps you can take now to prepare to garden:

  • Find a place to garden - needs 6-8 hrs of sun/day. Can be a container, raised bed, flower bed or garden spot.
  • Make sure you have a good source of water.
  • Buy seeds - only non-hybrid/heirloom seeds! Buy from a catalog like
  • Prepare you soil. Add compost to increase nutrients. You only need to add 1-2 inches and don't till or mix in.
  • Start tomatoes and peppers indoors if desired.
  • Plant seeds based on planting calendar (see side bar)
  • Water every day until the seeds sprout, then drop back to 2-3 times per week, 45 minutes per time.
  • Maintain garden. Weekly light weeding is all it takes.
Watch these short videos for more info:

Tips For Gardening in an Emergency:

  • If you don't have garden space, talk with others about putting together a neighborhood or community garden.
  • Keep enough seed so that you never plant ALL of what you have. Save some of each harvested seed variety so that you always have extra garden seed on hand to plant and replace with the next season's harvest.

Frequently asked gardening questions:

Q: What tools do I need to store to garden in an emergency?

A: I use two things every day in my garden - a Japanese gardening knife and some garden gloves. They are easy to store and indispensable for any garden.   You can also store a shovel and rake for larger areas.

Q: Where should I put my garden?

A: My first rule is close to your home- out of sight, out of mind is true!  You also need to make sure your area gets enough sun.  Most vegetables need a minimum of 6 hours of sun, and if possible, have your garden facing the south for the strongest sun. Watch for trees overhead and the potential shade they will give.  Also make sure to keep the garden 20 feet away from shallow rooted trees  like maples and elms.  For good drainage, make sure the land is fairly level. 

Q: How should I prepare the soil?

A: One of my favorite quotes says, “If you treat the soil well – as a living thing – in return, it becomes unconditionally generous.” How do you treat the soil well?  By feeding it well, by not disturbing the very active fungal network that is the underground food chain for the plants, and by treading lightly.


  • For a new garden: 

  1. Till or turn over the soil 12 inches deep.  If it is the original soil, add compost, and mix in.

  2. Soak 1-2 days before planting

  • For an established garden

  1. Clean garden up completely at the end of the year.

  2. Add organic materials (leaves, straw, compost) 2 inches deep on top of the soil.  Do not mix it.  Don’t till or turn over your soil. This disrupts the fungal networks, depletes carbon and makes your soil have to start over building its food networks every year. 

  3. Once you have prepared the soil, place walking paths. NEVER walk on your garden soil, only on paths.

Q: When can I plant?

A:  The USDA has designated “hardiness” zones across the US.  These zones give you guidelines for when you should expect a frost, and the lowest and highest average temperatures in your area (see map below).  I live in Zone 5, so I have freezing temperatures until around the first of May every year, and starting again in mid-October. Figure out your zone on the map, then there are a lot of interactive sites online that will guide you on when to plant for your zone.  You can also ask at a garden center (not a big-box store - a real garden center).  They can give you guidance on when they recommend you plant for your area as well.  

Q: How do I plant?

A: There are many ways to plant, and they are related to how you are going to grow.  If you are using a measured system like the “Square Foot’ system, there are specific guidelines for each foot of garden space.  This is great for a small space.  For larger row systems, you need other methods. I’ve used all of these with great success.

1. Square foot - Poke your finger in soil to create a hole

2. Row – Use a Japanese Gardening Knife and make a line 

3. Place seed in hole and Cover with thin layer of soil equal to 3 times the thickness of the seed

4. Water gently every day until sprouts

Q: How far apart should I plant the seeds and transplants?

A: That depends on your seed and plant.  

  • Small plants like carrots, onions, radishes, greens, lettuce - spread across the soil thinly

  • bush beans and spinach- 1 inch apart 

  • pole beans, peas, beets, turnips, parsnips- 2 inches apart  

  • eaf lettuce and herbs- 4 inches apart

  • cucumbers (2 seeds per spot), corn, celery- 6 inches apart  

  •  broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peppers- 12 inches apart

  • Tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, melons  (all two seeds per spot)- 18 inches apart

8. How should I water?

A: Water daily until the seed sprouts.  Then leaf and root vegetables(lettuce, carrots, etc)  need water twice weekly while fruit and seed vegetables( peas, tomatoes) need water once weekly.   Each time you water you need to water for at least an hour.  Watering deeply and less often grows stronger plants.

Q: What is crop rotation?

A: Crops should not be planted in the same place two years in a row and crops of the same family should not be planted in the same place.

  • Never plant the mustard family (cabbage and broccoli) or the nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes and peppers) in the same place two years in a row.

  • Beans and Peas are nitrogen fixers and will improve the soil.  Follow them with heavy feeders such as tomatoes and peppers.

Q: How do I control pests?

A: The most efficient form of organic pest control is healthy plants.  A strong, resilient plant is far better at resisting the effects of an aphid attack than a weak plant.  Spread plants of the same type throughout the garden.  If you plant all of one type together, the insect can find them easier and will be a bigger problem.  And make sure to remove diseased plants quickly, but don’t put in your composter.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Shelter in an Emergency

We don't often think about what we would need for shelter in an emergency, and that is part of the problem.  Most of the thought about this needs to happen BEFORE an emergency!   Check out the Stake Newsletter this month for information about how to:

1. Prepare your home for an emergency

2. Prepare your family for an emergency

3. Think about what you would do to shelter in place

One of the main things you need to do before facing a problem is learn how to turn off your gas, electricity and water.  Make sure to have instructions taped to the shut off locations, as well as any tools.  You can find information from FEMA here:

FEMA Safety Skills

You should also know basics for preparing  your home for an earthquake.  Learn more here:

Make sure your family and your home are ready for whatever may come our way!  Let's get ready together!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Communcation in an Emergency

 In a time of emergency, being able to communicate with your loved ones, and to know the status of the situation in your area are very important.   This month the  focus is on preparing to communicate in an emergency.

1. For a  personal emergency, it will be important to have a Family Communication plan in place.  At a minimum, talk with your family about WHAT to do if an emergency happens, WHO to call, and WHERE to go.  

2. In a local emergency, our Wards and Stake are arranged into Blocks with volunteer Block Captains.  You can report your status to the Block Captain on your block, and they will communicate your status to your Bishop and the Stake Presidency.

*If you do not know who your Block Captain is, or have an Emergency Packet with home tags and other information, please contact your Ward Emergency Leader or Elder's Quorum President.

3. In times of wide-spread emergency, our local Block system and Critical Care Unit at the Stake Center will be a hub for information and help.

Please reference the monthly newsletter below for information and goals for the month.

You can go here to download 

This month, ensure your family is ready to communicate in any emergency situation.  You will have immeasurable peace of mind after you prepare.