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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Emergency Preparedness Week - Back To Basics - Sanitation & First Aid

One of the most important things about living through a disaster would be maintaining health.  If you get sick or are injured, then your chances of making it through an emergency situation decrease.  Care MUST be taken to maintain proper hygiene as well as having the ability to handle injuries properly.  In the case of cleanliness, a bottle of alcohol hand sanitizer just won't cut the mustard.  These products, while great for your hiking daypack, weren't meant for extended use.  Not only will they dry out your skin leading to painful cracks in the hands, but they just don't remove common dirt very well.  Soap and HOT water will be needed to maintain proper cleanliness.  A simple bar of soap will last the average person through just about any disaster situation.  Also, consider dishwashing, if you're like me, you plan on bugging out with camping cooksets that need to be cleaned after every use.  A small bottle of concentrated dishsoap costs little, and if you still find this too much for your bug out pack, there are small refillable utility bottles available at camping stores and pharmacies that you can use for smaller amounts.  Don't forget that even washing requires tools to do so.  A dishcloth & towel, metal scrubber, washcloth and hand towel should be considered for your bug out bags.  Now let's look at the loo.  If you have your own home, the you have probably stored up some grey water fo flushing.  If however, your sewer lines are broken or blocked, then you've gotta find another place to go.  An outhouse would be a great option...I know, the smell bad, they are cold, and who wants one in the back yard...well, agreed.  So just what can you do when you have to, you know?  My suggestion would be a simple portable toilet known as the 5 gallon bucket.  Camping stores sell versions with a detachable toilet seat.  Use plastic garbage bags for liners and when done, tie them up tightly.  Take these bags daily or more often if you can to a remote place and bury them....and I mean DEEP!  Don't go to the front lawn, dig up one shovel full of dirt and cover it with a few inches of soil.  Take them to the back 40 acres (a secluded area of a large city park) and dig a hole at least a foot or two deep.  Toss in the bag and cover as well as you can.  If you have the option, burning it is also a good disposal method.  Get your fire really hot and toss on the bag.  You will want to make sure you don't need this fire for cooking, or keeping warm for some time and be sure that all cooking utensils & grills have been far removed.  Many people will suggest chemical toilets, but remember, you can't easily get rid of the contents.  Keep plenty of bathroom tissue on hand...you don't want to run out and resort to leaves or cloths.  If you really aren't comfortable using the buckets, then consider a commode chair that can be found at geriatric supply stores.  You will always want a good supply of household cleaners on hand as well as plain household bleach for disinfecting.  Keep food prep surfaces as well as washroom facilities even cleaner than you normally do.  The last thing you want during a disaster  is to get sick. 
Once general cleanliness has been taken care of, first aid will be your next priority.  First of all, make sure you have a supply of all prescription medications you take and always have a week's worth on hand.  Basic first aid supplies are a must.  Small cuts on a hand can get infected and turn nasty if not properly taken care of.  For these little, everyday cuts & scrapes, have some disinfectant on hand such as rubbing alcohol or peroxide.  Bandaids are also a must...I suggest a box of assorted shapes & sizes that has not only the regular bandages, but also knuckle & fingertip types.  Add to this a roll or two of  cut to size bandages for custom sizes...you  can also make the odd shaped ones yourself this way.  Get the fabric type instead of the plastic ones, the stretch to fit, hold better and allow the skin to breath.  Don't forget the antibiotic ointment to help keep infection at bay.  Next you will need an assortment of gauze pads, gauze bandages in rolls, First aid tape, tweezers, scissors, triangular bandages and safety pins.  A good idea would be to look for a first aid kit designed for small office use.  These will have everything you need, including a guide on how to deal with different situations...read the guide before you pack away your kit and read it again every few months to keep it fresh in your mind.  Many provinces require employers to have one or more trained first aiders and will pay them to send employees on training courses.  If you get this opportunity, take it.  This course will teach you basic cpr as well as how to handle everything from minor cuts to broken bones.  You could always take a first aid course yourself through the Red Cross, for a cost of about $50 - $100 depending on the course level. 
All in all the golden rule here is keep it clean...dirt & bacteria can cause some nasty illnesses that you don't want to be dealing with during a crisis.

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