Let’s face it; none of us has money to burn so we all need to get the best possible return on any investments we make, including those related to our disaster preparedness measures.
From my chair, if you’re not living on a boat, the best investment you can make is in your own home (where you live). There are potential scenarios where your home will become your survival shelter or safe haven. And therefore, it makes sense to minimize as much vulnerability in your home as possible. You’ll also want to get setup so that you won’t have to leave your safe-haven when it’s not safe to do so.
In addition to all the other things (food, first aid, communications, etc) you’ll want to have stored, water requires special consideration: Water is critical to life and too many of the conveniences that we all enjoy related to personal hygiene.
Conventional toilets need water to flush and during/after many disasters there may be no water pressure; this means the toilet tank will not refill once you flush that toilet. Instead of using that water for only one flush, it may be put to better use by boiling and drinking it (most toilet tanks [not the bowl] are relatively clean). And when water is in short supply, the last thing you want to be using it for is flushing a toilet.
So if we cannot use a flushing toilet how do we handle human waste if we cannot go outside? Portable toilets may be just ‘OK’ for some very short-term situations at best. And what comes out of most porta-potties is worse than what went in, so this poses a real disposal (and/or storage) problem. Many people live in apartments and in tight neighborhoods so for these people the option of an outhouse is not available. Besides that, going outside your home or apartment to use the privy in some disaster scenarios may be dangerous. Of course if you live in a rural or country area, you could build yourself an effective outhouse now, before you need it. Here’s a DIY video on building a deluxe outhouse.
During or after any disaster, fresh water becomes a valuable commodity. One way you can improve your home as an effective safe haven is to have significant quantities of fresh water stored for use in emergencies. Storage tanks should be food grade plastic barrels/tanks or suitable metal alloys such as monel or 321 stainless steel. Iron and mild steel can be used, but extra filtration will be required to remove the iron oxide that will form in the tank over time. In a pinch, hot water heaters contain 20-80 gallons of fresh water which can also be used to drink.
Also, if you have a powerful suction pump, you can hook it up to a fresh water spigot inside your home or apartment and in many cases, you are able to pump out many gallons of water that is sitting static and otherwise inaccessible in water pipes when the pressure is gone (a loss of electricity in cities and towns results in the loss of water pressure). People who are lucky enough to live in a rural area and who have a well, can utilize a backup hand pump to deliver water from most wells (really deep wells can present problems when using a hand pump depending on the static water level in the well; make sure you have a good hand pump).
So what do you do if you cannot build an outhouse and a porta-potty is not your first choice? Thanks to recent developments in composting toilets you can install a composting toilet in any small indoor area, which can be used by a family of four people for many weeks before it needs to be serviced, which is a snap. These new toilets are virtually odor free (slight earthy smell from the peat moss inside) and are fairly affordable. These new technology toilets use sphagnum peat moss (available at most garden stores) as a base (it sits inside the toilet) which initiates the digestion (composting) of human waste material when it is introduced, turning it into essentially no-toxic, non-smelly fertilizer which can be subsequently used to support any plant-life. Here is an example of a modern composting toilet which works well: http://www.natureshead.net
Too many homes are vulnerable to intrusion as a result of weak doors, locks and door jams. Even flying debris from hurricanes and tornadoes can penetrate poor quality doors and pose a threat to people inside the areas behind such doors.
Another way to increase home security is to install upgraded solid core doors using solid wood (2 inches thick or more) or steel doors on all external doors. The door jams should be upgraded to include latching faces that are screwed into the framing behind the door trim on the door frame (these screws should be several inches long, and the same for hinges). If you go to the trouble to install a high quality solid door, then you’ll want to also include high-security locks, which can be purchased from any locksmith. Commercial grade door locks provide an additional level of home security with locks that are more difficult to ‘pick’, and as a result of added pins in the lock cylinder, and it’s far more difficult to use a ‘bump’ key to pick a lock like this.
Commercial and home-made door barricades are extremely effective in securing doors and stopping intruders. During and after disasters, there are instances where looters may try to take advantage of the chaos to enter homes and businesses. A solid barricade will protect doors that may not be monitored or used frequently, as well as primary entry doors.
Windows are very vulnerable to many hazards including flying debris during hurricanes and tornadoes as well as would-be looters who attempt to gain enter by breaking a window. One relatively easy fix is to re-glaze key windows with polycarbonate plastic. This is the same kind of plastic that is used in many banks to protect tellers.
Many companies make hard-faced architectural polycarbonate sheet that is available in various thicknesses. Half-inch thick polycarbonate plastic is very tough stuff and in addition to stopping flying storm debris, it will stop many small caliber pistol rounds, and one-inch material will stop some rifle rounds.
These are just a few of the simple improvements that can be made to any home or apartment, which will increase your personal security and comfort during many common scenarios.
Cheers! Capt. Bill
Capt. William E. Simpson – USMM