How to set up emergency sanitation

During an emergency, water and sewage lines could be damaged, leaving you with no water or working toilets. It is important that you find sanitary ways to dispose of human waste, to avoid getting sick.

Temporary toilets

The most effective way is to buy a portable emergency toilet. However, if you do not have one, there are still steps you can take to dispose of waste.

If your toilet is usable

If sewage lines are broken but your toilet bowl is usable:

  • Lift the toilet seat and scoop out the water in the bowl
  • Line the bowl with two heavy duty garbage bags to protect against leakage
  • Put the seat back down
  • After you use the toilet, cover the feces in the bag with a large amount of hydrated lime, which controls the odor, protects against bacteria and disease, and helps dry out the waste so it is easier to dispose of

If your toilet is unusable

If your toilet is completely backed up:

  • Use two medium sized watertight buckets with tight fitting lids, one for urine and the other for solid waste
  • Line the solid waste bin with two heavy duty plastic bags
  • Pour a small amount of hydrated lime or regular household disinfectant into the waste container each time it is used, which will reduce the odor and bacteria

Keep the toilet covered when it is not in use.

Sanitizing waste

Adding disinfectants to your waste will help prevent the spread of disease. You can use the following disinfectants:

  • Household chlorine bleach
  • Packets of portable toilet chemicals
  • Powdered hydrated lime (available at most nurseries and gardening supply stores)

Disposing of waste

If you use heavy plastic bags, tie the bag loosely when it is half full, to allow it to dry out. Store the bag in a tightly covered garbage can, away from living areas, nursing mothers, and food preparation areas.

Once the sewer system is working again, you can flush the waste.

Learn more about emergency sanitation

Take or request a free emergency workshop

Take a free workshop in your local community centre, and learn how to prepare for earthquakes and other emergencies. Or request a free workshop for your business or community group.

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Outside Vancouver:
604-873-7000

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More ways to contact us

Emergency safety kits

Emergency safety kit

Did you know there is a 1 in 3 chance of a major earthquake in Vancouver within the next 20-50 years?

Be prepared, by creating emergency safety kits filled with supplies you will need if you are forced to evacuate your home.

Get instructions

Contact the Office of Emergency Planning

Phone: 604-829-4375

emergency.management
@vancouver.ca

Last modified: Fri, 25 May 2012 16:34:32