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CERT Meeting Notes

Posted by imawheatwatcher on May 11, 2011

This is some notes from the sanitation CERT meeting that was held at the end of last month. I chose not to redo Laurel’s email to me because I didn’t want to leave anything out on accident. Please be aware that this important stuff no matter how you word it.

“Word this however you’d like (and please do, because I’m not making it terribly refined) … Most of it was about needing to go to the bathroom, because everyone HAS to do that every day. He talked about what’s actually IN feces and urine, and when you mix them, how it becomes ‘nuclear waste’ … He said if we can keep the two separate, it’s a *HUGE* deal. He also talked about privacy. If, regardless where you choose to go, how is that going to happen? Want to do this in the open backyard with everyone watching? There was some official state guy he was talking to about this who said he carries around one of those pop up privacy tents in his car, because he had watched some evacuation (Katrina, I believe?) where the freeway was all backed up–on both sides–for hours, thinking, “Geez, SOMEONE in that line probably has to go,” but where to do that? So if you have one of those in your car, just pull it out and pop it up, and you have instant privacy (and then a line a mile long of everyone else in traffic who needed to go, because now they could). But these privacy tents were convenient and compact, and could easily fit in your car kit, let alone in your home, just in case (course you can always make your own, but still, think hard about your family’s privacy!).

On average, 2-3 pints of urine and 1 lb of poop a day per person … Yum. Where’s it going to go? *IF* the sewer system is ok, flush it, because it goes to the treatment plant and is processed, liquid pulled out, dried in the sun, turned into fertilizer, with the water treated and cleaned and flushed (ha ha) out to Utah Lake. He told us there are two separate lines that go to the lake. One was sewage, the other is just the drainage system in the streets. He said those goes directly out to the lake, no treatment, so think about that before you send anything down the public drains, because it goes straight out there as is (so be nice!).

But if the sewage system is down, there are many options. How long is it predicted to be down? If it’s just a couple days, he suggested anything from flushing out the water in your toilets and putting heavy duty trash bags directly in the johns to go that way (because sitting on the throne you’re used to has a lot of merit), to having weighted down METAL buckets (because plastic isn’t heavy duty and can be tipped over) to dispose in, to building your own latrines in the backyard (with privacy of some kind, of course). If you choose to build a latrine, it doesn’t have to be big, but it does have to be deep, because you need to bury it AT LEAST a foot down (he talked about animals digging it back up–very common, he said). His personal latrine, he said, was 3 ft deep. He recommended if we want to build latrines, do it while the dirt is soft, then cover it over so no one steps or falls into it. If an emergency happened in the winter, there’s no way we’re gonna get through that hard earth, especially with all our Utah potato rocks in the way … So plan ahead. Also, CALL 811 BEFORE YOU DIG so you’re not running into anything important! It’s free (and then he joked you probably don’t wanna actually tell the Blue Stakes people what you’re digging for ;)). Finally, don’t put it anywhere close to anything edible/drinkable. You need distance on these things. Also consider where you are with the water table. If you put this within 300 ft, those little germies will make it to our water supply and get everyone sick anyway … So think about that (if you’re even ‘allowed’ to. If you live too close to the water table, he said you shouldn’t even dig a latrine).

If it’s a short term sewage inconvenience, have PLENTY of heavy duty bags, along with stuff to soak up your excrements … Wood ash, milled corn litter, regular cat litter, newspaper, etc., are some of the suggestions. He said to have THREE bags ready in your bucket; one that never leaves the bucket, followed with an inch sprinkle of soak material, then another bag, 1″, then the final bag, 1″, then get down to business. There’s nothing grosser than not planning for this and pulling out your bag(s) and having them leak everywhere. Also, besides toilet paper, old phone books are awesome. Use a saw to cut them in half the short way, and bang, there’re two books of TP in case you need … He gave Charmin’s official stats on how much TP we use on average. It’s a lot, I’ll just say that. And if you’re female, even more. Also consider menstruation needs in all this. What a picture. So plan ahead and have plenty of TP and supplies, because who would want to defecate without TP??? 😛

He also said we’re all ‘downstream’ from someone, and upstream from someone else (so be considerate!). Stories were told in class about how sewage has indeed steeped into peoples’ basements. It does happen, even without an emergency situation. There’s talk that all one has to do (for your water heater drain, the bathrooms downstairs–toilets included) is shove a greased tennis ball or rag into the drains and life is sweet again. Well not with back pressure! All that stuff comes shooting out like a CANNON if you don’t have a counter weight over your plug. He said you can buy official expandable plugs from the hardware store, or use the balls or rags, or even use a scooter inner tube. Here’s the cool part: inflate the tube and put it around/over the drain. Then put a plank of plywood (not particle board) over the drain, followed by another piece on your ceiling, supported with a long 2×4 (or so) in between holding both in place. That way, the board cannot be blown off, because it’s being held fast at both ends (if that description doesn’t make sense, I can draw a picture). THAT will keep all the muck down and not allow it in your house 😛 … Have this ready for all drains in your basement, because IF this happens, that’s where it would happen if the sewage lines become compromised.

There’s more, but to note, with every precaution you take, with all the hand sanitizer in the world, watching your hands and keeping up good hygiene and everything else YOU are supposed to do (he mentioned that hand washing and treating your water up the mortality ante to 94% in gross situations like this), if your neighbors aren’t prepared, flies can land on their nasty waste, then fly right over into your yard and give all that loveliness to you anyway. Think about how well prepared your neighbors are. Make a plan WITH them. Work together. It’s not that hard, and once it’s all thought of, it’s done and you can relax (and hopefully never have to use any of it) …”

Thank you Laurel for making these notes available to all of us.

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One Response to “CERT Meeting Notes”

  1. Laurel said

    Couple other things I’ve remembered since sending this: There are something like 22,990,XXX,XXX gallons of water storage up on the hill in N Orem in case of emergency. In the wintertime, that barely would cover about 40 hours of plumbing (when you think of how many residents we have in Orem alone). In the summertime, only about 11. DO NOT THINK YOU CAN RELY ON THE CITY FOR EMERGENCY WATER STORAGE. Have some of your own!! The MINIMUM is one gallon per person, per day, according to the world standard. The EM suggested (and I concur!) trying to live on ‘water storage’ for a day … Keep track of it and see how much you actually ‘use’ … I know I use WAY more than one gallon, and that’s not even for drinking or showering …

    I challenge you: Try living on your storage for a day, a week, a month … JUST your storage … See how you do. Whether it’s TP or water or food or shelter (have a campout in your backyard, WITH your porta potties! Why the heck not??), it does you NO good to ‘have’ all this stuff and never actually implement any of it.

    Many of you know Jim Phillips and his winter clothing … I went to a seminar with him some years back and his advice has never left me: “STUFF” is at the bottom of the list when it comes to preparing for any emergency. You can have all the stuff in the world, but without a proper relationship and perspective with God about what has happened (that’s #1), without the right ATTITUDE about the emergency situation (#2 – do you BELIEVE you’ll be ok???), without KNOWLEDGE about how to care for yourself and your family (#3 – training is SO important!), what good is ‘stuff’ (which he listed as priority #4)??

    MacGyver could do anything with a twist tie, a pocket knife, and a piece of gum. He made it work because he believed he could get out of the situations he was in. USE the stuff you’re caching. Try it out before the emergency comes. See if you can ‘make it’ on what you have stored. If–as you camp in your backyard or live a day without using ANY plumbing–you find you can’t … Accommodate. Change it up. Get new/more stuff and education on using it so that you CAN be comfortable with what you have. In an emergency situation, no one has EVER said, “Geez, I wish I wasn’t SO prepared!!!” 😉

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