It’s easy to overlook things when one is trying to prepare for a disaster. For planning purposes we have to assume that nothing will be available. Therefore, we literally need to have everything we will need on hand, because we don’t know what will be available and what won’t. That creates a situation where some things are likely to get overlooked… like the supplies we need for cleaning and personal hygiene.
Yet these are important parts of maintaining out health. It’s much easier to catch disease in a dirty environment and especially when you aren’t keeping yourself clean. Combine that with the greater chance of injury and you’re giving bacteria an open door to infect you with a wide variety of diseases.
Lack of cleanliness also aids in the spread of disease. Epidemics depend at least to some extent on poor hygiene and poor cleanliness to pass from one person to the next. While it is impossible to totally block off the spread of an epidemic by personal hygiene and clean homes, it’s much easier for it to spread when we aren’t conscious of the need to protect ourselves and keep things clean.
Likewise, dirt, food scraps and general unclean environments promote the growth of rodents and insects which can be carriers of disease. Flies, mosquitoes and rats can all be used as a mechanism to spread disease. Protecting ourselves from these pests is therefore an important part of maintaining our health, not just keeping our homes looking nice.
Personal Hygiene Preparation
The first thing we need to consider is keeping our bodies clean. Lack of personal cleanliness will create opportunity for infections, especially when combined with even the smallest injuries. But we’ve got to manage personal hygiene while conserving water. That means bathing with a gallon of water or less.
It really isn’t necessary to bathe every day, like most of us are used to. However, it is necessary to keep your hands and face clean. These are the two places where disease is most likely to enter the body. The face has several openings that can be used as access for viruses and bacteria and the hands touch the face, even holding food that we eat.
Lots of Soap
Soap is one of the cheapest cleaners available and really the one we need more than any other. You can use ordinary bar soap for washing your body, your hair, your clothes and even your dishes, if you don’t have anything else to use. While we have become accustomed to using a plethora of products, we really don’t need them all; for survival, we can get by with soap.
Antibacterial Hand Cleaner
With the expected shortages of water, I’d stock up on antibacterial hand cleaner. This will allow you to clean your hands, even when there isn’t water available. Soap doesn’t actually kill bacteria, so that’s another reason to stock up on this product. If you run out, you can use a combination of soap and rubbing alcohol to kill bacteria and keep your body clean. For that matter, you can use soap and any sort of alcohol.
Toilet paper is actually important for more than our comfort. One of the ways that epidemics spread is from what is known as the fecal-mouth route. Feces often contains bacteria which can spread disease. Those bacteria can be spread by flies landing on the feces or by the wind blowing dried feces through the air, with bacteria on it. Proper use of toilet paper helps us to keep our bodies clean of those bacteria. Coupling that with a proper toilet helps prevent disease from spreading.
Feminine Hygiene Products
Modern women are accustomed to using specific products to help them get through their monthly menstruation. While it is theoretically possible for them to get by without those products, using rags to absorb blood, it will be much more comfortable for them if they have the products they are used to. Besides, both tampons and sanitary napkins can be used for other survival purposes.
Alternative Toilet Facilities
It is essential that you have something that you can use as a toilet, in case the city water and sewage system are down. If you have a septic tank, that will work. But if you don’t, you’ll need either an old-fashioned outhouse or to make a portable toilet out of a five gallon bucket.
To make this sort of toilet you simply need to attach a toilet seat to the bucket. Place several plastic bags inside, opening them one inside another. That way, when you remove one, there’s another there. Change bags daily, firmly securing the ones removed. These should be saved until proper facilities for their disposal are once again available. Failing that, they should be buried.
Home Cleanliness Preparation
Keeping your home clean will help with battling the growth of insects and rodents. But, once again, you need to have a good collection of cleaning supplies on hand. Add laundry soap, dish soap, glass cleaner, general purpose cleaner and some sort of floor cleaner (assuming you have linoleum or tile) to your stockpile of prepping supplies. I’d count on using more than you’re used to, as your home’s windows and doors will probably be open more, allowing more dirt to enter.
If you depend upon a vacuum cleaner and don’t have the basics of mops and brooms, make sure that you add them to your stockpile. It would also be good to add the sort of push carpet cleaner that works without electricity. While they don’t work as well as an electric vacuum cleaner, they are at least useful for picking up crumbs and larger dirt particles.
Pest Control Preparation
Pests tend to multiply after a disaster, feasting upon the results of the disaster. They will try to invade your home and your food supply. For that matter, there’s a good chance that they will try to take over your vegetable garden as well.
I’m a firm believer in using natural means of pest control whenever possible. I have bird feeders and bird baths around my garden, so that the birds will help control the insect population. It’s done wonders for keeping the caterpillar population down. I also use ladybugs to help control other insects. But there are still times when natural means aren’t enough.
You need to have mouse traps, mouse poison and insect poisons on-hand and in fairly good quantity. You also want to have insect repellant, to keep them from eating you alive, while you are working outdoors. Remember, it’s about controlling disease, not just keeping them from bothering you.