Why Having a Portable Toilet Should
Be a Top Prepper Priority

Portable Toilet

How do you feel about digging a hole in your backyard, then covering, for emergency sanitation?

Ummm...not me. I'd rather already have a portable toilet (port-a-potty) handy, along with appropriate heavy-duty bags, before an emergency comes — or to take camping if needed.

Having some sort of port-a-potty may be one of the most important and least thought of aspects of survival planning.

One of the most unpleasant aspects of an emergency situation comes from the need to answer the "nature's call". That "call" doesn't care one little bit if the plumbing system is out of order — when you have to go, you have to go!

Most city sewer systems are dependent on electricity and an intact system of underground pipes. If either of these systems malfunctions, so do your bathroom facilities.

If the electricity is out just in your individual neighborhood, your plumbing is probably fine. But if the main city system is powerless, that's another story.

If, in the case of an earthquake or severe storm, any of the pipes between the water treatment plant and your home are broken, the water won't make it to your house and you'll be left high and dry.

Emergency sanitation may be unpleasant to discuss, but it needs to be covered. It's a very real problem to deal with during an extended disruption of services. And that's when having a portable toilet in some form will come in very handy.

How to Make Your Own Port-a-Potty

A good reason to use a plastic bucket for at least one of your 72-hour kits is that it can be used as a makeshift portable toilet. To create a port-a-potty, you will need the following supplies:

  • Some heavy-duty hospital grade sanitation bags.
  • Rolls of toilet paper (or facial tissues).
  • One or two large, sturdy garbage bags to hold your emergency kit supplies while your bucket is otherwise occupied.
  • Large rubber bands - large enough to fit around the top of the bucket and strong enough to hold the heavy plastic bags in place. (Duct tape would also work.)
  • Disinfectant (dry kind preferably) such as portable toilet chemicals available in recreational vehicle supply stores. If you can't get this, include a small bottle of chlorine bleach, Lysol, or other house-hold disinfectant — or use kitty litter.
  • Very small bottle of dish soap to clean your bucket when water is available.

While in the privacy of your home, let each member of the family practice sitting on the bucket to learn to balance on it. Falling over in your living room while perched on an empty bucket can be funny. Falling over in a real crisis situation would be mortifying.

If you can't bear the thought of making your own toilet out of a bucket, you can instead buy an actual portable toilet just for this type of situation. They are the same basic thing as a homemade bucket potty but they are a little sturdier and better balanced.

Emergency Sanitation During Sewer System Disruptions

As mentioned above, our city sewer systems are dependent on electricity and intact pipes. But just because you are without power doesn't mean you are without options. We'll consider first the least objectionable situation: your sewer pipes are intact but the power is out for a while so the water won't flow.

Using Gray Water

One of the most common-sense solutions is to use gray water to create a "flush" for the toilet. Gray water is water that is not fit for drinking or food preparation - water that is saved after it is used for personal hygiene or cleaning. It could also be collected rain water or melted snow.

An entire gallon of water poured directly and quickly into the toilet bowl will enable your toilet to flush. Dump it all at once and it should swirl the water and waste down the toilet.

Using Your Toilet When the Sewer Pipes Are Broken

If your sewer pipes are broken, or if there is no gray water available, then the problem of disposing of waste becomes more complicated.

We'll assume your sewer pipes are "kaput" but your house is still standing and in fairly good condition. In this situation, you can still use the toilet, more for privacy and comfort than for convenience. Your toilet becomes the basis for a permanent port-a-potty. Here's what you'll need:

  1. Start with an empty toilet bowl. If water is at a premium, dip all the water out of the tank and reserve it for other uses. Then, use the toilet until you need to flush that last flush. Lift the seat and lid up and place the trash bag into the bowl. Stretch the top of the bag down around the toilet and close the seat. Tape the handle in place to keep someone from flushing out of habit.
  2. After each use, pour a small amount of disinfectant into the bag. This will help avoid the spread of germs and disease. You can pull another 30-gallon trash bag over the whole toilet bowl, seat, lid and all, in between uses to help contain the smell and to keep insects out.
  3. After several uses, while the bag is still in the toilet, twist the edges of the bag together and fasten it tightly with a twist tie. Put an empty bucket with a handle right next to the toilet and lift the used bag right into it. Then you can use the handle to carry it to a holding container outside your home.

You'll want to check with your city officials to find out how to dispose of the waste you have stored in the holding containers.

Having a portable toilet for emergency sanitation may seem like an unnecessary item when life is just humming along, but believe me, you will be grateful to have it should a crisis arise.

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