Waste?  What to do with Poo

One of the newspapers that carries this column sponsors a yearly “Be Ready Expo.”  A well organized and well attended forum that invites vendors, authors, first responders, and all manner of prepper-type folks.

This year’s event was held on a recent Saturday and yours truly was invited to be one of the speakers.  After my presentation, I left time open for a question and answer session.  Not often do I get stumped but a member of this year’s audience asked, “What are we supposed to do with poo?”  I live out in the country, the waste from our family is handled quite nicely by a septic tank system.  It requires no electricity, just gravity, a few million enzymes who break down the unmentionables and then the liquids leech out into the soil.  I might suggest several thousand rural folk throughout the country have a similar setup.  Some setups do require electricity as a pump is involved, but mine is old-school before some engineer decided to improve things.

City dwellers, even those in very small towns, generally drain their waste into the city sewer system with nary a second thought about the end result.  So let’s consider this:  Following a major earthquake, not only will underground fresh water supply lines suffer possible compromise, but equally as devastating, those sewer lines, pumps and transfer points will likely suffer the same breakdowns.  Every sewer treatment (sorry, wastewater treatment) plant runs on electricity.  With a prolonged lapse in electrical power, coupled with fractured pipes, things will eventually begin to back up.

Failure to properly treat human waste will always result in risk of disease outbreak and at the very least, a stinky situation.  When pressing the handle on your toilet no longer rids your home of poo, what will you do?  The experts call this a secondary disaster.  Having survived the first attack, now folks are facing a health hazard of runaway bacteria, stench and overall nastiness.

I am attaching a link ( which offers solutions to the problem.  It seems Haiti and New Zealand both used a similar guide to help with human waste disposal when earthquakes struck their countries.  This printable guide offers solutions by way of building compost (not for gardening) bins.  Mixing sawdust with both poo and pee (in separate buckets) will reduce your “waste impact footprint” and minimize that secondary disaster I spoke of earlier.

I realize I probably just spoiled your appetite, but despite the many comparisons, surviving a disaster isn’t exactly a camping trip.  People will die, some from the cataclysmic event, some from heart attack and some from secondary disasters caused by lack of being prepared for what to do with poo.  Every step of preparation increases your chance of survival. Stay prepared my friends.

As always, send your questions and comments to  Previous columns can be found on my blog at  Dave Robinson is an author, pastor, and freelance writer.  His book, “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” is available on, and other online booksellers.