After Disaster Hygiene - Biological Attack

After Disaster Hygiene And Sanitation

Hygiene and Sanitation are important factors of everyday life, they keep us healthy and free from disease. Modern life has an infrastructure in place that deals with human and environmental waste. We also have easy access to personal hygiene items in our supermarkets and local stores. After disaster hygiene and sanitation, however, may not be so easy to come by.

Living in a world where sanitation is automatically taken care of and personal hygiene items are readily available causes us to give them little further thought. However, when disaster strikes we soon come to realize how much we have taken hygiene and sanitation for granted.

Difference Between Sanitation and Hygiene

Sanitation and hygiene both work to keep us and the environment we live in free from poor health and disease. There are however some key differences between the two:

Sanitation uses tools and mechanisms that keep our environment healthy, such as:

  • Lavatory’s, toilets, latrines.
  • Hazardous Waste Management.
  • Safe disposal of human urine and feces.
  • Effective drainage and sewer systems.
  • Provision of clean drinking water.

Hygiene refers to a person’s activities (Personal Hygiene) that maintain good health. This includes things like:

  • Bathing.
  • Hand Washing.
  • Hair Care.
  • Nail Care.
  • Brushing Teeth.
  • Dental hygiene.
  • Food preparation.
  • Washing of Clothes.

Why Is Post Disaster Hygiene and Sanitation Important?

Focusing on personal hygiene and sanitation after a disaster happens will help to prevent the spread of infection and illness. Failing to do so will most likely result in making a bad situation even worse. You will have enough on your plate trying to stay safe and making sure you get enough to eat and drink. So avoiding germs and illness as much as possible should be a priority.

After Disaster Hygiene and Sanitation Tips

If disaster strikes your first focus is naturally going to be on staying alive and protecting your family. Once the danger has passed and you have stabilized your situation. You should consider personal hygiene and sanitation as one of your main priorities.

Safe Water Source Tips

As part of your emergency preparedness plans, you should always aim to stockpile safe drinking water. Make sure that after disaster strikes you will have enough water to drink and take care of personal hygiene requirements. For example, washing your hands and brushing your teeth.

Wash Hands


Washing our hands is the single most important activity we can do to stop germs and disease from spreading. If you have suffered any cuts or scrapes, keeping these clean will also be of the utmost importance.



Depending on the circumstances of the disaster, your emergency water supplies may not last long. If you have to evacuate you will only be able to take as much water as you can carry. If you are able to stay at home your drinking water supply from your taps may become contaminated.

Making Water Safe

If you have no other option other than to use the water around you or from your taps. You will need to try to make this water safe by filtering, boiling or disinfecting the water.


Filter the water as best you can use anything you have to hand that would help to filter out contaminants. For example, you could use paper towels or coffee filters. If you are unable to filter the water, leave it to stand for a while so that any sediment separates and settles. After it has separated you can then pour the clear water off the top.


Fully boil the water and let it continue to boil for at least a further minute. After this allow the water to cool before use.


To disinfect contaminated water you can use water purification tablets, iodine or even (non-scented) household bleach. To do this you will need to filter the water the same way discussed above and then:

  • Using water purification tablets or iodine, follow the directions from the manufacturer.
  • Using non-scented bleach add 1/8 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water. Then stir and let sit for 30 minutes before use.

Additional Water Sources

If your water supplies have run out and you have no way of being able to boil or disinfect water. You can look for other water sources that could safe enough to drink. Sources like:

  • Water in a toilet flush tank
  • Reserve water in a heater tank

Water from these sources is usually safe to drink as long as they have not already been treated with chemicals.

Additional Hygiene and Sanitation Tips

Soap & Water Alternatives

Combat OneSoap and water are tried and tested methods of achieving a good level of personal hygiene. If you don’t have these at your disposable, items like wet wipes or antibacterial gels and sprays can be used.  For example, there is a product called Combat One – Tactical Skin Care that was developed for military hygiene use in a combat situation. This would make an ideal addition to your bug bag and could be used for personal hygiene if the water was in short supply.


Emergency Radios

Make sure you listen to local authorities emergency broadcasts. Especially after a major flood because your tap water may not be safe to drink or even bathe in. Follow the directions of your local authorities and wait for the go-ahead to use water from taps or faucets. In case of evacuation include an emergency radio in your kit so you are still able to receive updates on where to find a safe supply of water. Pictured left is the  American Red Cross FRX3 Hand Crank NOAA AM/FM Weather Alert Radio

Personal Water Filters

Personal water filters like the Life Straw pictured on the left are another great addition to your emergency supply kit. This type of straw is ideal for purifying water from streams, lakes, ponds and other contaminated sources. Whilst you should not solely rely on a water purification straw, its useful to have one for when you have no other alternative.


Water Spray Bottles

When using water for personal hygiene purposes Water Spray Bottles are great for conserving water. They are also portable and inexpensive items that you can add to your emergency kit.


Garbage Bags

It’s always a good idea to include garbage bags in your emergency kit, they can be used to separate dirty clothes and isolate waste.

After Disaster Hygiene And Sanitation Summary

After Disaster Hygiene and sanitation methods are a very important part of disaster planning. Understanding and planning for this will go a long way towards ensuring you can keep up hygiene standards if you ever find yourself in a disaster survival situation.

Recommended Reading

WHO- Sanitation

WHO- Hygiene tools and resources

Backpackers Guide To Finding and Treating Drinking Water

The Global Sanitation Crisis Is A Huge Problem. The WASH Initiative Can Solve It

Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water

Prepper Bits Prepper Resources Section

Comprehensive Bug Out Bag Master Checklist

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