After a major disaster like an earthquake, the water supply may be cut off, or the water and sewer lines may be damaged.  This means that you may need to use improvised emergency toilets, improvise how you use your existing toilet or have a chemical or camping toilet available.

Health officials advise that we must separate solid waste from liquid waste. In other words, separate urine from fecal matter.  Urine contamination is not considered a serious health problem and can be disposed of in your back yard or other green space.

Fecal matter on the other hand must be disposed of more carefully to prevent the outbreak of disease. Public Health bulletins will be issued on how to dispose of waste immediately after a major disaster.

Using your existing toilet

You can use your existing toilet for a container to collect feces in.

  • Lift the toilet seat
  • Scoop out the water in the bowl
  • Line the toilet bowl with double (two) garbage bags (to protect against leakage)
  • Put the seat back down
  • After you use the toilet, cover the feces in the bag with a liberal dose of *hydrated lime. The hydrated lime serves a number of purposes.  It controls odour, bacteria and flies which can spread disease. It also helps to dry out the waste in the bag so that when it is time to dispose of the waste, it will be easier to handle.

*  Hydrated lime is available in larger quantities (usually 55 lb bags) at various home hardware type stores. Store the lime above ground in a cool, dry place and in a sealed plastic container.

How to make an emergency toilet

Sometimes you will not be able to use your household toilet.  If you are a camper, you may have a camping or compost toilet that you can use.  Or you may need to improvise and make an emergency toilet.

  • Have on hand 2 watertight containers such as a medium-sized rubbish bin or bucket, with a snug-fitting cover. Use one for urine and the other for fecal waste matter.
  • If the waste container is small, keep a larger container with a snug-fitting cover for fecal waste disposal.
  • Line waste bin with plastic bags if possible.
  • Pour or sprinkle a small amount of hydrated lime (if available) or regular household disinfectant such as chlorine bleach into the waste container each time the toilet is used to reduce odour and germs. Keep the toilet covered.


Here are some tips and extra supplies you should have handy to help with sanitation concerns.

  • Set up a Hand Washing Station
    Whether you are dealing with a pandemic or an influenza outbreak, or you have  limited water after a major disaster like an earthquake, good hand washing is vital to minimize the spread of germs.  You need to wash your hands for a  minimum of 20 seconds using plain soap and water. Use a paper towel to dry your hands and then throw this into the garbage.
  • Hand Sanitizers
    Have some alcohol-based hand sanitizer (gel or wipes) as back up with you,  when soap and water are not readily available, to help minimize germs.
  • Toilet paper, paper towels, plain soap in a pump container
  • Duct Tape
    If you are using your existing toilet, place strips of duct tape over the handle so  that you do not flush by accident.  It can also be used to keep containers secured and it can come in handy for a multitude of other things.
  • Rubber Gloves