How to cope when nature calls
Power outages or sewer line problems may require us to fashion our own portable potties.
By Times Staff
Published April 16, 2006
If the power goes out during a hurricane, one of the least savory consequences may be a sewage backup.
Here's how the system works, according to Gary Vickers, director of emergency management for Pinellas County:
Lift stations, powered by electricity, pump sewage to sewage treatment plants. If the power goes out, the lift stations can't pump, and sewer lines become clogged. (Some stations have backup generators. In other cases a pump truck is sent to the site. But there are lots of lift stations, and the generators and trucks can provide only limited pumping capacity.)
You'll know there's a problem if nothing happens when you flush, or if sewage starts to back up in your toilet.
You'll need to come up with an emergency toilet. Vickers recommends a 5-gallon paint can with a snap-on lid. Line it with a large, heavy-duty plastic bag. Use that as your toilet.
Keep the cover on the can between uses to ward off aromas and flies.
When the bag starts to get full, double-tie it. Do not put it out with your other garbage.
Your city or county will announce pickup procedures for human waste. It's important to make sure the bags don't split open and create a health hazard.
An alternative is a chemical toilet such as those sold at sporting-goods stores.
The problem may be generated not just by a power outage, Vickers said. Suppose a sewer line is undermined by floodwaters and breaks. "That will take some time to fix,'' he said, and in the meantime affected residents need to know how to cope.
[Last modified April 13, 2006, 16:09:39]
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