Day 4 – Disaster Medical Part II – More basics, Water, and… Poop
Much of day 2 of Disaster Medical was pretty similar to the first. We had more “what if” questions, and covered some first aid basics, as well as some unique material.
The first-aid-related material was around doing a head-to-toe assessment, using the standard “DCAPBTLS” system, checking for: Deformities, Contusions, Abrasions (scrapes), Puctures, Burns, Tenderness, Lacerations (cuts or gashes), and Swelling. In addition, we reviewed basics for cold and heat-related injuries, burns, bites and stings, and wound care. One more reminder (probably not the last!): if you haven’t taken a first aid course, you should, and you can cover this material there.
But there was some interesting and less common material in this section, specifically “Public Health Considerations” and “Disaster Medical Operations”. I’ll start with the least interesting first.
In the Disaster Medical Operations section, we learned some fundamentals about how to lay out what amounts to a field clinic or hospital, with descriptions of how to lay out a medical treatment area, as well as separate areas to cover triage, transport, morgue and supply. You read right – we need to be able to set up a morgue. I hadn’t thought about that before, but it will be necessary, and it’s worth thinking about. I won’t dig into details here – it’s still up to you to take the course.
The last area I’ll cover in this article is one of the more interesting ones in my opinion: Public Health Considerations. We reviewed some guidelines here on purifying water. This is something everyone should know. If you don’t have water, you’re in big trouble. If you drink contaminated water, it could be just as bad as having none, after the parasites or bacteria are finished ravaging your insides. You must know how to purify water.
The technique covered in this course is to use bleach. Here is the formula:
- Use 8 drops of unscented (no “lemon scent” or “fresh scent”) bleach into one gallon of water if it’s clear
- If the water is cloudy or dirty looking, double the dose (12 drops)
- If the water doesn’t smell like bleach after 1/2-hour, then add 6 more drops and wait 15 more minutes.
- If it still doesn’t smell like bleach, repeat #3 until it does.
There you go – pretty simple.
But be careful. Bleach doesn’t last. If you have bleach that’s a year or two old, it may not work at all. You should ensure you have a fresh jug of bleach on hand. Or, if you want to get a little more hard core, you can get calcium hypochlorite (aka “pool shock”, used to clean pool water) and add water whenever you like, and you’ll have instant bleach with which you can treat your water.
There are many other methods available for filtering and purifying water, and you should definitely investigate them. We only covered the bleach option in this course.
And last but not least, we spent very little time on this topic, but it’s worth bringing up, and if you don’t know what to do with it, you’ll be in trouble. You’ll need a plan for poop. Yeah, that’s right. What will you do with your poop? If your toilet doesn’t flush, where will you put it? Hint: *NOT* in the toilet. You’ll just have to fish it out later – yuk!
Here’s what it says in the book: “Burying human waste. Select a burial site away from the operations area and mark the burial site for later cleanup.” What? That’s it? Well, sounds like a piece of cake. But it’s not. Are you going to lean over the burial pit every time you need to go #2? No.
In the old days, folks would dig a hole and build a shack over it, the common outhouse. If nothing else, you’ll need a trench and something you can sit on, and you’ll need to shovel dirt over your mess when you’re done, to prevent flies from spreading bacteria everywhere. But what if there’s snow falling outside? Or it’s pitch-black out and you’re out of flashlight batteries? Will you be stumbling around in the dark, near the hole filled with…? Not a good idea.
Consider an empty five-gallon bucket and another full of dirt or cat litter. Do you business, cover it up, and put the lid back on. That’s a step in the right direction.
This isn’t an article on how to manage your poop if your toilets go away, but instead I intend to get you thinking. In a disaster scenario, you should have a plan for how to use the toilet inside, when your normal toilet isn’t available. If you have that plan, you will be much more comfortable. Think about it, and give it a lot more thought than “you’ll bury it somewhere, sometime.”