Out of all the topics one can research regarding disaster preparedness this isn’t likely to be the most interesting, but it is realistically one of the most important. Of course having food, water, shelter, warmth and being able to defend it all is important, but in prolonged survival situation if you don’t give attention to hygiene and sanitation, all your other preparations may be for nothing.
All you have to do is look closely at natural disasters where there either is no infrastructure, or it has been disrupted to see the ill effects that follow with often dire consequences. Take for example the cholera outbreaks after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 or more recently after hurricane Matthew. Consider insect borne illnesses that we don’t think about much currently like malaria or West Nile virus. Malaria was not effectively controlled in the southern United States until the 1940’s and despite a late appearance to the US in 1999 has now been found in every state in the lower 48 with exception to Maine. These are just a few names of illnesses that can and do kill. There are many more that would certainly proliferate in disaster conditions where normal infrastructure is impacted.
The many basic things that we take for granted when they are not an issue are what need to be considered here. Clean water is the most obvious of course. I am sure many people have water filters, but I doubt many have thought about how to maintain clean water in a prolonged situation and for a number of people. Other things we often take for granted are sanitation, personal hygiene and pest control. What to do with your trash when the garbage truck isn’t showing up. How to deal with sewage when a flush isn’t available. What to do to keep clean when you don’t have running water for a sustained period of time. Thinking about how to control insects such as flies and mosquitoes in your area to help prevent spread of disease.
Of course none of these are novel concepts. They are things that have been considered in depth and have solutions. All I’m saying is they are also things worth giving consideration to before you are in a situation where you really have to. Some basic education and supplies can go a long way if the need ever arises. One resource for covering all these topics and more is the Army field manual for field sanitation and hygiene.This manual gives basic information for topics such as: heat and cold injuries, prevention of insect borne disease, constructing and maintaining field latrines and disposal of waste water and materials. While it is geared towards military units during field operations, much of the information and principles carry over to a disaster type situation. The manual is accessible online in PDF format at: http://olive-drab.com/archive/fm21-10.pdf or can also be purchased in book form from Amazon for $8.99 here: Field Hygiene and Sanitation FM 21-10: MCRP 4-11.1d
Having the necessary equipment to deal with latrine building, maintaining good hygiene, pest control, and purifying and storing water are essential, but far less glamorous compared to tactical gear of course. In a scenario where normal infrastructure such as running water, sanitation services and electricity are lacking these items may be of greater utility than your firearms, and considering these things are a fraction of the price to amass there is no real good excuse not too.