Why Disaster Sanitation?

September 5, 2015

Geologists predict a Cascadia Subduction Zone megaquake in the Pacific Northwest. Governments and households are considering the consequences:

  • What are we going to do when the toilets don’t work?
  • What’s going to happen to sewer infrastructure? 
  • Do we have the knowledge and materials we need to build safe, functional household and multi-household toilet systems?
  • Shouldn’t we plan now for more resilient sanitation systems?

When PHLUSH launched our 2011 Toilets for Emergencies Campaign leading up to World Toilet Day on November 19, we knew the questions above needed answers. But we found very little information to help people prepare.  

Then we discovered the  compost toilet group of New Zealand Permaculture Emergency Response Group.   Their simple twin bucket emergency toilet continues to serve residents of Christchurch who remain without sewer service long after the February 2011 earthquake. With their permission, we took their simple innovative approach and urged Portlanders to prepare.

Following the City of Portland’s adoption of the Twin Bucket Emergency Toilet in Fall 2011, our exhibits on household sanitation and workshops on neighborhood level emergency sanitation have proven popular.   We continue to partner with government agencies and organizations in the Pacific Northwest to participate in events and to develop and pre-test high quality awareness materials, how-to manuals and videos for both the general public and disaster response specialists.

The release of the Oregon Resilience Plan in February 2013 predicted that a 0.9M CSZ quake would devastate sewers and authorities took notice.  PHLUSH is playing a role in education and advocacy as volunteers step in to do outreach.

Groups collaborating with PHLUSH on Emergency Sanitation We’ve exchanged professional expertise with the following agencies, organization and groups:  Multnomah County Office of Emergency ManagementPortland Bureau of Emergency Management , MDML DesignPacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) Sanitation, Hygiene Innovative Technologies (SHIT) LabTransitionPDXSustainable Sanitation AllianceSuSanA Working Group on Emergency SanitationEast Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District,  Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency, Washington County Citizen Corps, Portland Neighborhood Emergency Teams (NETs)Planning for Resilience and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) and Resilience NW. Dozens of local groups have worked with us to get the word out on emergency sanitation by joining the Twin Bucket Brigade or by borrowing our Restorative Sanitation display. Vecinos UnidosNeighbors-West Northwest, Southeast Uplift Neighborhood CoalitionOld Town Chinatown Neighborhood AssociationNorthwest District AssociationOn Solid GroundResilience PDX, the Pearl District Neighborhood Association, Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood Development, Richmond Neighborhood Association, Sunnyside Environmental School, Port Townsend’s Local 20/20, Lake Oswego’s Waluga Neighborhood Association, Clinton Street Theater for World Water Day 2013, Portland Roasting Company for World Water Day 2012 and 2013, National Voluntary Organizations Active in DisasterOregon Water/Wastewater Agency Response NetworkMarrowstone Island Emergency Preparedness.  In 2014 we participated in a citizen-led study group which led to the adoption of the Twin Bucket system by Jefferson County (Washington) Department of Emergency Management.  In 2015, we continue to work with these partners, as well as new ones such as the Salt Lake City Fire Department.  We were at the 2016 Jefferson County Home Builders Association Expo in Washington and the Overlook NETs Resilience Summit in Portland, Oregon.

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    Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH) was founded in Portland, Oregon and today collaborates with groups across North America.

    PHLUSH is a member of the World Toilet Organization and a partner in the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

    Our Mission Through education and advocacy, PHLUSH helps local governments and citizen groups to provide equitable public restroom availability and to prepare for a pipe-breaking seismic event with appropriate ecological toilet systems.

    Our Vision Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.

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