Sanitation… and Whales

The Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Council (OSSPAC) studies, among other things, expected sanitation issues in the event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) magnitude 9.0 earthquake. OSSPAC has found that Oregon’s population living within the probable earthquake-impact area will produce at least 1,000 tons of feces… every single day.

After the earthquake, toilets won’t flush.

To get an idea of how big the problem is, let’s look at Blue Whales. Here, we can see the size difference between a human, an elephant, and a Blue Whale.

That’s right. Oregon’s future CSZ impact area—to say nothing of California, Washington, or British Columbia’s—will need to contend with the equivalent weight of SIX blue whales’ worth of feces per day. No, that’s not exact math… but hopefully, this page helps illustrate the problem.

Not being able to flush will be a problem for more than one day. Oregon’s Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization (RDPO) has evaluated how to manage that quantity of feces during the first 30 days following the earthquake.

That’s a lot of… whales. This issue will be worsened by the lack of running water necessary to wash hands and bodies. So, what can you do to get yourself, your family, and your neighborhood ready?

It’s relatively cheap and easy to set up the Twin Bucket System and the Handwashing Station. “Plastic buckets – 5 or 6-gallon size; 2 buckets for 3-4 people for 3 days; a dozen buckets for a month.”

Make sure to add toilet paper, soap, hand sanitizer, and cleaning wipes.

Take the time this week to get the necessary supplies. Set it up. Be ready. In a situation where emergency responders will be wildly overwhelmed, your goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible for two weeks (or more). Taking this step will make a huge difference!

There are many organizations recommending that you get 2-Weeks-Ready. As stated on the Surviving Cascadia Water page, the American Red Cross Cascades Region, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, and the Washington Emergency Management Division ask that each home store 14 gallons of water per person (1 gallon of water/person/day for 2 weeks). The Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium, the City of Salem, and Oregon’s Lane County also have fabulous 2-weeks-ready planning guides and challenges to help get you ready.

Reminder: 1 gallon of water/person/day is meant to cover drinking and sanitation. Visit the water page for more ideas on water preparedness.

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Megathrust EarthquakesTsunamisHow Big Will it Be?
How Big is The Fault?CSZ Frequency10,000 Years
When Will it Happen?37% in 50 Years17% in 50 Years
Summer EarthquakesThe True RiskWorst Case Scenario
Expected Regional ImpactsWhy PrepareDrop, Cover, Hold?
Water PreparednessFood PreparednessSanitation… & Whales
Life Without ElectricitySlow-Slip Events (ETS)Offshore Earthquakes
ResourcesCERT SalemWest Salem CERT
Research PapersBook RecommendationsContact