A disaster can happen anywhere and at any time. These can include natural disasters like floods, snowstorms, and other weather-related events to manmade threats. After every disaster occurs, there is always the need for cleanup and disaster relief. Depending on the type of event and its severity, this can take days, weeks, or even months to clean up. During that time, there will be the need for certain basic needs to be met, including the need for safe and sanitary places to use the toilet. Bringing in porta potties along with other disaster relief supplies is a vital part of the cleanup and rescue efforts. These will be needed not only for the people that are involved in the relief efforts but for the people that have been displaced by the disaster as well.
First Responders and Critical Emergency Teams on the Scene
When a disaster happens, the first people to get there are the emergency crews, called First Responders. These can include fire rescue and police agencies, both locally and from other jurisdictions depending on the nature and severity of the disaster, as well as medical teams. Others that may come to the scene during those first few, critical hours include the following:
- Federal agencies (FEMA, for instance)
- Volunteers and charity rescue groups that will aid in getting people to safety and shelter
- The media, who will cover the event
All of these people will play a key role in saving lives and trying to minimize further damage to property. They will not be able to leave that site for many hours, and some will be there for the duration of the relief efforts. Everyone needs to use the toilet, even rescue workers. Having portable toilets on site becomes a crucial part of those efforts.
Location of the Porta Potties at a Disaster Event
There are several factors that will best determine where portable restrooms are located during a disaster relief campaign. They must be easily accessible to both the people that need them and the rental company (for maintenance and delivery purposes) but must be far enough away that they are not in the way or in any type of danger. During a disaster, that may involve unstable ground conditions, such as an earthquake. It can be very difficult to determine where a “safe” place might be, especially if there are still aftershocks or the threat of further quakes that could cause more damage and ground movement.
Maintaining the Safety, Dignity, and Comfort of Everyone Involved and Impacted
In a disaster such as a sudden flood, the basics that we often take for granted can be forgotten about, at least for a while. Eventually, though, people will notice they are hungry, are tired, or need to use the restroom. These needs must be met. These needs are especially important for the rescuers, who put in untold hours while trying to save lives. Being able to use the toilet discreetly is vital to dignity and comfort as well as a health and safety issue. Having people just squat behind debris can be dangerous to others and to the environment. This is an especially important consideration during severe weather situations such as a snowstorm, when even brief exposure to the elements can cause frostbite and hypothermia.
Who Is in Charge of the Rental of Porta Potties During a Disaster?
The answer to this question may depend on where the disaster occurs, the type of disaster, and what level of agencies are involved. If the event is minimal or the response teams beyond the local levels have not arrived, it may fall to the local agencies to find and rent portable toilets for the duration. If the event is extensive and at the state and/or federal level, then pre-approved porta potties will likely be brought in immediately. These units can include more than just the portable toilet, and portable showers can be brought in as well. These may be important for events such as chemical or other types of spills.
There may be a person who is designated as the contact person for this part of the operation, and they will be coordinating calls to the porta potty providers, if needed, to get more units or to get units serviced, cleaned, or replaced as well as other needs as they arise. There is a chain of command already in place for the federal- and state-level response teams. In smaller jurisdictions, this may not be the case but can quickly be decided on if and when the time comes.