Have a Toilet Plan

After a strong earthquake, we may need to know how to live without running water and working toilets for weeks or months. Deadly diseases can spread when human feces (poo) are not handled and stored safely.

Three Steps to Stay Healthy


Graphic of glass of water, hand washing, and garbage bags. Words say: Three steps to stay healthy. 1) Clean drinking water 2) Hand washing 3) Safe storage of poo.



If Toilets Aren't Working

After a major disaster, toilets and sinks may not work. You will need:

  1. Plenty of clean water.
  2. Good hand-washing practices.
  3. An emergency toilet, which is a way to safely store and dispose of human waste (poo). 

Which Emergency Toilet Method Is Right For You? 

The emergency toilet method you should use depends on where you live and what you can access. Keep reading to learn more about these three great methods: Twin Buckets, Latrines, and Septic Systems.

Method 1: Twin Buckets


Poo and pee buckets in a yard, surrounded by emergency toilet supplies.
Photo credit: Laura Hall, Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization


Emergency toilet stickers in many different languages
Photo credit: Laura Hall, Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization



When to Use Buckets

If you live in a city and don't have a working septic system or space for a latrine, its best to use the Twin Bucket System. It's also a good option if you live in an area with a high water table (like many parts of the Portland metro area). The buckets keep poo and pee separate. This minimizes volume and odor. It also makes it safer and easier to store and dispose of poo.

Label Your Buckets

Print bucket labels and use packing tape to secure them to your pee and poo buckets. During an emergency, refer to the instructions and help others understand how it works. If you live in the Portland-Vancouver Metro Region, you may be able to get water-resistant bucket stickers. Contact your city or county emergency management office to see if they have them in stock.

Print this icon

Chinese - 汉语
Korean - 한국어
Somali - af Soomaali
Russian - русский
Ukrainian - українська мова

After Using Your Buckets

Stay informed! Public agencies will provide info about how to get rid of solid waste (poo) bags safely.

Method 2: Latrine


Latrine hole in the ground with two boards for standing on.



When to Use a Latrine

A latrine (or pit toilet) is a hole in the ground that collects human waste in an emergency. It's an option if a) you don't have supplies for a Twin Bucket System, b) you have enough space in your yard, and c) you don't live on a high water table. Learn how (and when) to build a latrine

After Using Your Latrine

Stay informed! Public agencies will provide info about how to make sure your latrine remains safe.

Method 3: Septic System


Drawing of a home septic system.
Photo credit: National Environmental Health Association



When to Use a Septic System

Home septic systems are in the ground and can be damaged by earthquakes. If you have one, learn how to check your septic system to ensure it's safe to use. Do this before a pipe-breaking disaster occurs!

After Using Your Septic System

Stay informed! Public agencies will provide info about public health risks.

Quick Tips



 Twin Bucket tips  Latrine tips  Septic tips



Quick Tips

The Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization created these easy guides to help you understand the three methods. 

Print this icon

Spanish - Español
Vietnamese - Tiếng Việt
Korean - 한국어
Russian - русский
Somali - af Soomaali
Ukrainian - українська мова
Chinese - 汉语


Learn More


RDPO logo


Emergency Toilet Guidebook

Want to know more about these options? Read the Emergency Toilet Guidebook to find answers to common questions and learn more about septic systems, latrines, and the Twin Bucket System.

Project Background

Visit the Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization (RDPO) website to learn more about the Emergency Toilet Project. Learn about the project background and how to access materials for public outreach and post-disaster messaging.

Reproduction of Materials

These materials are not to be used for commercial purposes. Anyone may use them for non-commercial purposes, as long as they site the source: "Produced by the Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization (RDPO) of the Portland Metropolitan Region, with funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grant program."