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You are here: Home > Emergency Preparedness > Articles About Emergencies > Emergency Communication and Useful Tools > How to Build a Latrine

How to Build a Latrine

Why would you have to dig/build a latrine?

Proper sanitation and clean water are needed to avoid health risks.  Consideration must be given to both in order to stay healthy during a long term disaster. Proper sanitation and clean water are equally necessary to combat the spread of diseases such as viral hepatitis, typhoid, cholera and dysentery. Wastewater systems or septic systems may be affected during a long term disaster so you may want to plan out what you would do in this case. One option is to dig your own pit latrine or pit toilet. 

What is a latrine?

A latrine is sometimes called a pit toilet or pit latrine. Latrines allow for a safer and hygienic disposal of human waste. Usually pit toilets are built in rural areas or used when camping. The word latrine comes from Latin lavatrina meaning bath. A long term disaster that takes place can put you in the position of needing other means to handle waste.Latrine Tip

Types of latrines
  • Flying latrines
Use of bag that receives waste and then thrown as far away from you as you can throw. (This type is not recommended)
  • Squat toilet
This type uses a watertight holding tank that sends it to a seepage pit or drainage area.
  • Pit toilets
In order not to penetrate the water table, it is important to install a floor plate. This type of latrine is the easiest and defined simply as a hole in the ground.
  • Ventilated improved pit latrine
Is a free standing latrine and uses composted waste as soil treatment in agriculture.
  • Pour-flush latrine
This type of latrine is suitable if there is water available.
  • Sealed lid latrine
  • Cat hole

A cat hole is a one-time use pit toilet. Once you have used it you should cover with dirt before leaving the site.

How to dig a latrine

You should first decide if you want to dig one or two pits. Digging two pits means that you use one until it is nearly full then seal it and use the other. It takes up to year for the material in the first pit to be safely emptied. You can then use it to improve the soil in your garden.

You should dig the pit at least 10-12 feet deep and line it to prevent the sides from caving in. The lower portion of the lining should have holes for proper drainage. Do not build a latrine within 50 feet of a well or spring because it may pollute the water source.
Other options to consider:
  1. Cover - Use concrete for a cover if it is available.
  2. Shelter - Build a shelter for protection from the elements.
  3. Cleaning - Keep the latrine clean by using se a brush and soapy water. If you wash clothes by hand then use the leftover water to clean the latrine. 
Important: ALWAYS wash your hands each time you use the latrine or pit toilet.
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