Lessons from Haiti and Other Disastrous Places

The is another guest post from C.E. Harris on his experiences in disaster areas.


Poor field sanitation caused the cholera epidemic in Haiti after the earthquake. What follows is useful during any time when healthcare, sanitation, and security are impaired, either in a post-disaster situation or an escape and evasion scenario when needed to exit a dangerous Third World area.  When on disaster relief deployments I carried an “on body kit,” to augment a small ruck taken on daytrips, wore cargo pants, made use of their pockets and also wore a Rigger’s Belt. I’m retired now, in good health, so my precautions must have worked OK.

Sanitation tops the list. I carried travel- pack baby wipes, viscose rayon compressible towel and hand sanitizer in my left cargo pocket. Also a half dozen alcohol prep pads in the upper left shirt pocket, an equal number of eyeglass wipes, if you wear glasses. On a neck chain, another small hand sanitizer.

While on travel collect fast food salt and sugar packets whenever I can in case they are needed for making a rehydration solution if dehydrated due to intestinal distress or excessive sweating. Another use for them is for getting rid of leaches. Salt, when sprinkled on them, makes the little buggers shrivel and roll off. Sugar, when sprinkled on the bleeding hole they leaves causes the blood to coagulate. Best is to carry a tube of rehydration tablets (Natural Hydration) and use them as needed if engaged in hard physical work.

A Steripen is effective to sterilize most local water, but with questionable sources which may be contaminated by sewage or floodwaters use multiple methods, combining filtration, chemical sterilization and boiling or distillation if possible, to be most effective.

Always carry N-95 masks and a box of Nitrile gloves. I carry and use regularly “Silva Solution Advanced Liquid Silver (Colloidal Silver) and several tubes of “Airborne” tablets. Anytime I develop a scratchy throat, I have used them both to great effect.

For tools and sharps I carry a K-bar, Mil-K-818 pocket knife and a Leatherman Super Tool. They are primarily for fixing and making things, but I also feel more secure carrying them… just in case. I kept them in cargo pockets, out of sight.  A sturdy Lexan water bottle of purified water secured on a length of parachute cord, looks innocent enough, but can be swung as a defensive weapon if needed. Keep another full bottle in your ruck.

I carry a small 2 lb. “survival kit” which is secured to my ruck with a snap-link.  Never leave home without it since the night my car slid off the road into a pond and I had to walk home several miles in wet clothes during a New Hampshire snowstorm . If I had not gotten a fire going , I could have died.  My compact survival kit also has basic first aid items and can be hooked onto a belt loop via its snaplink.  An extra tube of triple antibiotic is in my ruck. A  25′ feet roll  of parachute cord stays in my back pocket and another  100′ in my ruck. A small backpack roll of duct tape goes into a my front shirt pocket.  Documents stow in a tough Alosak plastic bag with a Fisher Space pen, small pencil and Rite In The Rain waterproof notebook.

A Petzl LED headlamp is useful for hands-free finding things after dark. Also wore, around my neck, a Fenix E01 light. Both are handy for after dark rendezvous with others in your party when there were no streetlights.

I wore my old military boonie hat with parachute cord hatband and extra paracord wrapped in extra-long laces wrapped around my work boots. A 55 gallon clear barrel liner and a poncho were always in my ruck, with rain jacket, extra socks, D3A leather glove shells and wool liners, fleece watch cap and neck warmer. Sunglasses are secured with a dummy  neck cord. My watchband has a Suunto wrist compass. A civilianized “dogtag” with personal medical data, including blood type completes the on-body kit.

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2 Responses to Lessons from Haiti and Other Disastrous Places

  1. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    Good Stuff
    We must take every precaution against being a drain on already strapped resources and we are of no use if we go down too. I’m a big believer in over doing the water with multiple methods, just paranoid maybe but still. If I had anything to add I guess that it would be that there are times I have “left” my supplies when I left just as I did in the tornado stuff I worked.That is a personal choice because I know I have more or can get more soon and maybe it wont be what you want to do.
    Good lessons

  2. KE4SKY says:

    When our public works department sent crews and equipment to Gulfport, MS to assist in cleanup after Rita annd Katrina we left two tub grinders, four knuckleboom cranes and six walking floor tractor-trailers full of tools and gear to replace stuff which was lost or destroyed for the locals. Of course, we were reimbursed for all of it by the Feds and got new stuff to replace it. It is also true we came from a large jurisdiction which was very well equipped, thanks to a great tax base and lots of federal homeland security preparedness grant money. Your tax dollars at work, thank you very much!

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