I recall a Doomsday Preppers episode last season where a lady had a room setup such that a sick family member or perhaps new visitor could be quarantined for days or weeks on end in the event they had a communicable disease, were suspected of having one, or you just didn’t want to take any chances.
For a long time I never worried about such a problem (as well as many other considerations such as radioactive contamination or EMP) because I felt the potential for such problems were relatively low and there were far more likely problems to prepare for. While this may still be the case, it never hurts to be more prepared for less likely threats than not, so I began to ponder how and where I would setup a quarantine room.
At first glace this may seem like an easy problem to fix. Seal off a room and be done with it. If you want to do it right–and you do–there’s a bit more to consider than that.
For starters, as with real estate, it’s all about location, location, location! I would think that the ideal location would be any adequate shelter away from your main residence; something like an RV would be great. Obviously, not everyone has that option so a place inside the house will have to do. Perhaps a master bedroom that includes an attached bathroom would be the next best choice. If that doesn’t work then really any bedroom that is generally “away” from the rest of the inhabitants may do. Maybe a basement bedroom is in order. If there’s a bathroom nearby then ensure that only the quarantined person(s) will be using that bathroom for the duration. If not, then you’ll have to supply them with plenty of buckets and supplies to catch and contain their own waste.
Remember that wherever the quarantined individual(s) are at is where they will be for WEEKS! They really need to have a bit of space to roam inside their quarantine area as you do NOT want them to be able to come into contact with any family members or anything they would consume, touch, breathe in, and so on.
You’ll also want to create a sectioned-off space where supplies and food can be left for them to retrieve. This can be accomplished by hanging a sheet of heavy-duty plastic sheeting of at least 4 mils but preferably 6 mils in thickness in front of the main entrance to their room where the occupants will be staying. The idea isn’t necessarily to completely section off that space (although I think that would be best) but to significantly reduce any chances that disease could spread into the rest of your home. You could use duct tape to seal the plastic sheeting to the ceiling and walls and perhaps something heavy (such as dumbbells) to keep the plastic sheet on the floor. You can’t completely seal this off because you’ll be bringing them food and what not on a daily basis.
You also want to consider how you’ll be bringing them food, for example. Instead of serving them food on reusable plates, use paper plates, bowls, cups, and plastic utensils instead, all of which can be easily discarded in a trash can inside the quarantine room. Maybe even provide a few snacks as well. The same can be said for anything else that enters the room. This could be clothing, wash supplies, personal hygiene supplies, etc. The point here is to ensure nothing comes back out of the room once inside.
While the best course of action is to completely avoid the quarantined person for the duration, if you feel you must care for them in person then you’re going to want to do so very carefully. The plastic sheet setup can also be used as a transitional area for you to change clothes before and after care as well as a place to wash up after exiting.
Before entering the quarantine room you’ll want to cover as much of your clothing and skin as possible. Consider something like an inexpensive one-piece painter’s suit (purchase at least a few sets) and throw in a box of shoe coverings as well. This is something you would put on right before entering the room, then remove and discard immediately upon exiting the quarantine room. And be sure to cover your hands with disposable gloves (non-latex is preferred), your mouth and nose with at minimum an N-95 mask but perhaps several N-100 masks would be better, and goggles.
Everything would be trashed in a bucket with lid upon exit with exception of the goggles. Next, you want to thoroughly scrub yourself with something. Perhaps liquid dish soap would work ok but you’re going to need a small wash station setup for this to work as I wouldn’t want to use the bathroom that any quarantined person has been using. I would certainly be applying hand sanitizer very liberally as well.
- Be sure to have a few buckets and trash cans in the room. These could be used to collect trash and human waste, if necessary. There should be plenty of toilet paper, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and so on.
- Include extra bed linens as they may get soiled during their stay. These linens could be cleaned after the duration if the person doesn’t show any signs of infection; otherwise, I would burn them along with any pillows used.
- Any hvac vents or other potential pathways should be thoroughly covered with plastic sheeting and duct tape prior to occupancy.
- Consider plenty of entertainment. Books, magazines, even a television if you’re able. There will be lots of boredom for the quarantined individual… help them out a bit.
- Consider how you will thoroughly disinfect the room if the person is infected. Maybe a few cans of Lysol disinfectant spray is a good idea but I would think that plenty of fresh air and time are the best option.
- Have a plan for dealing with them a few days into the ordeal. They will probably become restless and WANT to come out.
The overriding questions in your head should be: how to I minimize the possibility that myself and my family may contract whatever we’re trying to avoid? What steps must I take to do so? Does this action (or inaction) promote that end?
I’m not saying you’ll be 100% safe from whatever you’re trying to avoid by doing what I suggest. If a disease is highly communicable, who knows how easily it can spread, how long it might stay viable outside the human body, and even if you’ve already been exposed. The point is simply to give you and yours the best shot at staying safe.