Ok so this is sort of a morbid subject, but one that needs to be addressed, since as preppers we need to be prepared for a variety of scenarios.
In a truly dire situation, we may not have the luxury of a mortuary or funeral home, or we may just decide we don’t want to deal with it and wish to bury our loved ones or others as we see fit.
First thing that needs to be addressed is the legal concerns, if government is still active and enforcing laws you will need to do a few things first.
- Notify the Police who will conduct a investigation into cause of death. Especially if this is a stranger or friend you don’t want to have suspicion cast your way or be criminally liable years later.
- Contact Local Board of Health or Zoning/Planning Commissions to ensure that you can do this. You may have to submit a request/petition, and will probably zone a piece of your property as a “cemetary” as well as have a restriction on the deed to your home/property so that future owners would be aware of its presence. You may even have to wait for a City/Town Council to approve, as is seen in the case of James Davis of Alabama who is currently in a legal battle as the County Health Department found no issues with the burial site, but the City Council rejected it due to various issues.
- Conneticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska and New York as of January 2011 require a funeral director to “Handle the remains during the process”, once the funeral directors legal involvement is complete you CAN bury that person on your property legally (minding the other things mentioned above). All other 44 States do not require this.
- You can consult what is called a “Death Midwife” who are educated in local laws and legal necessities and can be a great help to maneuvering the legal eagle stuff, their fees can range from a couple hundred bucks to a couple thousand, still below the standard funeral cost.
If you are in a survival situation/Collapse scenario then you will not be able to do this. However If I were you I would do the following to “cover your ass”
- If possible take photos of the body and injuries (if present), whether digital or disposable. File those away, you never know what the future might bring
- Get signatures of witnesses who can testify to the cause of death. If it was a defensive shooting this is of the utmost importance, You dont want to be tried for Murder 10 years later, while this might not be a get out of jail free card, it cant hurt.
- If its a stranger or friend, keep valuables stored away to give to relatives if you ever come into contact with them.
There are alot of old wives tales associated with dead bodies. The Mortuary industry likes to perpetuate this because it is good for business, namely that dead bodies are carriers of disease and only trained professionals can deal with them.
This is not true, no matter what your views are on the uniqueness of man and his/her place in this world, a human dead body is as little danger as a dead deer or wild board, they both live and when they die they decay. There are a few exceptions to this however. If the person died from an infectious disease, pandemic, etc. then you MUST TAKE THE UTMOST CARE in the disposal and internment of the body. Wear proper protective gear and avoid contact with any bodily fluid. If the cause of death is undetermined its always best to be on the safe side, and even if you know death was not from a infectious disease you should always err on the side of caution. That being said, a dead human body is not a massive biohazard 99% of the time. FYI also, HIV can live up to 16 days under refrigeration so be wary of that as well.
A body, any body goes through stages of putrefaction, that is decay, from Fresh to Bloat to Active Decay, Advanced decay and final Dry/Skeletal.
The warmer the environment the more time is of the essence to intern the body properly, colder climates will allow you more time as the process will be slowed due to the colds inhibiting factor on decomposing bacteria in our bodies.
Within 3-6 hours after death, muscular tissues become rigid and will be unable to relax, this is known as rigor mortis, that is once this sets in if the body is not in the position you want it to be, it wont be able to, this is why putting them in the casket (if it is to be used) is important very quickly, or at least keeping the body in the classic funeral position (straight arms at sides). After about 36-72 hours (once again climate dependent) the body WILL lose rigor mortis, however during this time the body is beginning to break down, insects will be attracted and a odor will be emitted.
There is a reason many religions require burial within 12-24 hours, regardless of the theological specific implications it also serves a practical purpose. I did say that bodies are not inherently biohazards, however anything that is decomposing can become a health risk as it begins to rot.
If you are putting the individual in a casket here is PDF on how to build a Simple Casket, or for a more traditional coffin look, this site has decent info on how to DIY build it yourself. You also have the option of just laying the body in the hole or wrapping it in bedsheets/ linens etc. Its all a matter of preference as coffins do not serve and real practical purpose.
There is no set depth for burial, the term “six feet under” is a colloquial saying and not a letter of law or natural requirement, and it all depends on your local situation. For areas in low lying swamp like Louisiana going that deep could dump you into the water table!
I would say that around 3 feet deep would be sufficient to keep scavenging animals from digging it up, just make sure the hole is long and wide enough to fit the body or the casket/body.
You will want to make the burial site far away from the home and water sources for the house. The body could leak into the groundwater possible and contaminate your well and drinking water if to close to the home, but this all depends on your local conditions. The best way to make sure is to determine the natural slope of the land around your home, even if it is minute. Place the burial site on the side that slopes away from the home and well, this way IF the groundwater was to be contaminated, it would be carried away from your home and not towards your well.
You can consult a USDA paper on Carcass Disposal, more geared towards pandemic disease such as Mad Cow and how to dispose of large amounts of bodies, but still could be of Some use, particularly if you own livestock.
Once the body is in the hole it is up to you what kind, if any funeral services you want to conduct. However regardless of your beliefs or lack thereof it may be a kindness to be aware of different traditions to help honor that individual as they lived their life.
Below are links to burial practices for various faiths and belief systems, you should download this article and those practices and put it in a binder somewhere, you never know what friendships may be struck in a dire scenario and they may have different practices than your own, this way you can honor the beliefs they held in remembrance of that person.