Over My Dead Body

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Body Disposal in Cultural Meltdown

The practices in this article should only be used in a situation where society has collapsed. The property authorities need to be notified and work within the system, as long as the system is there to work with.  Have a frank talk with your loved ones on this issue.  They may not want to discuss it but you must.  David's comment, when we talked about it was, "Throw me out to the wolves."  Which means, he did not want to talk about it.  That is not possible for many reasons which we will now discuss.

With each passing day, the chances are increasing that you may be faced with a distasteful situation that none of us in our “civilized” and sanitized life even wants to consider.  That is being quarantined in your home and one of your friends or family becomes ill from a pathogen and dies. When a traditional response to this death is not available or possible you might be left alone to figure out what to do with the body of the deceased.   I understand you do not want to even consider the possibility, but for the sake of your family and community, you must prepare for this eventuality. Dead bodies, especially ones who died from pathogens can become a vector to spread more disease.

Dead human bodies are going viral.  In a Utah human cadaver lab, TikTok is bringing the dead back to life in a sense.  The Institute of Human Anatomy is a private human cadaver lab in Utah that is now better known for its TikTok page, which has over 4 million followers. Since the fall of 2019, the lab has had a meteoric rise on social media, going from less than 300 Instagram followers to over 40,000 in March 2020. That rise, the lab’s leadership says, is mostly due to TikTok.

You need to discuss this topic with your family and community before it happens. 

A couple of things you will need to know:

  • The layout of your property
  • The number of bodies

Have a plan for what to do if someone dies on your property and no help is available. 

Make a diagram of the infected property (IP) or dangerous-contact premises (DCP).

Make sure that there is a complete inventory of animals to be destroyed on the property.  This may include livestock.

Ensure that animals not to be destroyed, including domestic pets, are confined well away from the destruction site.

Move the deceased to the center of the IP or to areas most remote from other susceptible animals, including wild animals.

Disposal Procedures

The primary objective of disposal of carcasses, materials, and wastes is to prevent the dissemination of infection. Disposal should be completed as soon as possible after death, to minimize opportunities for infectious material to disperse. Carcasses are much easier to handle before decomposition has set in.

Selection of burial method and site

Once again, it is crucial to select a site that is well-protected from people and scavenging animals. On some occasions, it may be necessary to mount a guard at the site for the first few days.

Depending on local circumstances, burial may be the preferred method of disposal because it is quicker, cheaper, environmentally cleaner and easier to organize because there are fewer outside resources required.

General factors to be considered are:

  • nature and amount of material for burial;
  • availability of sites suitable for burial or cremation;
  • accessibility to disposal site by heavy transport vehicles;
  • nature of soil/rock formation in the available area;
  • level of the water table;
  • proximity to water catchment areas, bores, and wells;
  • presence of services such as water, gas, electricity, telephone lines, drainage, sewerage and other improvements or structures, including aerial lines;
  • proximity to built-up areas and dwellings;
  • fire restrictions and hazards in the case of cremation;
  • weather conditions, including prevailing winds; it may be easier to cremate in excessively wet conditions;
  • availability of supplies of suitable fuel for cremation;
  • presence of overhead structures such as power lines; these must be avoided when selecting burial and cremation sites;
  • quantities of bodies and other material for burial;
  • subsequent plans for the use of the area; for example, the soil may be unstable where burial pits are placed.

Disposal of bodies, human or animal and other infectious material may involve some adverse environmental consequences. It is important for the environmental aspects of proposed disposal activities to be properly considered.  Now is the time to research the environmental aspects of a forced-in-duress burial. Remember, that you are only doing this when the normal infrastructure is unavailable. 

Burial:  Infected premises or dangerous-contact premises

Burial is preferred, some people may want cremation but getting temperatures that hot are difficult to obtain. Occasionally, your property may not be suitable for burial and you may have to transport the body if that is possible to another location for burial.  Always get the property owners' permission.  And no, you may not just throw the body out for the wolves and crows to feast upon. 

Realize that your property may be listed as Infected Premises or Dangerous Contact Premises if deaths, humans or animals occur on your property from contagious pathogens. 


Important considerations for selecting burial sites include:

  • access for equipment to dig the burial pit and for the delivery of livestock, carcasses or other materials to be buried;
  • environmental aspects, such as:
  • the distance to watercourses, bores, and wells
  • height of the water table
  • proximity to buildings, especially houses
  • proximity to neighbors or public lands including roads
  • the slope of the land and drainage to and from the pit
  • permeability of soil
  • space for the temporary storage of overburden
  • the direction of prevailing wind (odor);
  • construction considerations:
  • avoid rocky areas, which slow digging and increase costs
  • select stable soils that can take the weight of the equipment used to construct and fill the pits
  • prevent surface runoff from entering the pit by constructing diversion banks
  • construct similar banks to prevent liquids from escaping from the burial site
  • fencing may be necessary to exclude animals until the site is safe for use.

The preferred equipment for digging burial pits is an excavator, which is the most efficient for the construction of long, deep pits with vertical sides. Advantages include the ability to store topsoil separately from the subsoil. The equipment can be used to fill the pit with carcasses or other materials and close it without disturbing the body (bodies).

Loaders, bulldozers, road graders and backhoes - or manual labor for small jobs - may be used if excavators are unavailable. With the exception of backhoes, all other equipment requires continual movement of the machine over the site while the pit is being dug. Excavators and backhoes remain in a fixed position, so they move soil faster, with less cost and less damage to the area around the pit. Most excavators have an attachable hammer for excavating rock.

Burial Pit Construction

The dimensions of the burial pit will depend on the equipment used, site considerations and the volume of material to be buried. Pits should be as deep as possible, with vertical sides; reach of machinery, soil type, and water table level are the usual constraints. The pit should of a width such that the equipment can fill it evenly with the material to be buried. If a bulldozer is used, for example, the pit should be no more than one blade width, about 3 meters, because it may be difficult to push carcasses in from one side and fill the pit evenly. The aim should be to avoid having to move carcasses once they are in the pit. The length of the pit will be determined by the volume of material to be buried.

Other considerations

The gas produced by decomposition within unopened carcasses may result in considerable expansion of the buried material, to the extent that the surface of the closed pit may rise and carcasses may be expelled. There appears to be little benefit in opening small animal carcasses. If carcasses are to be opened, it should be done at the side of the pit. Under no circumstances should you enter the pit during filling.

In deciding the dimensions of the pit, consideration needs to be given to the method of filling the pit with the body or other material. Bodies can be placed into the pit by heavy equipment or lowered using ropes.

When closing the pit, surplus soil should be heaped over it as overfill. The weight of soil prevents carcasses from rising out of the pit because of gas entrapment, prevents scavengers from digging up carcasses, helps filter out odors and assists in absorbing the fluids of decomposition. After pit subsidence, it will be necessary to replace any topsoil not utilized during pit closure.

Covering buried carcasses with lime

Covering the carcasses with lime is a requirement since it protects the carcasses from being uncovered by carnivores and earthworms.  You need to have several bags of lime on hand for this purpose.  Purchase those now.  Lime can be used for many things so your money will not be wasted. 

Lime should be added to pits, to prevent earthworms from bringing contaminated material to the surface after pit closure. Cover the body with soil, 400 mm is suggested, and add an unbroken layer of slaked lime - Ca (OH)2 - before the filling is completed.

Lime should not be placed directly on the body, because in wet conditions it slows and may prevent decomposition.

Do not get new animals and discourage visitors to your property after a pestilence death.  Some pathogens stay in the soil and can be transmissible from days, weeks, and even years later-depending upon the pathogen. 

The safety of grave diggers is an overriding consideration. Aspects to consider include hygiene of personnel working on the site, availability of rescue equipment if a person falls into the pit or if the pit wall collapses and protection against dust. Operations should be controlled by the site supervisor/team leader; staff must be briefed before operations begin.


Cremation should be considered only when burial is not possible. In countries where earthmoving equipment may not be available for deep burial, where putrefaction is not a deterrent and/or poverty dictates that eating habits should not be fastidious. Available methods include funeral pyres, incinerators, and pit burning.  Remember that cremation is not really fully feasible on private property because it is difficult to get up to adequate temperature. 


Where there is a minor risk of fomite spread, composting of infected materials is an alternative to burial or burning. Composting should be done in a secure area not accessible to susceptible people or animals.  If the deceased was on medication these medications may remain in the soil for a considerable amount of time.  Ensure that they do not enter your water source.


If your preference is to do primitive embalming honey mixed with certain herbs is possible.  This is something to research now. 

Print this out and put it in your preparedness journal.

God Forbid

God, forbid that you ever must deal with this unpleasant situation but as in all preparations, it is better to be prepared than not prepared, especially in the days of pestilence and plagues. 




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Celeste has worked as a contractor for Homeland Security and FEMA. Her training and activations include the infamous day of 911, flood and earthquake operations, mass casualty exercises, and numerous other operations. Celeste is FEMA certified and has completed the Professional Development Emergency Management Series.

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Celeste grew up in military & governmental home with her father working for the Naval Warfare Center, and later as Assistant Director for Public Lands and Natural Resources, in both Washington State and California.

Celeste also has training and expertise in small agricultural lobbying, Integrative/Functional Medicine, asymmetrical and symmetrical warfare, and Organic Farming.

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