Since Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana nearly 15 years ago, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has made several changes to improve its responsiveness and effectiveness when a crisis occurs.
One such change is in regard to their emergency funding program. In the past, the program provided those impacted by a disaster with money to purchase soap, diapers, toothpaste, and underwear. Now they offer funding for one more thing that many women feel has been long overlooked: feminine hygiene products.
This change coincides with the “menstrual equity” movement that has been winding its way through the country for the past several years. Advocates of menstrual equity have pushed some cities and states to remove sales tax on tampons and similar items and in some cases, to require that these products be provided for free to girls in junior and senior high schools.
This is all happening at a time when many facility managers, as well as some school district administrators, have been removing sanitary napkin dispensers from ladies’ restrooms. Without dispensers, however, many women have been left in the lurch.
In an August 2013 Harris Interactive Poll of 1,072 women ages 18 to 54, respondents reported they have been forced to do the following at least once in their lifetime:
• Make a pad out of toilet paper; 80 percent
• Go to a store immediately to purchase tampons, even if at work; 34 percent
• Drive home to get feminine hygiene supplies, even if at work; 33 percent
• Ask another woman for supplies; 53 percent
Compounding the problem, more than 90 percent of the women in this survey report that even if sanitary napkin dispensers are in the ladies’ restroom, the dispensers are either broken or out of supplies.
So why are facilities removing sanitary dispensers? And why are they so often out of stock?
Some administrators argue that women today usually carry their own sanitary supplies, making the dispenser unnecessary. However, the study above indicates that this is not necessarily the case.
Other administrators believe these dispensers are unattractive, basing this belief on how they looked years ago. Further, although sanitary napkin dispensers are not necessarily a costly investment, some administrators do not want to make the investment at all.
Finally, those facilities that do install these systems report that they are often broken and sometimes vandalized, increasing costs for the facility.
Despite these concerns, it is expected that more women will expect — if not demand — that these dispensers be installed, especially in schools and universities. And this brings up another question:
How can administrators select cost-effective dispensers that are durable, have minimal downtime, and are attractive to boot?
Here are some suggestions:
- Work with a distributor or go online to see the new generation of attractive sanitary napkin dispensers designed for just about any ladies’ restroom.
- To help ensure durability and prevent vandalism, select dispensers made of metal with an attractive white enamel finish or a robust stainless-steel body with a high-quality satin finish.
- Choose a unit with a "window" so that custodial workers can quickly check if supplies are plentiful.
- Select the size that is right for your facility. Some systems are made for smaller facilities and may only have two chambers; others have three chambers for busier locations.
- Consider how much stock your facility needs. Some dispensers carry, for instance, 12 pads and 19 tampons while others can stock 17 pads and 26 tampons.
- Make sure the system is fully ADA compliant and has a $.25 coin mechanism for each chamber.
It's also a good idea to look for dispensers with mechanisms that can vend sanitary napkins for free. This way, administrators do not need to select new dispensers should laws change in their city or state. For more information on personal care products along with informative videos, click here or contact an Impact-Product representative.