Supersize Me!

Active Deployment Systems shows off its new giant restroom trailer at a California disaster response exercise
Supersize Me!
Local county sheriff’s deputies prepare a mock victim to be hoisted into a helicopter.

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Simon Elliott, owner of Active Deployment Systems Inc. (ADS), heads a team of 15 drivers, managers and administrative staff. ADS focuses on large, specialized equipment – portable showers, sinks, restroom trailers and laundry trailers – for disaster relief, military training programs and other special events.

The company is headquartered in Spicewood, Texas, but some of its equipment and about 10 employees work in California. Senior manager Lance Washington, who is often dispatched around the country for different events, worked on the Operation Medical Shelter project.



Growing up, Elliott helped out in the family portable restroom business started by his mother and stepfather in the early 1980s. The company specializes in sizeable military contracts around the country. He joined them full time after graduating from college in 1994, and took over the operation in 1999. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, Elliott started thinking about the need for shower trailers. He went to the hardware store and picked up stalls, pumps and miscellaneous parts, and proceeded to build trailers out of Conex shipping containers.

His first attempts ranged from 8- to 30-head shower units. A call for laundry units after Hurricane Ike led to building a laundry fleet. In 2008 he bought a 10 stall restroom trailer from Wells Cargo at the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo International.

That same year he set up ADS as a separate business under the umbrella of the existing company and in 2010 decided to separate the divisions to pursue his interest in specialty equipment full time. He handed the reins of the portable restroom company over to his younger brother, took over the trailers, created a website,, and began his new venture.



When Elliott bought the restroom trailer, he wanted to test a unique pump system in hopes of building a “super large” restroom trailer to give event organizers an alternative to ordering large banks of portable restrooms. He worked with a company in Dallas that built trailers and repaired delivery vans. When it came time to hook up the pumps, he flew in a representative from the Norwegian company that sold him the system to ensure the complex piping was laid out correctly.

The first Simon’s Super Toilet, dubbed SST1, was completed in 2009. It had 24 toilets and six urinals. To test drive it, he let the military use it for free.

For the next two models he reduced the number of stalls to 18, and increased the number of urinals to 22. They were housed in three rooms inside a 53-foot semi-trailer with four access doors. Waste is vacuumed through a series of lines, macerated, and ejected into a 2,000-gallon tank mounted under the trailer. Waste can be transferred to an additional storage tank up to 500 yards away, or even directly into a sewer.



On May 9-11, the Ventura County, Calif., Public Health Department conducted an emergency preparedness and disaster response exercise at Freedom Park in Camarillo, Calif., in which several thousand medical, law enforcement and fire personnel participated. The deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was on hand as well as National Guard and numerous state and federal officials. To help train first responders, the final day included a mass casualty exercise in which a number of community volunteers of all ages participated, acting the part of injured or deceased victims.



The company was in the process of marketing their services to California’s fire protection agency when they learned about the training exercise. The timing was perfect because the SST2 was ready to be field tested.

Elliott jumped at the chance. “This is exactly what the Super Toilet was built for,” he says. “I told them if they got a local guy to service it, I’d set it up for free.” Event organizers used the unit to reduce the number of portable restrooms they planned on bringing in.



Early on May 9, Washington drove the Super Toilet 140 miles from its storage location in Temecula, Calif., to the training site using a 2004 Freightliner tractor. He remained with the trailer during the three-day event to keep it clean and watch for problems. Elliott also was on hand to meet officials, demonstrate the unit, and get feedback.

The trailer was not hooked up to city water, sewer or electrical, but operated using holding tanks and onboard generators. It was pumped out by a local company prior to removal on May 12.



Elliott says the event provided valuable publicity for his service, as he was able to show emergency response customers how his trailers can be deployed, operate in harsh environments without infrastructure, run for extended periods between servicing, and provide a quality experience.

“I was overly nervous about the unit failing,” Elliott says. But he was happy with the response. “Women especially applauded it.” The only complaint was lack of mirrors, and people didn’t always recognize it as a restroom trailer – both easy fixes.


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