April is Earthquake Awareness Month in California, which is rather fitting – if chilling – considering the devastation that Chile is experiencing right now with multiple massive quakes hitting their county. Going back years before the Loma Prieta Quake of 1989, I’d kept a complete earthquake preparedness kit. I have been asked by family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors to share the list of things that I keep in my kit. (And after the 89 quake, I was asked to share the actual contents because I was the only one in my entire apartment complex that had any sort of preparation at all.) Please note that my kit is very extensive and is probably more inclusive than most people need. However, look over the list and think about how each of these items could be used for more than one purpose.
I have two types of kits: my “go bag” and the main stay-at-home kit. The “go bag” is a backpack with basic supplies such as nuts, a couple bottles of water, a first aid kit, an old pair of walking shoes, and a sweater. This type of bag is kept either in my car or my work office and is only designed to get me home if I’m away.
For my main kit, the bulk of my supplies are kept in a large green garbage bin that is on wheels. It is kept in a lean-to in the backyard where it protected from the elements but can be accessed even if there is a structural collapse. Other items, such as cases of water, are kept separate (also in the lean-to), but they are on wheeled dollies. Keeping your supplies on wheels is an important aspect of safety so that your kit can be mobile should your home become unsafe.
The items can be broken up into several categories:
- First Aid & Medications
- Personal Protective Equipment
- Tools & Search/Rescue
- Food & Sundries
- Pet supplies
First Aid & Medications
In the event of a large-scale emergency, such as an earthquake, citizens must be prepared to be on their own for several days, perhaps a week or more. Because of this, it is imperative that the first aid kit be well-stocked for significant injuries like broken bones.
Multiple pairs of gloves (preferably non-latex)
Antibiotic and/or antiseptic (Bactine, etc.)
Various sizes/types of adhesive bandages (fingertip, knuckle, standard 1″ etc)
First aid tape or “paper tape” medical tape (non-latex)
Absorbent compresses (note: feminine menstrual pads are excellent for this)
Triangular bandage and/or sling
Comfort medications like Gas-X and antacid
Glasses (got an old pair of glasses? don’t toss them, put them in your kit in case your new ones get damaged or lost – it happens during disasters!!)
Personal Protective Equipment
If there is widespread damage – or even just serious damage within your own home – you may need to go into places that are somewhat unsafe. Protect yourself!
Safety vests (reflective)
Work gloves, preferably puncture/cut resistant
Toolbox & Search and Rescue
This group of items is highly customizable. In my case, I expect to do search and rescue, but others may not have that training. However, many of the items – like tarps and plastic sheeting – may be critical to making your home weather-resistant or setting up a temporary shelter.
Utility knife with extra blades
Bungee cords (sooooo many uses for these!!)
Chalk (marking buildings that have been searched)
Flashlights (plus batteries – do not install the batteries!)
Flashers for signaling
Food & Sundries
Most people think about putting food in their kits, but what should you use? Look for foods that have long shelf-life, minimal cooking needs (macaroni and cheese might be yummy, but do you have milk?), and no extra ingredients. Remember that you will need to clean everything up, too. Do you have a BBQ? Enough propane or charcoal? Matches, if needed?
Eating utensils, plates, cups
Purel or other waterless cleaning agent
Pots & pans – this depends on the type of food you have in your kit. Also useful for collecting rainwater
Nuts – fantastic source of protein
Canned food or other packaged food with long shelf-life
Candy, bubblegum, or other comfort food
Water, water, water
Toothbrushes, paste, floss, mouthwash
Deodorant (for goodness sake, do not forget to put deodorant in your kit!)
Bucket and toilet seat (yes, you can make your own throne!)
Plastic bags for the homemade toilet
Games – board games, cards, etc. No TV or computers…may be rather boring.
Bandanas, hats, extra clothes
Marking pen & paper
Radio (and batteries – do not install the batteries!)
Cash – without power and/or cell phones, the only way to pay for supplies may be cash
Alcohol (may be useful as a comfort item – or, in my case, as a bartering tool)
Disposable camera (insurance claims, anyone?)
Do not forget your pets! They will be highly agitated and confused. By having toys and their special food, you can help them calm down and be an asset.
Collars / leashes
Water, water, water
Many items on this list are perishable: batteries, food, medications. On the outside of my main kit, I have an inventory of perishable items, including expiration dates. The list is in a zip lock bag that is taped to the side of the kit so I can see at a glance when dates are coming due. We also have a schedule of when we go through the kit to replace perishable items and check the stock.
For those with fluctuating weight and/or children, it is important to remember that clothing sizes may have changed and spare clothes should be adjusted.
To prevent bugs from getting into the kit – and to be able to tell if anyone has taken any supplies out – I use duct tape to seal the entire circumference of the lid to the bin (like an evidence seal, lol).
Even if you feel that you do not need a large earthquake/disaster preparedness kit, please consider the concept of a “go bag.” I am fortunate to work only a few miles from my home, but if roads (over and underpasses) collapsed, it could be a very difficult trip home wearing a dress and heels. (Having a pair of walking shoes would be important.) Even a short a distance could take hours. Think about the route you take to and from work/school. Look at the number of bridges you cross. Consider what buildings might collapse and block the road. Vehicles may get stuck and roads become impassible. How would you walk home?
Think about it…and then do something about it. Your family’s well-being might depend on you taking a few minutes to be prepared.