Pack An Earthquake Survival Kit

Learn how to put together an earthquake survival kit of medications, foods, water, tolls and supplies for homeowner or apartment dwellers.

After an earthquake, the response time for city or county emergency crews could be delayed for hours, days or weeks. In the interim, survival will be up to you. Having an adequately supplied earthquake kit will help.

The size and type of kit you develop depends upon the type of housing in which you live. For homeowners, the kit or its components can be stored in a location in or outside the home where it has a lesser chance of being buried under falling debris. For apartment dwellers, a smaller kit can be stashed in a large covered trash can near the door that you can grab on your way out. Use the following to stock your kit.


Your residence could be severely damaged and uninhabitable, forcing you to remain outdoors for several days or weeks. Shelter materials include a family or tube type tent or canopy, two 8x10-foot PVC or canvas tarps, rolls of plastic sheeting at least four mils thick, duct tape and 25 and 50-foot coils of rope and wire. Lacking a tent, you can fashion a makeshift shelter from plastic, tarps and rope. You'll need sleeping bags, thermal or space blankets, body warmer pads, a dry chemical fire extinguisher and insect repellent, something applied to the skin, not a fogger since you or your neighbors will have to breath the air. A propane stove is good for both cooking and warmth. Ditto for a charcoal grill. Make sure that the fumes from either don't flow back into your tent or shelter, and never fire up a grill or stove within a tent. Cover and store all supplies in shade out of direct sunlight.


Expect to live in your clothes for a while. Have a supply of long sleeved shirts, sweatshirts, sweats, jeans, rainwear, ponchos, jackets, hats or watch caps, gloves, dry socks, underwear, t-shirts, handkerchiefs and bandannas.


At some point you may have to go off in search of additional supplies or to contact local authorities. Depending upon the severity of the quake, roads may be blocked and street signs knocked down. You'll need a

good pair of walking shoes and socks, a hat, rainwear, compass, local road map, pocket flashlight and cash money in small denominations and coin. If you find a local market, they probably won't be able or willing to make change.


Your first aid kit should contain an assortment of medications to handle a variety of problems: antiseptics, antibiotic ointments, hydrogen peroxide, skin disinfectants in sprays or creams, aspirin or ibuprofen, diarrhea control, eye drops, cold and cough drops and sprays, allergy relief sprays or tabs, latex gloves, surgical masks in case the air is fouled by smoke or dust, instant hot and cold packs, ace, butterfly and self-adhesive bandages, sterile gauze pads and rolls, cotton swabs, compresses, 2-inch and 4-inch rolls of adhesive tape, 37x37" triangular sling bandages, splints, tongue depressors a spray bottle containing a 10% bleach solution used for disinfecting objects and a copy of the Red Cross First Aid Manual.


If possible, have an extra supply of prescribed meds, extra oxygen tanks and spare eyeglasses for those with health conditions, infants, the elderly, or the disabled.


Plumbing will be lacking. A five gallon container will do a portable toilet. You'll need toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, shampoo, toothpaste, sanitary napkins, plastic garbage and zip-locking plastic bags. A portable chemical toilet would be good and a supply of chemicals. A corner of the yard can be designated as a latrine. Waste may have to be buried.


Your stash should contain all things canned: tuna, salmon, sardines, vegetables, fruit, beans, Spam, chicken, juice, soup and a can opener; fruits, veggies and peanut butter in plastic resealable containers not breakable glass. Protein bars, granola bars and other dried foods are good. Avoid snack foods containing high sodium content. You'll drink more water if you consume these. Proper hydration will be critical.


Your body can survive for 30 days without food, but only three days without water. Each person needs a gallon of water per day. A seven-day supply is good. Three weeks is better.

Stockpiling bottled water is good, but don't store the bottles on concrete. Concrete can leech chemicals into and contaminate the water. Plastic bottles in direct contact will degrade and fail, flooding your other supplies. Store plastic containers on a wooden pallet or board. Isolate water containers in one location where container failure won't destroy other supplies.

You can purify water gathered from hot water heaters or from the toilet water storage tank (not the bowl) by adding eight drops of unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water, 16 drops if the water is cloudy. Add 12 drops of tincture of iodine to one gallon. Double if the water is cloudy. Strain dirty water through a coffee filter, cheese cloth, or a paper towel to remove suspended particulates. Boil water for 10 minutes.

Sanitize and clean food containers with soap and warm water. Fill each with a 10% bleach solution, soak for five minutes and let dry.


AM radio broadcasts will provide emergency information. Conserve batteries and have an extra supply of AA, D and cell phone batteries. Use hand-cranked and solar powered radios. Local cell phone service may be disrupted, depending upon which carrier you use and the type of technology they employ. Use your cell to contact friends or family members living outside of the quake area, who will be worried due to sensationalized newscasts.

A laptop computer with wireless access to your E-mail account can be used as a backup to your cell phone. However the battery life is short, so use conservatively.


You may be forced to dig through debris in search of trapped family members. Emergency tool kits should include a pipe wrench for gas line shut off, a Swiss army knife, work gloves, dust masks, eye goggles, 6-pound ax, sledge hammer, flat and pointed shovels, crowbar, mini pry tool, hammer, nails, screwdrivers, broom, 1/4", 1/2", 3/4" coils of rope in 25-50-foot lengths, wire, and a dry chemical fire extinguisher to quickly extinguish small fires before they rage out of control.


The electrical grid could be knocked off line for days or weeks. A well-lighted shelter will be good for allaying fears and offsetting depression. Provide light with gas and fluorescent lanterns, nightsticks, flashlights, hand-cranked flashlights and solar landscape lighting. Candles, waterproof matches and torches can be used as long as there are no gas leaks nearby.

Earthquakes are survivable. Being prepared and having a kit stashed within or outside of your home or near your apartment door can make the difference between a calm wait for police and fire assistance or hysterical hopes for rescue. Don't forget to rotate your kit's water and food supplies every six months.

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