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How to Prepare for an Earthquake

By Edited Oct 3, 2016 3 7

Earthquake Emergency Preparedness

and Tips for Dealing with Natural Disasters

For those of us who live in Southern California, news releases about the devastation in places like Japan and New Zealand send alarm signals to our brains. As we watch people dig through the rubble, and wander the streets, we worry about what will happen here when the next "Big One" hits. In fact, seismologists seem to come out with a new pronouncement every few months that we are long past due for another major earthquake. However, California is not the only vulnerable area. Recently, tremblers have hit in Japan, Washington, and even midwestern states like Oklahoma. Are you prepared if an earthquake hits in your area?

Earthquake in Peru

Despite all of these warnings, or perhaps because there are so many of them, California residents are aware that earthquakes actually occur without any real warning. Although we may be told that an earthquake could happen in the next 10 or 20 years, that is not the same as being told with absolute certainty that one is going to happen this week. Unlike other natural disasters such as hurricanes, people are not given even a few minutes notice. Therefore, we need to learn how to prepare for an earthquake, even when we do not know when it might strike.

Link to Pre-Assembled Disaster Kits from Amazon.

How to Assemble Your Own Earthquake Kit

One advantage of watching the news covers of earthquakes and similar disasters is that it makes you aware of the problem with expecting to be saved by someone else immediately after the disaster strikes. In the event of a major earthquake, it could be a day or two (or even longer) before the police, fire department and other rescue personnel would be able to reach you. Until then, you will have to be responsible for taking care of your immediate needs. In order to do this, you need to have an earthquake kit or two.

Many Southern California emergency providers suggest that you put together an emergency kit that you keep in your car as well as one in as accessible place at home. Here are some of the items you will want to be sure to include in each pack:

Bottled water

Canned food and a can opener

A small supply of important medications

A First Aid Kit

An extra pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses

A flashlight

A radio (either battery operated or hand-crank style)

A blanket or sleeping bag

A change of clothes for everyone in the family

Basic toiletries, including such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, sample bottles of shampoo, etc.

A wrench or similar tool necessary to turn off the gas or water to your home

Face masks to protect everyone from the dust rising from the rubble

You need to change out the water, medications and canned food about every six months, and check the batteries, as well. In fact, it would probably be a good idea to open and air out your emergency kits from time to time.

Special Additions to Your Emergency Kit

Depending on your family, there will also be special items that you may need to include in your emergency kits. Here is a list of some of the items you may consider, although feel free to add anything that you know would personally be important to you in an emergency:

Diapers and formula for a baby

Medical devices for anyone with asthma or diabetes

A list of important phone numbers for relatives, doctors, etc.

A list of the prescriptions you take

A small amount of cash, since ATM machines may not be available for a few days

A small, locked box containing copies of your drivers' licenses, passports, birth certificates, social security cards, insurance cards, insurance policies, bank information and credit card information.

Where to Keep Your Earthquake Kit

Think about where you should keep your earthquake kit. You may want to have a small one with a few essentials in each of your cars, and keep a large one at home. However, many people store their emergency supplies under the bed. Unless you are convinced that you would have no trouble retrieving it from under a bed in an emergency, many people are choosing to keep their earthquake kit in a waterproof container in the backyard, away from any large structures. Then, if their house collapses and they survive, their supplies will still be accessible.

Link to Pre-Assembled Disaster Kits from Amazon.

Other Earthquake Preparations

There are other advance preparations that you should take with your family that will help minimize the danger and prevent confusion. Decide where your family will meet after the earthquake. Discuss alternative routes. Make sure everyone has each other's cell phone numbers. Also, make sure that everyone has the phone number of a relative in another city. Then, if you are at home, your spouse is at work, and your children are at school when an earthquake hits, and you can't reach each other, you can all call the out-of-town relative to let someone know you are all right. It will bring a lot of peace of mind if you are surrounded by chaos. In addition, give this relative some of your vital information, such as health insurance information, in case you are not able to access yours.

Other preparations you can take include making certain that your home is as earthquake proof as possible. Put straps on the hot water heater. Secure tall, heavy furniture such as armoires and bookcases to the wall. Be certain that hazardous materials, such as gasoline, are stored securely in the garage. Do not hang large sculptures or other heavy objects over beds and sofas in your home. Know how to turn off the gas and water to your home. Teach your children to avoid downed power lines.

If you are afraid of running out of water before emergency help arrives, think about sources of water in your home. You could drain water from the hot water heater, melt ice left in the refrigerator, or drink the liquid from the canned vegetables. You should be able to find enough to survive for a few days.

If you are concerned about other dangers and disasters, you may also want to read some of these articles:

When Smoke and Wildfires Loom Nearby

Preventing Death and Injury in Children

Teach Your Children Safety Around Electricity

Preventing Death and Injury from Fireworks

Fire Safety Tips for the Home

Be Prepared for an Emergency

Save Time and Buy a Family Size Emergency Kit

Deluxe - 4 Person Emergency Survival Kit - Back pack Kit
Amazon Price: $72.99 $64.97 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 3, 2016)
Simply throw in a change of clothes and some medical supplies, and you'll be ready to take care of your family in a natural disaster.


Oct 7, 2011 6:45pm
Thank you. These are important reminders. I imagine people in other parts of the country where earthquakes aren't common, tend to gloss over the threat in their area. But the irregular patterns lately are an indicator than an earthquake could happen anywhere and we should all be ready.
Oct 10, 2011 12:22pm
This is good information for everyone to know. Just recently, Mineral, VA was the epicenter of an earthquake that spread up and down the East Coast. The residents in the area are still trying to fix the damage. This was the largest earthquake in our area for many years. And, this area is still receiving aftershocks - in fact, we just experienced one this past weekend.
Oct 19, 2011 6:27pm
Excellent information Deb! Having a destination to meet with family, and alternate routes to get to that destination after an earthquake is extremely important!
Oct 19, 2011 8:13pm
With the Great American Shake-up happening tomorrow, this is a timely reminder for people to take steps to prepare for the next earthquake in their area!
Oct 27, 2011 12:47pm
Very timely, my friend in Sacramento just said she slept through an earthquake earlier this morning!
Oct 27, 2011 7:34pm
Had the Japanese arranged for all the preparations that are specified in this article, they would've survived the recent earthquake to a great extent. Superb informative piece!
Feb 25, 2015 9:31am
Everyone owes it to their families to take a few basic steps to be prepared for whatever type of disaster could occur in their area ... whether that may be earthquakes, floods, tornadoes or hurricanes.
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  1. "Get a Kit." Ready.gov. 15/07/2011. 6/10/2011 <Web >

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