Though it’s never pleasant to think of being caught in an earthquake or other natural disaster, taking the time to prepare an earthquake kit beforehand will help ensure that you have all of the supplies that you need if the worst should happen. Not everything that you should put into an earthquake kit will be immediately obvious, however. Making sure that you double-check your kit every few months to make sure that all of your needs are covered will give you and your family some piece of mind.
Two of the most important things to have in your earthquake kit are nonperishable foods and clean water. You should make sure that there is enough food in the kit to last you and your family for at least 3 days. Have enough water on hand so that each member of your family will have at least a gallon of water available to them per day for at least three days. This will ensure that you will have water both for drinking and for hygiene purposes. Keep bleach in your kit as well, so that you can use it for sanitation and to decontaminate your water supply if necessary.
You’ll also need several sources of light, including flashlights for each member of your family and a lantern or other central light source. To help conserve batteries, buy LED flashlights and an LED lantern that has several illumination modes. LED flashlights produce as much or more light than standard flashlights, while using only a fraction of the battery power. LED lanterns can be used as a lantern flashlight or as a camp lantern, and likewise require significantly less power than standard lanterns.
Make sure that you include basic tools that may be needed, as well as a multi-purpose tool that can act as a knife, can opener, pair of pliers, or other tools as well. Multi-purpose tools provide an easy way to adapt the tools at hand to the situation, and can provide an extra screwdriver or other basic tools if multiples are needed.
Next, add a fully-stocked first aid kit into your earthquake kit. You’ll want to ensure that it has burn cream, bandages, rubbing alcohol, painkillers and other medications, and antibiotic ointment, and that all of the supplies in it are rotated out occasionally so that they don’t pass their expiration dates. It could also be beneficial to include items that could be used as splints or slings as needed.
Set aside a few good blankets for inclusion in your earthquake kit, as well as a few sets of clothes for each member of your family. These clothes should include at least one outfit for both warm and cold weather, so that you aren’t caught in the wrong season for the clothes that you have available. Adding in ponchos, umbrellas, or other rain gear as well as a pair of shoes or boots can be very useful as well.
Make sure that you include a way to cover your expenses in case the banks are down following the earthquake. It’s recommended that you include at least a few hundred dollars as a disaster fund in your earthquake kit, and if possible use either traveler’s checks or a mix of traveler’s checks and cash. If you don’t have the money to spare to stock your kit like this, then set aside what you can.
If possible, it’s also a good idea to include a small safe that contains copies of any important documents or vital records that you may have. This way they’ll be protected from earthquake damage or fires, and will also be immediately available should you need them.
Place all of these supplies in a large sturdy container or lock box, and store it in a sturdy and secure part of your house. Rotate out your supplies every three to six months, ensuring that your food, water, and medicines are all safe for human use. Include toilet paper and other necessary sanitary supplies as well, rotating them out when you check your food and medicines.
Keeping an earthquake kit can make all the difference should a disaster strike. Put together your kit as a family so that everyone in the house knows where it is located, what is included in the kit and how everything works. This important activity could keep your family safe in an incredible difficult time.
~Ben Anton, 2008