earthquakes are felt long after the shaking stops, it is good idea to
have an earthquake emergency kit. Even if your house is safe for
occupancy following a quake, you may find yourself without many
You may be without gas, electricity
and running water. And for several days, there may be no food stores,
restaurants or gas stations operating. Roads may be blocked and/or
Experts recommend that you make three identical emergency kits. Store
one kit at home, one at your workplace and one in your car. That way,
your chances are good of having a kit handy after a quake.
Bulky emergency items such as water and dry food are hard to fit in a
single, easily accessible container. Large plastic garbage cans can
make good storage bins.
An inexpensive backpack is a good
place to store smaller, loose items -- backpacks are easy to carry and
can be used for other purposes once you have opened the kit.
Into each kit, put:
Water and food to last at least
three days (your car trunk is a handy place for these bulky items).
Water purification tablets
A first-aid kit
A minimum of $100 in cash (automated teller machines and banks may
be shut down following a quake)
Family photos and descriptions (to aid emergency personnel in
finding missing people)
A flashlight and portable (or solar-powered) radio
Goggles and dust mask
A personal commode with sanitary bags
The most important thing for human
survival is water. You should have at least five gallons of water
stored in your hallway or back yard, because after an earthquake hits,
if you don't have a shut-off valve, the (tap) water will be
contaminated within 12 hours.
Although it is likely water would be
restored within 72 hours of a major quake, some areas might be dry for
After a major quake, remember that
opening your refrigerator and freezer can be a judgment call if you
have no electricity. If indications are that power will be restored
within a day or so, most foods will be fine as long as you don't open
freezer or refrigerator doors. If you think it's going to be a long
emergency, however, you might as well consume foods while they last.
Watch for spoilage, and toss anything that's suspect.
Here are some suggestions for basic
sustenance to see you through the first few days after a disaster.
Shelf life is indicated in parentheses.
Store drums of water (about a half gallon per person per day; you'll
need more for washing or if you have pets) in the hall closet or back
yard. For water stored in store-bought containers, add a half-teaspoon
chlorine bleach to five gallons to keep it good for one year. Or
purchase in multi-year, sealed cases for less than $20 at stores such
as Earthquake Outlet [see resources for more information].
Moist towelettes can reduce the need
for bathing water. If water is shut off, ladle out the water from
toilet tanks and hot-water heaters. Water purification tablets are
available at sports and camping stores.
BREADS & CEREALS:
Keep crackers and cookies well packaged, preferably in tins (6
months). Stock up on ready-to-eat cold cereals (6 months). If you have
ice cream melting in the freezer, pour it on the cereal. With even
minimal cooking facilities, instant or quick-cooking cereals (6
months) are warming as well as filling.
For main dishes, instant soup cups and add-hot-water-and-steep dishes
(6 months) are a real boon.
Even if you generally don't use much canned food, it is invaluable in
an emergency. Just be sure you've got a manual can opener.
As with all emergency rations, cans or plastic containers are better
than breakable jars. Canned fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish
(1 year) make for sturdy eating. Be sure to include items that can be
Sardines and Spam may not be on your
usual menu, but they'll keep bodies fueled. Shelf-stable tofu (check
pull date) is another great nutritious food.
Powdered milk (4 months) is versatile: You can use it for making
instant puddings, chocolate milk, etc. Soy milk, plain or flavored, is
widely available in shelf-stable cartons (check pull date), and canned
or evaporated mil k (1 year) will fortify instant coffee.
Keep a generous rotating supply of cheese such as cheddar or Swiss in
the refrigerator; it could give you several days of good protein and
BEVERAGES & TREATS:
In addition to basic drinking water, store fruit juices and prepared
coffee or tea drinks in cans or cartons.
Stock instant coffee or tea drinks (1
year), canned puddings (1 year), whipped topping mixes, hard
candies in cans and such snacks as dried fruit, nuts, pretzels, chips
and ready-to-eat popcorn (check pull dates). They deliver some
nutrition and will help morale.
These supplies are no help if you
can't get to them. Make sure every household member knows where they
Making Your Home Safe
Here is a handy checklist to make
sure the interior of your home is safe:
- Inspect each room. Remove or secure
items that could crash down. Cabinets, drawers, tall furniture, open
shelves, hanging pictures, china cabinets, televisions and personal
computers need to be secured.
- The kitchen is the most dangerous
room: Use latches, such as those used for baby-proofing, to secure
cabinets and drawers. Secure the refrigerator and microwave with
heavy-duty L-shaped brackets (L brackets are available in hardware
- Remove pictures and anything else
from above beds. Move beds away from windows or from beneath a
- Close blinds or drapes each night
to prevent broken glass from flying into the room.
- Stash under the bed: a pair of
plastic-bag covered shoes in case glass covers the floor, a crowbar
to help open jammed doors and a flashlight.
- Educate family members on how and
when to shut off the water and gas valves.
- The water valve should be
immediately shut off to prevent contamination of the home's water
- The gas valve should be shut only
when you can smell gas or suspect a leak. (Keep a wrench wired to
the gas meter).
- Secure the water heater to prevent
breakage of gas and water lines. Toppled water heaters are a big
danger: Fire or flooding caused by gas or water lines broken at the
water heater can cause serious damage.