What To Put In An Earthquake Survival Kit, According To Experts

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Right around the Fourth of July holiday, two powerful earthquakes rocked southern California — and aftershocks from these seismic events continued for days. As the state recovers, some residents might be concerned about being properly prepared in case another earthquake strikes. If you're in California, or a different zone that's prone to earthquakes, experts have a few suggestions for what to put in your earthquake survival kit.

Being prepared for an earthquake is the best way to help ensure your safety and that of your loved ones. Sarah Sol, the media relations manager for the California Earthquake Authority, a non-profit organization that provides earthquake insurance to California residents, emphasizes this point in an email to Bustle, writing:

All of California is earthquake country — earthquakes can happen at any time. So, while there’s no need to live in fear, we do want to remind people that there are some basic steps they can take now so that they’re better prepared to both survive and recover from a damaging earthquake.

As the Red Cross described on its website, earthquake emergency kits are essential because quakes can cause significant damage to roads and buildings. That damage, in turn, can prevent residents from leaving their homes to access basic necessities. Moreover, sometimes earthquakes cause such extensive damage to people's homes that they have to evacuate — and having emergency supplies with you during an evacuation is imperative.

"You should be prepared to survive [an earthquake] at home, at work, and even when out and about (in your vehicle)," David Barrett, the executive officer of the My Safe Community Project at MySafe:LA, an organization that offers life and fire education services to Los Angeles residents, writes to Bustle. "Ideally, that means having an earthquake survival kit in all three places." He also emphasizes that kits should be placed in areas where they're accessible in the event of an earthquake, like near building exits.

Whatever situation people may find themselves in during an earthquake, it's clear that having a readiness kit is crucial — and so is stocking it with the right supplies.

Important Documents

It's crucial to have all of your important documents in one place in the event of an earthquake. A preparedness list from the Earthquake Country Alliance suggested that these documents include the following:

  • Personal identification (originals and copies of driver's licenses, passports, etc.)
  • Medical forms, like prescriptions, lists of doctors and their contact information, insurance cards, and medical consent forms for minors
  • Other essential documents, like home insurance policies
  • Paper maps, for navigating without an electronic GPS
  • List of emergency contact numbers

Barrett of MySafe:LA particularly stresses the importance of having an emergency contact list available. "Have an emergency contact list in your kit, and be certain to include family or trusted friends that live outside of the area you live in," he writes to Bustle. "If you’re in California, list people in other states. It may be easier to make a call out of the state than locally, and having the contact list in your kit will help others who may need to assist you, if you’re injured."

Food & Water

As the American Red Cross described, the amount of food and water needed in your earthquake emergency kit depends on whether you are evacuating or sheltering in place. For evacuations, the Red Cross recommends a three-day supply of water that includes one gallon per person, per day. For sheltering in place, the organization recommends a two-week supply of water with the same per-person requirements.

The Red Cross similarly recommends three days' worth of non-perishable food for an evacuation and two weeks' worth for those sheltering in place.

Barrett of MySafe:LA suggests having energy bars in your emergency kit, emphasizing to Bustle that they "last a long time and just one every six hours can keep you going for a few days."

Moreover, a U.S. Geological Survey booklet on how to protect your family from earthquakes stresses that people should keep "cooking utensils, including a manual can opener" in their emergency kits as well.

Pharmacy & Drug Store Items

Having access to hygiene items, medications, and first aid supplies is crucial during an earthquake. In particular, Barrett of MySafe:LA tells Bustle he recommends including toothpaste, a toothbrush, and toilet or facial tissue in your kit to manage basic hygiene needs. He also suggests including a first aid kit, which you can purchase at your local drug store or make on your own.

If you're making your own first aid kit, Barrett recommends including "small, medium, and large sterile gauze dressings, a few sterile eye dressings, triangular bandages, safety pins, disposable sterile gloves, tweezers, alcohol-free cleansing wipes, tape, [and] aspirin." He also suggests including a small first aid book to guide you in an emergency situation.

In addition to all of these items, be sure to include any essential or prescription medications in your emergency kit as well, as recommended by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Earthquake Country Alliance.

Various Tools

There are a variety of miscellaneous items that are important to have in your earthquake emergency kit. Sol, of the California Earthquake Alliance, says that you should include a flashlight so you can avoid stepping on debris and glass following the quake. The U.S. Geological Survey also recommends having extra flashlights and batteries available in your emergency kit.

Sol mentions that having a wrench in your emergency kit is helpful, as well, because it will allow you to shut off the gas in your home. As Disaster Survival Skills described, it's recommended that you turn off your gas after an earthquake because ground movement can damage pipelines and cause a gas leak.

Shoes

Shoes can be crucial to helping ensure your safety following an earthquake. As Barrett from MySafe:LA writes to Bustle:

A lot of people talk about having a pair of old shoes in an emergency kit, in case the earthquake occurs at night and you’re without shoes. This is no doubt a good idea, but I like to note that if possible, a pair of high-top sneakers may be useful, as they support ankles as well.

Sol, of the California Earthquake Alliance, also stresses the importance of having shoes available near your bed in case the earthquake happens while you're sleeping. This way, Sol writes to Bustle, you can avoid being "injured by stepping on broken glass."

Cash

It's crucial to have cash available in your emergency kit in case you need to purchase additional essentials following an earthquake. "If power is out, that means ATMs will not work, either. So, having some cash is really important" Barrett says. "Note that in addition to ATMs not working, merchant credit card authorization machines won’t work either."

A Whistle

Many earthquake emergency kit lists recommend including a whistle among your supplies. Having a whistle available is essential "so you can call for help if you’re trapped," Barrett writes.

Overall, preparation is an important part of mitigating damage from a potential future earthquake. If you're in an area that's vulnerable to earthquakes, consider putting together an emergency kit today that includes these items and others on recommended lists.

And, as Barrett writes, if you're ever unsure about what to include in your kit, just ask yourself the following questions: "What do I need to eat? How do I take care of toilet issues? Who do I need to take care of? Who do I need to contact? What if someone is injured?" By answering these questions, you're sure to build an earthquake kit that'll help protect you — and your loved ones — in case of an emergency.