Be Prepared: How to Make a California Earthquake Emergency Kit

Californians can never be reminded enough—especially in the Bay Area—to be prepared for The Big One.

We were most recently reminded of this looming threat when a magnitude-6.4 earthquake rocked Ridgecrest on July 4th, shaking most of Southern California and the Central Valley. USGS officials warned it was a possible foreshock, and they were correct. The following day, a magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck the region.

Being prepared for an earthquake, or any emergency—including wildfires, with a disaster kit can never go out of style. If you don’t already have an emergency preparedness kit, resolve to assemble one this summer.

In the event of an earthquake, you may need to evacuate your home or place of work at a moment’s notice with the bare necessities. If you’re put in this scenario, it’s unlikely you will be able to search around your home or go shopping for the supplies you need.

Emergency supply kits should contain items to help you survive and manage outages during this time.

Earthquake Essentials: Food and Water Supply

  • Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water.
  • Choose foods your family will eat.
  • Remember to pack food for infants, elders, or any family members with special dietary needs.
  • Avoid packing any foods that will make you thirsty!
  • Choose ready-to-eat canned foods (and a can opener), protein/fruit bars, dry cereal, salt-free crackers, peanut butter, nuts, vitamins, and other high-energy foods.
  • Don’t forget about pets: at least one ounce per animal pound per day.
  • One gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation.
  • Children, nursing mothers, and sick people may require additional water.
  • Unexpected medical emergencies may require additional water. (More is more.)
  • In warmer climates, the water supply needs to be doubled.

California Earthquake Emergency Kit Checklist

For more specific and essential items, look over this emergency supply list provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Below is an adapted list from FEMA of safety tips to protect yourself, your family, and your property in the event of an earthquake:

  • Build an emergency kit that can sustain you and your family for at least 72 hours. (This may include canned food, water, prescription medications and glasses, pet food and extra water for your pet, instant formula and diapers, copies of important documents [insurance policies, identification, bank account records], cash and change, first aid book, sleeping bags or blankets for each person, extra clothing, fire extinguisher, matches, personal hygiene items, flashlight, whistle to signal help, extra batteries, moist towelettes, garbage bags, and can opener for canned foods.)
  • Make a “communication plan” for your family (such as a meeting place, or how to call for help).
  • Fasten shelves, frames, and other heavy hanging objects securely to the walls, away from beds or couches.
  • Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Breakable items, such as bottled foods, glass, or china, should be stored in low, closed cabinets (with latches).
  • Brace overhead light fixtures and top-heavy objects.
  • Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. (These are potential fire risks, that require appropriate professional help: do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.)
  • Install flexible pipe fittings that are more resistant to breakage to avoid gas or water leaks.
  • Secure water heater, refrigerator, furnace, and other gas appliances by strapping them to wall studs, or bolting to the floor.
  • If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shutoff valve installed that is triggered by strong vibrations.
  • Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations; if there are any signs of structural defects, get expert advice.
  • Store weed killers, pesticides, and other flammable products securely in closed, bottom shelf cabinets (with latches).
  • Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table, or against an inside wall.

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