As a Southern California resident, earthquake preparedness has always been essential for me. After the recent catastrophic quake in Turkey, you, too, may be wondering if you’re properly equipped to handle such an event.
Given that earthquakes can’t be accurately predicted, surviving one is less about avoiding it than it is about being prepared enough to respond effectively, according to Jon Gudel, a senior emergency services coordinator with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services’ seismic hazards branch.
“Always devise a family plan and always know your evacuation routes,” Gudel said. “And course you want to practice how to drop, cover and hold on.”
This childhood-taught rule of seeking cover under things like tables or chairs is what seismologist Peggy Hellweg, president of the Seismological Society of America, said is the official and most protective bet against falling objects.
“And if you’re in bed when an earthquake happens, stay in bed,” said Hellweg, citing bedrooms as relatively safe spaces in people’s homes.
“You also want to make sure your environment is safe by doing things like properly securing bookshelves to walls, bracing and repairing chimneys and making sure you don’t have cripple walls in your home,” Hellweg said.
She added that projects such as one funded by the California Earthquake Authority, an earthquake insurance company, can help support people needing seismic retrofitting to their homes.
“A seismic retrofit can help to protect you and your family, and it is a good way to lessen the potential for costly earthquake damage, saving you what could be tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair costs,” said Charlotte Fadipe, a CEA representative.
“The main thing I would like to stress is to sign up for emergency alerts, which can send earthquake notifications directly to your phone,” Gudel said.
He explained that thanks to recent state-of-the-art technology, early earthquake warning and tracking systems like the California government’s MyShake app can provide a few seconds’ worth of life saving notice before an earthquake strikes. Similar applications exist for other earthquake-prone regions.
Hellweg, Gudel and Fadipe all agree that availing yourself of the information on local government websites and organizations like the Red Cross can be useful, especially when building an emergency earthquake kit, which Gudel said he keeps not just at home but also in his car and at work.
To see what essentials these experts have in their own earthquake kits and why, keep reading on.
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A solar-powered phone charger
As Gudel mentioned earlier, utilizing safety apps on your phone for earthquake guidance can be incredibly important, so he suggested having back-up chargers in your emergency kit.
"If you are struck with a major earthquake, you're probably going to be without power for at least 72 hours," he said.
This portable power bank can be charged using either solar power or an electric socket and can even double as a flashlight. It has enough ports to support rapid charging of three devices simultaneously and can fully charge an iPhone 14 Pro twice on a single charge.
A pair of all-purpose utility gloves
Hellweg said you should keep a pair of utility handy that are durable enough to handle things like glass, bits of roof or wooden boards. Ironclad's abrasion-resistant utility gloves are reinforced with thermoplastic in high-flex areas, like the knuckles and palms, for a sturdy performance.
According to Hellweg, having easy access to tools is important, preferably a multi-tool like this set of pliers that features 12 different integrated tools within one butterfly design. You can access everything from scissors to flathead screwdrivers, wire cutters to a plain edge blade.
A pair of safety whistles
Fadipe recommended safety whistles that can be used to signal for help if necessary. These loud-blowing survival whistles are completely resistant to moisture damage, can be effective in nearly all conditions and come attached to a reflective and adjustable lanyard for higher visibility.
A pack of 20 particulate dust masks
Masks, specifically dust masks, are suggested by both Fadipe and the American Red Cross. These N95 particulate masks claim to use microfiber to filter up to 95% of materials like dust, smoke and rubble-borne particles.
A large quantity of non-perishable food
"Your kit should ideally include at least a three days’ supply of food and water for each member of your household and your pets," Fadipe said.
If you don't want to stock up on heavy cans of food, this non-perishable food variety pack by ReadyWise contains 124 servings of ready-to-eat meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner and even includes beverages. Just add hot or cold water to enjoy items like savory beef stroganoff or apple cinnamon oatmeal.
If you do have cans of food, she also recommends have a manual can opener
A pair of bright tactical flashlights
A pro-tip from Fadipe: Put an old pair of shoes and a flashlight in a bag and tie that bag to the legs of your bed. This is because earthquakes can occur at night or the early morning and once the shaking stops, this can provide a safer way to survey damage without stepping on glass in the dark.
This pair of high lumen tactical flashlights are incredibly bright, compact and durable enough to withstand a number of environmental conditions.
A refillable safety gas can
In instances that require immediate evacuation, Gudel said the last thing you want to do is to stop and get gas, so having extra fuel can be a good idea. This safety can is made with galvanized steel, and has been fitted with a flame arrestor to help prevent liquids inside the can from igniting and keep flames from spreading, as well as a pour spout for safe dispensing. There are a variety of capacities to choose from, up to five gallons.
A portable radio
Fadipe also mentioned having a portable radio. In situations in which cell service is down or you have a dead battery, this hand-crank and battery-powered emergency radio can keep you up to date with safety advisories in your area. The radio has a USB charging cable to keep your phone charged, as well as a loud SOS alarm for emergencies and a handy LED lamp to light your way.
A first aid kit for potential minor injuries
Every earthquake expert we spoke with recommended having a first aid kit, not just in your home, but even in other areas such as your office or car. Disinfect wounds, bandage cuts and soothe burns with this 312-piece first aid kit. Clear plastic interior compartments keep everything organized, and the soft-sided zip case makes storage and transportation a breeze.
At least 72 hours' worth of water
According to Gudel, having at least 72 hours' worth of safe drinking water is important. He said that plastic water bottles are probably best because they are easy to grab and go, like this 24-pack of 12-step purified water from Nestle.
A fire-proof lockable document bag
In the event that a quake is bad enough to render banks out of service, both Gudel and Hellweg stressed the importance of having cash and other important documents in a safe place.
"A lot of people don't carry cash anymore, but it's important to have that on hand because you might not know where you're gonna be for the next couple days," Gudel said.
This document bag is fire-proof and has a zippered closure with a combination lock for added security.
A 4-pack of emergency mylar blankets
The Red Cross recommends emergency blankets which can be useful in situations in which electrical heating systems aren't operational. These dual-sided mylar blankets are 52 by 82 inches and are designed to retain up to 90% of body heat and block rain, snow, moisture.
An 84-count combo pack of assorted batteries
During any natural disaster that has power-outage potential, it's more than likely you will be reliant on battery-powered items such as flashlights and radios. For this reason, Fadipe mentioned batteries as a kit essential.
This deluxe variety pack of batteries has an impressive shelf life and will ensure that you have the correct battery sizes for all your devices and needs.
A 5-pack of spare reading glasses
Hellweg said she keeps reading glasses in her safety kit so she can properly attend to things like splinter removal or dressing any wounds. You can get five separate pairs of unisex reading glasses in this set, each one fitted with flexible spring-hinge frames and lenses treated with a UV-protective coating.
Boxes of individually wrapped wet toilettes
Fadipe suggested moist toilettes that are easy to grab. Individually packaged wipes can be helpful for cleaning hands in emergency situations. Each box of these aloe-infused wipes contains 24 pocket-sized singles.