Thought about building an Earthquake Bag? Here’s What Experts Put in Theirs
It was 4 years of living in earthquake country before I finally checked it off my list- the earthquake kit. I’d finally decided to just buy one- I looked at literally hundreds of earthquake bags being sold, but couldn’t find a smart, thoughtful kit worth my money.
I wanted to create the most intelligent earthquake kit possible, so I signed up to learn from the experts. After 6 weeks of classroom study on earthquake prep and hundreds of hours of testing products in-the-field, I finally built the bag I had been looking for. I’ve got one sitting in my home, my car and my office right now, and I feel secure knowing my family will have the essentials they need in any disaster.
Since then, I’ve helped thousands of people buy or build an earthquake kit that will make a real difference in an actual emergency, and I share what I’ve learned with everyone I meet. No one knows exactly when the next major earthquake (or any emergency) will hit, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the need to be prepared. We are smart enough to think ahead before a disaster strikes.
Stop putting it off and build your kit now. Here are the most important items that both my experience and the experts agree are essential:
You can't survive without water very long. Find water with a long shelf-life (5 years+), and get enough for 72 hours. You need bagged water, purification tablets, an expandable water carrier, and maybe even a water filtration bottle.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Bagged water. Unfortunately we can’t just throw water in an old bottle and call it a day. You need water that is sealed air-tight to avoid bacteria for at least 5 years. The last thing you want in an emergency is contaminated water, so look for water bags that are Coast-Guard approved.
*PRO TIP- FInd yourself in an emergency situation with no emergency water? The back of the toilet, your water heater, or ice cubes in the freezer are all good sources of drinking water.
Being able to treat wounds is a survival must. Get a large first aid kit, and make sure it has bandages, gauze, latex gloves, tape, alcohol pads, and splints at the very least.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Latex gloves. You never know who might have a communicable disease, or what you may have to touch in the course of providing first aid.
Being informed is often the difference between safety and danger, especially when internet, television, phones and the electric grid are down. Emergencies become more manageable with access to updates, evacuation instructions and survival resources. Pack extra flashlights, waterproof matches, and a 30-hour candle and bright sticks. Even a Flint and Steel will come in handy when a source of light and warmth is desperately needed.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Hands down, a hand crank-powered radio/flashlight. Gives you access to light and communication without batteries or power grid.
*PRO TIP- Find a hand crank-powered radio/flashlight that also charges your phone. You’ll be glad you can stay in touch.
This is first on the list for a reason. Keeping energy levels high when you may need to travel on foot is huge, so throwing a few granola bars in your bag won’t cut it. The key for food is high calorie and nutrient content that holds up in any condition.
You can't survive without food and water. Find food and water with a long shelf-life (5 years+), and get enough for 72 hours. You need bagged water, purification tablets, and an expandable water carrier. For food, you want calorie and nutrient-dense food that holds up in any condition.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Military-style MRE bars, because they are dense, sustaining, and long-lasting. They are good for at least 5 years, so you won’t have to keep re-provisioning.
*PRO TIP- Basic snacks won’t cut it- you need something advanced. After a disaster, food becomes currency. Don’t pack pennies.
One of the most important things you can do is to prepare a thoughtful plan on how your family will react in an earthquake. Map out an evacuation plan for your home, and decide where to reunite. Create a list of emergency and personal contacts. Find out where local agencies place shelters in the aftermath of a disaster. Know your work/school plan and evac routes.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- A Rendezvous Point. Take the time to decide on a place for your family to meet. Much of each day your family is separated (school, work), and even if you are home there can be confusion while evacuating.
*PRO TIP- Buy, print or make local maps and mark hospitals, urgent care centers, and possible evacuation routes. Google maps may not be an option, so prepare to work off a paper map again.
This isn't the first thing people think of for an earthquake kit, but it is an absolute game changer in a disaster scenario. Pack ‘travel-size soap, shampoo, conditioner, razor and shaving cream, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, infectious waste bags, maxi pads, a washcloth, glasses, contacts and contact solution.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Infectious Waste bags are particularly important- not disposing of waste properly leads to infection and disease; often the biggest dangers after a major disaster.
*PRO TIP- Pack Maxi Pads. It’s often overlooked, but makes a huge difference in comfort and hygiene in a pinch.
Sometimes the most dangerous part of a disaster is the sharp, toxic, unhygienic or generally treacherous environment left after an emergency event. Make sure you have goggles, dust mask, work gloves, and waders/galoshes.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Leather gloves; your hands are the easiest places to cut with debris after an earthquake. Keep them protected with heavy-duty gloves.
*PRO TIP- Make sure your dust mask is N95 certified... that means it’s medical-grade and can truly remove harmful particles in the air after an earthquake…. think about building debris after a collapse, like lead, asbestos, and other chemicals.
When without heat or evacuating your home, staying dry and warm is essential. You’ll want thin, lightweight sleeping bags, blankets and ponchos, as well as body warmers and even an emergency tent.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Emergency blanket. They are heat-reflective and the lightest weight; specifically designed for emergencies.
*PRO TIP- Pack quick-activating hand/body warmers and a fleece blanket for extra protection against the cold.
Think carefully about what you’ll need when evacuating. Remember, you may not have internet or phone service. Pack copies of personal documents, family and emergency contact info, cash, house/car keys, glasses/contacts.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Medication. If it’s vital to your health, have extra packed for an emergency. Very unlikely that the neighborhood pharmacy will be open.
*PRO TIP- Cell signal in a disaster area may be jammed, so have a pre-established out-of-town contact person for you and your family. Write it down and have a copy in your earthquake bag.
You know you need one, so stop putting it off and get it done. It was important to me to have a smart, well-thought-out bag I could trust. If you don’t have time to track down the best tools and materials to do it right, I’ve made one for you. I call it The Earthquake Bag, and it’s my mission to make sure everyone either buys one of mine or builds one of their own. Everyone is safer when we all are more prepared individually.
- Zach Miller