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Prepare for Earthquakes

Unfortunately, we have seen time and again the destructive power of earthquakes. If you live in an area where earthquakes are possible, you need to know how to prepare for an earthquake. A key element of being prepared is having an earthquake kit and earthquake supplies.

Here are some things that recent earthquakes have taught us.

Disasters can happen at any time of day. In case an earthquake were to happen at night, easy preparedness steps include having a pair of shoes or slippers at your bedside, a light source (flashlight or light stick) handy, and a robe or some other covering close by to grab for warmth in case of a need to evacuate without warning. It will also be important to have your earthquake kit and earthquake supplies where they be easily grabbed as you exit your home.

Should an earthquake occur when you are away from home, having an earthquake kit in your car and another earthquake kit at work may be critical to your comfort and survival. If you have school aged children, don’t forget to make sure that their schools have adequate earthquake kits and earthquake supplies. Many schools have an earthquake plan but no earthquake supplies or classroom earthquake kits to support the plan.

Basic services may be immediately disrupted. In a severe earthquake, water, sewer and electricity may be instantly cut off to many homes. It is therefore important to have emergency water, emergency food and emergency lighting (light sticks, flashlight) as well as an emergency radio (battery, crank, or solar powered). After an earthquake you may be left with only the emergency survival supplies you have on hand. Without an earthquake kit or earthquake supplies, you may be left without the basics for survival for hours, days or longer.

Don’t expect the government to be able to immediately respond to your basic needs. Federal, state, and local governments have made it clear that in a major earthquake, responders will not be able to help everyone right away. In fact many people will be left for up to three days or even longer without being able to expect outside assistance. This means that you may need to depend on an earthquake kit that has at least three days or more of all the 10 basics needed for survival:

  • Emergency water
  • Survival food rations
  • Breathing protection
  • Emergency light (flashlights and lanterns)
  • Emergency shelter (blankets, tents, etc)
  • Emergency communication (radio – crank, solar, battery powered)
  • Emergency first aid
  • Emergency tools
  • Emergency warmth
  • Emergency sanitation and hygiene


Access to basic emergency tools will allow you to aid in rescue efforts. After an earthquake many people are left to work with their bare hands to assist professional responders in clearing rubble in an attempt to find survivors. Simple emergency tools and supplies like gloves, shovels, picks, sledgehammers, axes, etc will significantly aid any search and rescue efforts. Having your own basic emergency tools will significantly increase your usefulness should you remain among the able-bodied people who survive the disaster.

Medical facilities may not be immediately available to treat injuries. Hospitals are often damaged along with other building in a severe earthquake and roads to get to one may be completely blocked anyway. Often hospitals or sections of them must be evacuated because they are at risk of collapsing in the aftershocks. People often end up being treated in the street if treatment is available at all. Many bloodied victims may have to wait for treatment as facilities and personnel may be overwhelmed by the massive need for medical attention. You should keep basic emergency first aid supplies on hand to stop bleeding, help someone to start breathing again, splint a broken limb, etc. Having your own trauma first aid supplies in your earthquake kit may save your life or those of others after an earthquake.

Be aware that many basic home first aid kits are designed for minor day to day “cuts and scrapes” and provide little to help in more advanced, yet basic life saving situations. Trauma first aid kits and supplies will be of greater help in a true disaster.

The Greatest Earthquake Preparedness Lesson. The greatest lesson from every severe earthquake we witness around the world is that the time to prepare to be secure in an earthquake is BEFORE one strikes. No measures taken after the fact will fully compensate for lack of preparation before the earthquake.