Assembling an earthquake preparedness kit may not get the creative juices flowing like crafting for Halloween, but this crucial DIY project can provide peace of mind and potentially save your life. An earthquake preparedness kit is designed to see your family through the challenging days following a major earthquake. Not only will an earthquake prep kit help keep you safe from the fallout of the initial quake, it will also protect you from secondary hazards like power outages, fires, floods, and aftershocks.

Typically, an earthquake preparedness kit is for shelter-in-place and is not like a go-kit for when you need to move from a disaster, or a survival kit for a backcountry expedition.

How to Make an Earthquake Preparedness Kit:

  1. Gather or buy the items on the earthquake preparedness list below. Most items are low-cost and easy to find. You likely have most many around your house.
  2. Get air-tight containers to store items. Place smaller containers in a larger one that is easy to carry, like a duffle bag or plastic bin.
  3. Store your earthquake preparedness kit in an accessible location and make sure everyone in your household knows where it is.

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1. Gather Needed Earthquake Preparedness Kit Items

Water

During a major earthquake, water pipes can break, disrupting water distribution to your home. Prepare for this scenario by having enough water for drinking and sanitation in your earthquake preparedness kit. Plan on three gallons per person (one gallon per person for three days). Have more water for pregnant or nursing women, or if you live in a hot climate like Las Vegas.

You can buy water, or simply fill plastic containers with tap water. Avoid using breakable glass containers, or paper-based containers that are prone to decomposing. Keep your water fresh by swapping it out every six months.

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Collect gallon-sized plastic jugs and fill with water.

Food

In the event you don’t have access to your kitchen after an earthquake, the food in your earthquake kit will keep your belly full and spirits up. Have enough non-perishable food for each person for three days.

Fulfilling your food inventory should start with a trip to your cupboards, then maybe the grocery store. Choose non-perishable, easy-to-open foods like:

  • Ready-to-eat canned foods (don’t forget to pack a can opener)
  • High energy foods like granola bars, trail mix, and dried fruit
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Packaged crackers and cookies

Account for persons in your household with special dietary needs, such as infants or the elderly. You should also choose food that you and the members of your household actually enjoy eating. And don’t forget your pet’s food allowance for three days!

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Make a list of non-perishable foods your family likes and gather or purchase them for your kit.

First Aid Kit

Earthquake-related injuries can occur both during and after the actual event, often from falling debris, collapsing structures, broken glass, and otherwise treacherous terrain.

Have an easily accessible first aid kit in order to treat injuries before emergency services arrive. Your first aid supplies should include:

  • Adhesive bandages of various sizes
  • Sterile gauzes of various sizes
  • Wrapping tape
  • Latex gloves
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Topical antiseptic
  • Pain relievers
  • Anti-diarrheal medication
  • Prescribed medications
  • Thermometer
  • First aid guide

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Buy a first aid kit that includes all or some of these items and supplement with additional items as needed.

Tools

You don’t need to be MacGyver to get value out of various tools in a post-earthquake environment. Remember, you might not have utilities or cell phone service, and there will be considerable physical hazards. Prepare for this by having these tools in your earthquake preparedness kit, most of which you would take on a car camping weekend:

  • Flashlights
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Extra batteries for flashlights and radio
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Utility knife
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Pen and paper
  • Paper plates, cups, and utensils
  • Aluminum foil
  • Duct tape
  • Needle and thread
  • Small fire extinguisher
  • Signal flare
  • Whistle
  • Wrench (to turn off utilities)

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: You probably already have some of these items in your house. Check your junk drawers and garage for any of these items you aren’t using. Purchase the remaining items.

Toiletries & Hygiene

Sanitation in a disaster area is about more than feeling clean, it’s about avoiding diseases related to unsanitary environments. Again, most of these items you likely already own. Just grab a few of them and stick them in your kit!

  • Toilet paper
  • Soap for body
  • Dish soap
  • Small towels
  • Garbage bags
  • Disinfectant
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Feminine products

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Grab extras of these items in your home and add to your kit. Add any outstanding items to your shopping list.

Clothing and Shelter

Earthquakes don’t strike only during periods of pleasant weather. You may find yourself facing the aftermath of a major earthquake while it’s pouring, or when the mercury hits triple digits. Protect yourself against the elements by adding these items to your earthquake preparedness kit:

  • Sturdy shoes
  • Warm and waterproof clothes
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Water-proof tarp
  • Face mask (like a dust mask to filter out particles in the air)

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Put those old shoes, jackets, and blankets to use by adding them to your kit. If you don’t have a waterproof tarp, add it to your hardware store or outdoors store shopping list.

Money and Documents

This last category is not essential for survival, but will make your post-earthquake life a lot easier to manage. To begin, you may not be able to use a credit card for a while because yours may be lost or credit card readers aren’t working. While cash may feel like it’s gone the way of the dodo, it is smart to have on-hand in a post-disaster situation. Also, copies of important documents, like passports, licenses, etc., will make organizing after an earthquake that much easier. Be sure to have the following in a water-resistant container:

  • Cash
  • Copies of wills, insurance policies, and deeds
  • Passports, social security cards, and immunization records
  • Bank account and credit card numbers
  • Birth certificates and marriage certificates

TAKE THE NEXT STEP: Head over the bank and take out cash in an amount you feel comfortable with. Make copies of important documents.

2. Pack the Earthquake Kit & Stow Items in an Airtight Container

The goal is to pack all of the previously mentioned items into a kit that is easy to access and carry. Store similar items together in plastic bags, stuff sacks, or other small, airtight containers. Place the smaller containers into a large, transportable container like a duffle bag, large backpack, or plastic bin with handles. Put all of the items into a single container if you can. Large families may need multiple containers.

3. Make Your Earthquake Kit Easy to Access

This step is critical for reacting quickly in the event of an earthquake. Your earthquake kit should be located in a spot where everyone in the household can reach. A lower shelf in your garage or outdoor storage shed are good earthquake kit storage locations. Avoid using upper floors, including the attic, since these should be avoided after an earthquake. Be sure everyone in your family knows the location of your earthquake preparedness kit.

The Full Earthquake Preparedness Kit List:

In summary, you will need to acquire the following items and store in an airtight container in an easy-to-reach place. Here is your earthquake preparedness checklist:

  • Water: three gallons per person, per day for 3 days
  • Non-perishable food for three days

    • Ready-to-eat canned foods (don’t forget to pack a can opener)
    • High energy foods like granola bars, trail mix, and dried fruit
    • Peanut butter and jelly
    • Packaged crackers and cookies
  • Pet food for three days
  • First aid kit

    • Adhesive bandages of various sizes
    • Sterile gauzes of various sizes
    • Wrapping tape
    • Latex gloves
    • Scissors
    • Tweezers
    • Topical antiseptic
    • Pain relievers
    • Anti-diarrheal medication
    • Prescribed medications
    • Thermometer
    • First aid guide
  • Tools

    • Flashlights
    • Battery-operated radio
    • Extra batteries for flashlights and radio
    • Matches in a waterproof container
    • Utility knife
    • Non-electric can opener
    • Pen and paper
    • Paper plates, cups, and utensils
    • Aluminum foil
    • Duct tape
    • Needle and thread
    • Small fire extinguisher
    • Signal flare
    • Whistle
    • Wrench (to turn off utilities)
  • Toiletries

    • Toilet paper
    • Soap for body
    • Dish soap
    • Small towels
    • Garbage bags
    • Disinfectant
    • Toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Feminine products
  • Clothing and shelter

    • Sturdy shoes
    • Warm and waterproof clothes
    • Blankets or sleeping bags
    • Water-proof tarp
    • Face mask (like a dust mask to filter out particles in the air)
  • Cash
  • Important documents (copies stored in a waterproof container)

    • Copies of wills, insurance policies, and deeds
    • Passports, social security cards, and immunization records
    • Bank account and credit card numbers
    • Birth, marriage, and death certificates
  • Airtight and durable containers to store all of the above items (like plastic bags, stuff sacks, and/or plastic storage boxes)
  • A larger, portable container to stow everything in. For example, a large duffle bag or large plastic container with handles that contain all the smaller bags and storage containers of supplies. This should be transportable and easy to access.

As you can see, you can easily build a complete earthquake kit without breaking your budget by gathering existing items in your home and purchasing the remaining items over time.