Here's What You Need In Your Earthquake Preparedness Kit

Living in Southern California comes with a lot of benefits. Beautiful landscapes, perfect beaches and great food all add up to why we all live here, happily paying the 'sunshine tax.' 

Living here also means being prepared for a major earthquake (magnitude 6.5 and above). The San Andreas fault is only one of hundreds scattered around California and the potential for the 'Big One' to strike is ever-present.

Fortunately, a little preparation can go a long way in keeping you and your family safe in case you're displaced - temporarily or permanently. With that in mind, here are some of the items you should have in your earthquake preparedness kit!

(A plastic storage box is a great way to keep your earthquake kit together and handy in case the shaking begins).

Let's start with the basics:


Store water in clear plastic containers. Avoid using things like glass bottles, which can break in the event of an earthquake. The average adult needs to drink around two quarts of water per day, and even more if it's hot out, or if you're doing a lot of physical activity. 

Children, nursing mothers, the elderly and those who are ill will likely need more as well. A good rule of thumb is to store one gallon of water per person per day. You'll also want to keep some on hand for your pets as well. 

Authorities recommend that families keep a three-day supply of fresh drinking water per person. You'll want at least two quarts per day per person for drinking, and another two quarts for food preparation/washing up. Rotate your stored water every six months to keep it fresh. 

If you need to treat household water, use household liquid bleach to kill the bacteria. ONLY use regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. DO NOT use scented bleaches, colorsafe bleaches, or any other bleaches that have added cleaners. 

Use 6-8 drops of bleach per gallon of untreated household water. Let it stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor. 

And to stress again, the only bleach you should use is the household liquid bleach. 


Keep a series of ready-to-eat canned meals, such as meats, soups, fruits and vegetables on hand (don't forget the salt and pepper). 

Find foods that you can keep for a long time and are nutritionally dense. Foods such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, and trail mix are all great, healthy options to keep on hand and won't spoil. If anyone has any special dietary needs, you'll want to make sure you have some of their food on hand as well. 

It's also not a bad idea to have some comfort food on hand. Sweets, like cookies, lollipops and even instant coffee can go a long way in making a miserable situation better. 

If you have pets, you'll also want to keep a spare bag of pet food on hand to make sure they have enough to eat. Have at least one ounce per animal pound per day. 

Avoid foods like pasta, dry beans or rice which can take a lot of water to prepare. 

Rotate your food stocks at least once per year (think of it as the ultimate spring cleaning party). 

First Aid

Finding a first aid kit online can be an intimidating experience at first. There are dozens of options, each with more tools and bandages than the last. But what do you really need?

  • Several sterile adhesive bandages in different sizes
  • Gauze pads in assorted sizes (2" & 4") Triangular bandages
  • Roller bandages
  • Cleansing agent/SoapLatex gloves (2 pair)
  • Safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Needle
  • Moistened towelette
  • Antiseptic

Make sure you include some non-prescription drugs to include in your first aid kit as well. You can find small bottles of Tylenol, anti-diarrhea medicines, antacid or any other over-the-counter drugs at the store. If you or a loved one has any medical issues that require actual prescription medication, you'll also want to keep some of that on hand. 

Extra Credit

Earthquake kits are more than just food, water and medical supplies. It's about being prepared for what comes after the shaking stops and the rebuilding begins.


Keep copies of wills, insurance policies, contracts deeds, stocks and bonds in a fireproof case. Keep your passport, social security cards and immunization records close at hand, or in a safe location.

Make an inventory of all your valuable household goods and store it with the rest of the documents you want to keep safe. Family records such as birth, marriage and death certificates are also good to have on hand. You don't want to go through the headache of trying to replace those. 

Tools & Sanitation

One thing you'll want to have handy is a wrench in order to turn off gas or water lines that may have been severed during the quake. Pliers, plastic garbage bags and a flashlight with extra batteries are also a good idea to have in your toolkit. 

Purchase a small camping stove, along with the fuel to make sure you still have hot food while you're waiting for the gas company to come out and fix the broken lines. 

A small fire extinguisher is also good to have on hand - but remember, those are not for fighting full-fledged house fires. Leave those to the professionals. 

A non-electric can opener or utility knife will also go a long way to making your life easier. Toilet paper, soap, liquid detergent and extra toiletries will help you stay sanitary during a time when showers and your regular bathroom may not be available. 

Because cell service will likely be jammed following a major quake, use texting or messenger apps to let family and friends know you're OK. Keep an extra cell phone battery charged and available so you have plenty of juice when/if the electricity goes out. A battery operated, or crank radio is also a good idea to have handy so you can stay updated on the news (you'll be listening to KFI of course...). 

Finally, the most important thing to remember during a quake is to not panic and let the professionals do their jobs. A lot of thought and care has gone into crafting California's building codes to survive the shaking and officials have been planning for years on how to respond to the inevitable 'Big One' here in Southern California.  There's nothing else you can do besides being prepared and live your life. 

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Photos: Getty Images

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