Unfortunately, we can’t predict when or where an earthquake might happen or how severe it might be. So, having an earthquake kit and being prepared is always a good idea!
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Things to Put in an Earthquake Kit for Your Home
- Things to Put in an Earthquake Kit for Your Car
- How to Make a DIY Earthquake Kit
According to the Geological Survey, you can experience an earthquake no matter where you live in the United States. Although only 16 states are at high risk, all 50 states have the potential for earthquakes.
Luckily, it’s not too complicated to make a DIY earthquake kit. In this article, we’ll let you know what you might want to put in your kit, both for your home and your car. We’ll also share guidance for putting your kit together.
Things to Put in an Earthquake Kit for Your Home
An earthquake can occur anytime, anyplace. But it’s a good idea to keep your primary earthquake emergency kit at home in an easily-accessible location.
The kit will allow you to stay safe and healthy in the aftermath of an earthquake when local amenities might be closed. This is not a “go kit” but a “shelter-in-place” kit.
When you’re creating your earthquake kit for home, here are some of the critical supplies to include.
1. Critical items.
The first category of items to put in your earthquake kit are the critical things you need to survive.
Throughout history, several significant earthquakes have left people without access to food or drinkable water for several days and even weeks. If that happens, you almost definitely won’t have access to electricity, either.
The most critical supplies to have in your earthquake kit are as follows:
- Three days of water for each member of your family (at least one gallon per day, per person)
- Three days of nonperishable food and a can opener (see Emergency Foods section below)
- Three days of food and water for your pets
- Prescription medications
- First-aid kit (see First Aid section below)
- Flashlight in every room plus extra batteries (see Tools below)
- Power packs for phones
- Extra pair of glasses for anyone with a prescription
- Utility knife
- Copies of important documents
- Cash (small bills)
2. Emergency Foods
If you don’t have electricity after an earthquake, you’ll have to depend on shelf-stable foods. Refrigerated foods are only safe to eat within four hours of the power going out.
Additionally, you should try to choose ready-to-eat foods with easy packaging and those that don’t increase your thirst.
Here are some of the best foods to include in your home earthquake kit:
- Ready-to-eat canned meats
- Canned fruits, vegetables, and beans
- Canned soups
- Canned juices and milk products
- Peanut butter
- Granola bars and trail mix
- Dried fruits
- Cookies and candy
- Instant coffee and tea bags
Keep a manual can opener with your food supply.
3. First Aid
Minor injuries that don’t require immediate medical attention can occur during or after an earthquake. If a more considerable injury happens, you want to be able to treat it as best you can until you can seek care at a hospital. That’s why it’s so important to keep a complete first aid kit as part of your overall earthquake preparedness kit.
Here are the supplies you should stock in your first aid kit at home:
- Aspirin and acetaminophen
- Medical tape (roll)
- Gauze (pads and roll)
- Butterfly closures in a range of sizes
- Adhesive bandages in a range of sizes
- Scissors and tweezers
- Latex, vinyl, or nitrile exam gloves
- Alcohol pads
- Mild soap
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Antiseptic cream with pain relief
- Burn cream or gel (antiseptic plus aloe vera gel)
- Antiseptic towelettes
- Cotton swabs and cotton balls
- Hydrocortisone (anti-itch) cream
- Foil “space” blankets
- Finger splints or tongue depressors
- Instant cold packs
- Extra lancets and test strips, as well as a sharps container, if anyone in your household has diabetes
- Each family member’s medical information and history, as well as their insurance policies
If your home is damaged in an earthquake, these tools can help you navigate out or find a safe place. And they can help you cope with immediate threats like fire, dust, cold, and moisture.
Here are the necessary tools and appliances you should keep in an emergency earthquake kit at home:
- Flashlight in every room with extra batteries
Tip: Keeping a flashlight in every room ensures that you’ll always have access to one, no matter what damage occurs or where you are at the time of the emergency.
- Fire extinguisher
- Duct tape
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Dust masks for each member of the family
- Water purification tablets
- Water-resistant tarp
- Manual can opener
- Knife, pliers, and scissors
- Local paper maps in a waterproof container
- Work gloves
- Canned heat or gel fuel (for example, Sterno)
In a major earthquake, modes of communication are often the first things to shut down. You might not have power for several hours, days, or even weeks. You likely won’t be able to check the internet to see what’s going on.
You can keep yourself connected during an emergency like an earthquake with communication tools like these:
- Battery-powered AM-FM radio with extra batteries, a solar panel, or hand crank
- Power packs (fully charged!) for your phones and tablets
- At least one device with wi-fi hot spot capability in case cell service is intact, but the internet is not
Things to Put in an Earthquake Kit for Your Car
If you’re not at home, you’re likely commuting, at work, or running errands. And if you own a car, chances are you have your vehicle with you. So your car is the perfect place to keep a second back-up earthquake kit in case of emergency.
Below are the items to consider when you’re creating an earthquake kit to keep in the car.
In case of an emergency, you should try to keep your tank at least half-full at all times. Gas stations likely won’t be open or easily accessible if a natural disaster occurs, and you may need to travel to help loved ones or seek safety.
7. Food and Water
Just as you have a food and water supply for three days at home, you should do the same for your earthquake car kit. That way, you can withstand being stranded in your vehicle for multiple days. Choose food items that are nonperishable and take up little space, like high-calorie protein bars.
Pro-tip: You can purchase “astronaut food” online. It’s non-perishable and often has high nutritional value.
8. Small First Aid Kit
Put together a smaller version of the first aid kit detailed above. Include the essentials, like bandages, gauze, and alcohol swabs.
9. Flashlights and Batteries
It’s essential to make sure you’re not left in the dark, even if you’re in your car. You want to utilize your car’s overhead light and headlights as little as possible in the case of an emergency to preserve the car’s battery and gasoline. So it’s a good idea to stock your vehicle with at least one high-quality flashlight and some extra batteries.
10. Solar Blanket or Sleeping Bag
Along the same lines, it’s a good idea to be prepared for cold weather. You shouldn’t use your car’s heater unless it’s vital. Pack a couple of solar blankets or a sleeping bag as part of your car kit.
11. Toilet Tissue
An unfortunate reality is that cars don’t have the amenities of home, like a bathroom. But you can still be prepared by packing a couple of rolls of toilet tissue to last you as long as you might be stranded outside the home.
12. Swiss Army Knife
To save space, choose a utility knife with multi-functionality for your car. Your utility knife should include a blade, tweezers, a screwdriver, scissors, and a can opener.
13. Extra Clothing and Shoes
You might find yourself staying in your car or at a hotel for several days after an earthquake, so it’s a good idea to have extra clothes and shoes in your vehicle. Pack extra underwear and socks, as well as a warm jacket and practical shoes.
14. Fire Extinguisher
Fires can happen anywhere after an earthquake as electricity lines and other structures undergo significant disturbances. So it’s a good idea to have a small fire extinguisher on-hand in your car.
15. Trash Bags
Another practicality of staying in your car longer than expected is that trash will accumulate. To practice cleanliness and good hygiene, you should stock your vehicle with a roll of trash bags. Store used trash bags in your trunk until you can get to a trash can or dumpster.
16. Power Adaptors and Chargers
You can charge any devices you might have with you by using your car as a generator. Just plug an adaptor into the proper port (new cars have USB ports already built-in). You can even pick up an adapter that turns your car’s power source into a standard outlet, allowing you to plug in things like computer cords and appliances.
How to Make a DIY Earthquake Kit
Now that we’ve covered all of the supplies you’ll need for your kit, let’s go over how you should create your earthquake readiness kit.
Find a secure location.
First, choose the location in your home where you’re going to keep your emergency supplies.
If you have a spare closet or an extra room, that’ll do fine. Some homes have a space built under a staircase, which can add even more protection for your supplies during an earthquake.
Avoid storing your supplies in an attic or basement since these are the areas most prone to earthquake damage and post-earthquake flooding.
Water damage is a significant concern after an earthquake. Pipes often break, and if it rains, your roof might not keep the water out as well as it used to. So it’s crucial to store everything in a watertight storage box or multiple waterproof containers.
Within the watertight storage box, place essential documents and water-susceptible items like electronics and matches into their own waterproof bags. This adds even more protection and peace of mind.
Consider every member of your family.
When you’re putting together your earthquake kit, it’s essential to think about every member of the family — including pets. Think about what your dogs, cats, and other animals need to survive a few days to a few weeks at home. You might also want to designate someone else to take care of your pets if you’re unable to.
Refresh your kit every six months.
Every six months, you should open up your earthquake kit and change out your water supply. Also, check the expiration dates on your food supply and make any changes necessary.
Create a complete emergency plan.
As you’re putting together your gear, or once your kit is done, sit down with the family and layout your emergency earthquake kit. Write down what every family member should do if an earthquake occurs, both if they’re at home or away from home.
Consider whether you might want to book an emergency flight to another family’s home after the earthquake and what you’d need to bring. Think about conditions that would make it feasible to stay in your home and conditions that would make it impossible or unsafe.
You can print out this emergency plan, laminate it, and keep it with your earthquake kit.
Emergency Preparedness and End-of-Life Plans
In many ways, emergency preparedness and end-of-life planning go hand-in-hand. Emergencies like earthquakes can put our lives at risk, no matter how prepared we are.
So as you’re planning for any type of emergency, whether it’s a health event or a natural disaster, having an end-of-life plan in place can give you peace of mind.
Many of the steps you might go through to prepare an end-of-life plan, like storing and organizing documents, also apply to planning for emergencies. So as you prepare an earthquake emergency kit, consider whether an end-of-life plan could help you prepare for emergency scenarios.
- “How to make an earthquake emergency kit.” California Earthquake Authority. 30 October 2019. https://www.earthquakeauthority.com/Blog/2019/How-to-Make-an-Earthquake-Emergency-Kit
- Howard, Brian Clark. “Earthquake maps reveal higher risks for much of U.S.” National Geographic. 18 July 2014. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/7/140717-usgs-earthquake-maps-disaster-risk-science/.
- “Documentation for the 2014 Update of the United States National Seismic Hazard Maps.” United States Geological Survey. USGS Open-File Report 2014–1091: Documentation for the 2014 Update of the United States National Seismic Hazard Maps