The USGS estimates that several million earthquakes occur each year worldwide. Granted, many of these earthquakes are benign but a sizable portion are magnitudes of 6.0 or above. Earthquakes packing this amount of power leave a significant amount of destruction in their wake. If you live in an area vulnerable to earthquakes it’s crucial to own an earthquake survival kit. Having the proper gear will give you an advantage to move yourself and your family out of the red zone and into a safety.
Earthquake survival kit considerations
An earthquake survival kit is only useful AFTER the earthquake is over. There’s nothing you could possibly include in your kit that could benefit you in the middle of an 8.0 magnitude super-quake. During an earthquake it’s important to get to the safest location you can. If you are in your house move away from the exterior walls where there are windows and broken glass. Move towards an interior wall or get under a table. If you are outside get to a spot that is clear from powerlines and anything that could fall on you. Not surprisingly, most earthquake related deaths result from falling objects and structures. Do the best you can to get to a safe spot. Once the quake is over, get to your kit.
Essential Survival Gear
Expect that after a large quake your going to have to leave your house. It’s practical to keep your gear in a backpack for increased mobility. Many survivalists advocate a backpack that blends in and doesn’t look like you are armed to the teeth with survival goodies. In a catastrophic situation, unprepared citizens and criminals will be scrambling for resources. Perhaps more important though is that your bag is strong, comfortable, and roomy enough to stow 72 hours worth of food, water and gear. The 5.11 72 hour Rush or the Kelty Redwing 32 are high-quality/versatile options to stow your gear.
Food and Water
A rule of thumb is to include at least 72 hours worth of food and water in your earthquake survival kit. This will give you a 3 day buffer to find a safe location where these resources are easily available. Include at least 3 liters of water (per person). The food you pack should be non-perishable and packed with nutrients. High calorie ration bars are good choices. You can also make your own trail mix. Nuts, seeds and fruits are loaded with fats and proteins that make a great source of energy. Remember, you may be walking a long ways to safety or forced to camp while order is restored.
A pair of gloves will protect your hands from broken glass and debris. There’s a good chance your going to be required to move away obstructions. This debris will include sharp nails, glass and other hazards. Besides physical protection from scrapes, gloves will keep your hands warm during cold nights and you can easily handle hot cookware or other items that have been in a fire.
A poncho will protect you and your gear from the rain and form a light barrier against the elements. It’s versatile enough to be used as a ground layer and could also be used to rig a small shelter. You wan’t to to do whatever you can to keep dry while in a survival situation.
Nails, staples and other sharp objects will go right through a regular shoe. When you’re tromping through the rubble left behind by an earthquake you’re going to appreciate the protection and sturdiness of a good set of boots. Give me the clothes on my back, a poncho, and my waterproof gore-tex boots and I’m good to go.
We all forget how black it gets when the power goes out and darkness descends on the earth. Navigating to safety at night is next to impossible unless you can see where you are going. Flashlights are cheap for the most part but I spend a little extra for the tactical varieties. Tactical flashlights like the Fenix PD35 are powerful, lightweight, and won’t break just because a little 9.0 magnitude earthquake decided to roll through town. Alternatively you could opt or include a headlamp which would leave your hands free to work with gear or setup a night camp.
This ones a no brainer. Fire becomes an essential resource when you don’t have access to power and order hasn’t been restored yet. Fire will cook your food, boil your water, keep your body temperature normalized and provide a morale boost for you and your party. BIC lighters are a solid way to get a fire going. My second choice is using a knife and ferrocerium rod to throw sparks on a willing bundle of tinder. I like this method because these tools will produce sparks no matter how wet they get. This method takes skill so either practice during a non-survival situation or make damn sure your BIC’s don’t get wet. It’s a good idea to keep all this gear in a plastic Ziploc.
A basic stainless steel cup is a good piece of gear to have in any survival pack. You can easily boil water, cook food and collect whatever water is available around you. I use this one from Stanley and use it to cook all my soups while I’m off camping in the backwoods.
Portable Smart Phone Charger
The cell towers (which have backup power generators) may or may not be down in the event of an earthquake. This means you can call out to friends or family for help and communicate with loved ones around you. This isn’t going to work if your phone is dead. This device when fully charged can charge your Android or Iphone to full capacity from its built in battery bank. Keep one in your pack just in case.
Including a quality first aid kit will help you treat cuts, scrapes, sprains and a few extreme injuries. Your first-aid kit might just save your life or someones else’s in a survival situation. Any medication you or your family needs should be included as well.
Military Can Opener
Cheap, light and takes up virtually zero space in your pack. It’s very possible you will run across food canisters as you make your way to safety. Take advantage of the extra calories whenever you can!
Ask most survivalists what piece of gear they would take if they were forced to choose one item only and they all answer the same: The knife. The knife is the most versatile tool in your pack if you know how to use one. Even in the city the knife still comes in mighty handy for many day to day survival tasks. Batoning wood, making shelter, cutting cordage, and defending yourself are a handful of uses that make having a blade so crucial to survival. The Bk2 fixed blade knife is a well rounded blade suitable for a variety of applications. See my post on choosing the best survival knife.
Keep some cash in your kit in multiple different denominations. Cash can be used to barter items and purchase supplies at stores that can’t process credit cards without power.
Crank powered radios are a good way to tune in to local emergency broadcast frequencies. This information is valuable in any survival situation and will provide you with valuable intelligence to figure out your next move.
Toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, feminine products and anything else that will make it easier to take care of yourself without the comforts of a bathroom.
Learning to use your gear
I always wrap up my posts by stressing the importance of knowing how to use everything in your kit. For instance, when I say a knife is a versatile tool I should really say it CAN be a versatile tool. If you don’t know how to use a knife then you will be limited. Developing an intimate level of knowledge and comfort with your gear will give you a big edge in surviving an earthquake or any other kind of disaster. Remember – Knowledge weighs nothing!
Did I miss anything?
Let me know in the comment section below what you would include in your earthquake survival kit.