What’s In Your Earthquake Kit?

earhquakesuppliesIn 1994 I was single and living in a studio apartment in Santa Monica when the Northridge Earthquake hit. Santa Monica got hit pretty hard considering its distance from Northridge, many houses came off their foundations and one apartment building two blocks from me had a gas leak and explosion minutes after the earthquake struck. (Thankfully due to the MLK holiday, none of the tenants were home at the time.)

And how well prepared was I for the earthquake? I had one small maglight flashlight IN MY CAR. That’s it. So in the pitch dark — and you know what I mean by how dark it was at 4:30 in the morning with a lot of power out throughout the city — I found shoes and went to my car to get the flashlight. After that day I was only slightly better prepared: I kept water in my car and bought many more flashlights to keep around the apartments I lived in.

Since we got married 8 years ago, my husband and I have been keeping a fairly decent earthquake kit in our easy to get to storage area and after all the recent shaking we pulled it all out and refreshed it. The photo above is of the supply box and the small blue bin behind it has our foodstuffs. We wrote down a few more things we needed and I have been perusing Sean and Jason’s Urban Journal website for additional ideas. 

I would love for you all to share things you have your kits, items you have in your cars, what you keep by your bedside. I would love recommendations on hand crank/solar flashlights and radios. Tell me what oddball things you keep in those boxes, just in case.

Click through the jump to see photos from Santa Monica damage in 94 as well as a sample of our foodstuffs and a more complete list of things in our supply box.


So you might think to yourself, “Well, how bad could it get, really? I mean, even if stuff is just all over the floor, I could still get in the house and find food.” This is how bad it very easily could get. 


Granted, if your kit was in there, that’s not good, which is why you keep a small one in the car and make sure you have backup plans with friends or family. 

Also, your house may not have burned, but the foundation could look like this:


It may be hard to see (hey, my hands were still shaking!), but the house has moved about three feet off the foundation. Those are the walls buckling forward. With the very major aftershocks that happen after a significant earthquake, you would not be going back in there. (I hope.)

And this is just earthquakes I’m talking about here. If there is some other kind of major natural or man-made disaster, you have to know that the emergency responders probably won’t get to you and your neighborhood for days.  DAYS. 

Okay, enough with the stern lecturing because I’m not in any way a Nervous Nelly. The real reason I love to put an earthquake kit together? IT’S FUN! And it doesn’t have to be that expensive at all. I mean look at a sampling of our food choices here:


These are cheap and filling items you find in the grocery store, just about all of these items are less than a dollar a can. Some are much less than that. And it’s hilarious in the comfort and safety of today (sans emergency) to decide what meals you might enjoy eating while looking at the stars, listening to the emergency broadcasts on your hand crank AM/FM radio. “Honey, do you want spagetti-os or chili tonight?” 

So get yourselves a sturdy storage box, find a spot that is easy to get to, but out of the way (I suggest NOT in the attic!) and start getting it filled. Then put a big marker on the calendar for a year from when you put the kit together to go through and replace items that have expired. I hope you never have to use it. Ever. 

A sampling of things in our supply box (there’s more, but this is what I remember off the top of my head):
nylon and cotton rope
cotton towels
latex gloves (these will need replacing after a year)
first aid kit
baseball caps/work gloves
nylon tarp
plastic army men/playing cards
cat food/cat litter/small litter pan
camping dishes/utensils/can opener/corkscrew(!!)
Ladies: sanitary pads! And if it’s not that time of the month, they do double as large wound dressing, if the need arises. And ideal for the job as they were designed to absorb blood after all.

Random selection of items in the food bin:
Dehydrated meals (requires hot or boiling water)
Canned meals (chef boyardee and chili and beans)
Canned veggies and fruit
Instant coffee (dude)


We are considering a camp stove, but we have a gas grill and have an extra bottle of propane always on standby. Thoughts?

4 thoughts on “What’s In Your Earthquake Kit?”

  1. Extra shoes. My husband will laugh that even for A earthquake kit I pack shoes. But in a bad earthquake you do not want to get caught barefoot.

  2. RE: flashlights:
    1) Forever Flashlight (small) by Excalibur. It needs no batteries, because it works on the Faraday Principle, or something like that. Shake it for a minute and it shines its LED lamp for a few minutes. One minute is a LONG time to shake. But it works.
    2) Hand crank dynamo flashlight from Real Goods. Pump the crank and it lights; stop pumping and it goes off. Kinda noisy. But if it should fail, I think this is the only light I could probably repair. I’ve had it for more than 10 years now, and it still works, probably because it’s too noisy to use.
    3) Hand crank flashlight from a store in Chinatown. Crank it for a bit, and it lights for a bit. Incredibly small! Inexpensive! Three LED lights! Three switches! Leave it in the car for a few months, and the light switches get a mind of their own! Glitchy, but it works (when it wants to).
    4) Hand crank flashlight by Maxxima. Crank it for a minute, and it lights for quite a few minutes. It even has a socket to charge your cell phone. This is the one I’d chose to put in the emergency bin.

    I haven’t had too much luck with solar. The Solio’s a neat device for charging a small device; it takes a couple of days in the window to reach full charge. And a solar trickle charger for the car battery works well.

    On the food front:
    Edible landscaping. On the shady north side of the property is growing some New Zealand spinach. It was self sown, from whence it came is a mystery, but it takes real well to the Los Angeles (Silver Lake) climate and soil, with little water necessary.


    Thanks for the tips!

  3. From my experience in the Northridge Quake, in one of the very worst-hit areas, the three most important items were:

    * A reliable flashlight where you can find it even after every single piece of furniture in your house has been knocked over and/or flung halfway across the room (I had a bedside flashlight on my night stand, but just finding the nightstand itself in the pitch black took some doing, never mind figuring out where the flashlight ended up. Thank goodness the dial light on the phone still worked!)

    * A pair of shoes capable of walking over broken glass, kept close to where you are, so you don’t have to walk over broken glass to get to them. (Hoo boy, was there a lot of broken glass!)

    * Half a tank of gas in the car at all times, so that when heating up canned stew on the campstove starts to look unattractive, you can drive out of the damage zone to some place where the restaurants are still operating.

    We had a whole bunch of other supplies – water, food, first aid, etc. – but really, most of them were superfluous thanks to the half a tank of gas in the car.

    Even in the very largest quakes, half a tank of gas in most cars will get you at least as far as an operating gas station, and then you’re good to go.

    (Yet another reason I’m not really enthused about a “car-free lifestyle” – I don’t want to be like those poor sods in NOLA, waiting for the government to get their sh*t together and come up with an evacuation plan.)

  4. Embarrassed to say I’m under-prepared. We have store-bought kits at home and in the cars. I also have one in my locker at work as I’d potentially not be allowed to leave for an indefinite amount of time. I keep meaning to bring in a change of clothes. I also need to prep more for the pets.

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