Preparing for an Earthquake or Natural Disaster – a Comprehensive Guide

Today we are talking about earthquake and disaster preparedness. After combing through several websites, we have compiled great information to aid you in preparing for a potential disaster – both big and small. Though these steps may seem daunting at first, these are EASY precautions you can take to protect you and your family. Make it a goal to spend time over the next few weeks to pull your kits together and think about what you would do if a natural disaster strikes.

It is recommended that households create emergency kits (including food and water) to sustain your family for at least 3 days, though experts say 7-10 days is much safer. City resources will likely be overwhelmed responding to medical and infrastructure emergencies, leaving you to fend for yourself.

A quick and easy solution is to purchase a ready-made kit. Several options are available to purchase through retailers such as Amazon and Costco. Items come packaged in handy backpacks or buckets that you can easily grab and go if you need to leave your residence. You can also put your kit in a new garbage container or plastic bin – something that is waterproof and fits your storage area.

Many people will choose to build their own kit (or customize a ready-made kit) in order to accommodate specific needs or to save money. We have researched a comprehensive checklist of items to include below. Many of these items you might already have on hand or can easily be collected and tucked away in case of emergency.

Essential items to include in your emergency kit

The following items are typically found in these ready-made packs and are essential items to consider if you’re creating your own. A kit should be considered something that you can easily transport if you need to vacate your house for some reason, or simply a spot where everything is gathered in one place, eliminating the need to comb the house in a frantic situation.

  • Water (handy little pouches that conserve space) – 1 gallon/person/day
  • Non-perishable food (most common are high-calorie energy bars – also to conserve space)
  • Dust masks
  • Gloves
  • Hand warmers
  • Insulated blankets
  • Garbage bags
  • Duct tape
  • Survival blankets
  • Ponchos
  • First aid kit
  • Multifunctional tool
  • Flashlights, headlamps, and/or emergency snap lights
  • Whistle
  • Rope
  • Biohazard bags
  • Battery operated radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Water purification tablets
  • List of emergency contacts/phone numbers (especially out-of-town contacts as it may be easier to get calls out)
  • Gas shut-off tool
  • Cash and coins
  • Important documents in waterproof container

emergency kit illustration

Download a printable PDF of this handy list here.

Some personal items to consider adding to your kit

  • If you have babies or young children add anything they will need (diapers, formula, baby food, etc)
  • Warm clothes + socks (or items specific to your climate)
  • Comfortable running shoes
  • Emergency power station for cell phone (hand crank, solar powered or battery operated)
  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitizer or wipes
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Coloring books for kids
  • Playing cards
  • Extra pair of glasses or contacts + contact solution
  • Prescription medication
  • Pet food and water
  • Toilet paper (remove the cardboard tube and smash flat)
  • Ziploc bags

You may want to consider creating a smaller version of these kits for both your car and office.

Where to store your emergency kit/supplies

Store your supplies in a cool, dark place like your garage, basement or closet. You may want to consider keeping a pair of sneakers and a flashlight under your bed in case of an emergency in the middle of the night. Consider creating a backpack for each member of your family as well.

Home Tips


Start stockpiling water. It is recommended to have 1 gallon of water per person, per day. This water is for drinking, cooking, and sanitation. Store jugs or bottles of water in your freezer, especially if you have a separate freezer with lots of space. Not only will you have plenty of water in an emergency, but this will help your freezer work more efficiently and keep things cold should power stay out for an extended amount of time.

You can reuse empty soda bottles (just be sure to follow proper sterilization procedures first), or purchase large water containers such as these. There is also a method for using the water in your water heater – instructions found here.


Stock food that your family will actually eat. Canned foods, energy bars, peanut butter, dried fruit and nuts are all good ideas. If you have children, consider keeping a supply of special “treat” foods that they enjoy – this will go a long way in helping to comfort them in a scary situation. Having a camping stove and fuel is also a good idea for warm meals.

Every six months or so, consume the food and water and replenish with new. Set a date that is easy to remember such as the beginning of the year or at Daylight Savings time.


Know where your water main and gas main are in your home in order to turn off in an emergency. Tie a gas line tool to the fixture itself so it is right there if you should need it.

Earthquake Retrofitting

You may want to research if retrofitting your home is a good idea. Steps include bolting your home to the foundation and providing sheer/pony wall strength.

A few additional things to consider:

  • Try and keep at least half of a tank of gas in your car at all times.
  • Look out for one another! Know your neighbors and check in on them. Encourage them to create their own emergency kit (send them a link to this post.)
  • Create a disaster plan that includes steps on how to get to safe locations, who to call, how to contact family if phone lines are down, and setting meet-up points. Discuss and practice this plan frequently!
  • You may also want to consider creating an emergency binder to take with you in case of an emergency – containing copies of social security cards, birth certificates, family photos (for identification), utility bills (proof of residence), and/or bank account information. There is a risk involved with having all of this sensitive information in one place – we liked this comprehensive guide to creating this binder and tips for keeping it safe. Decide for yourself if this precaution is worth the risk.

We hope this comprehensive guide will help start the process of preparing yourself and your family for a potential disaster. The more prepared you are, the less strain you will impose on aid workers, neighbors, friends, and family. If nothing else, taking these steps will provide you with a peace of mind that you and your family will be safe and prepared.

You may find the following links helpful for further research:

Red Cross – Earthquake Preparedness

Seattle – Emergency Management

Ready- Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed.

Preparing for the Big One – Online Presentation

CDC – Center for Disease Control and Prevention