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Earthquake Preparation Checklist

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This earthquake preparation checklist contains a detailed list of suggestions on what you will need to live in your home after a major (8.0-9.0) earthquake hits, where services are expected to be unavailable for several months to a year. This list is not exhaustive, and should be tailored to your specific needs. It is also subject to changes from time to time.

Before an earthquake happens, take some time to secure anything in your home that could fall over and hurt someone or damage property. Putting up with a little inconvenience in your kitchen could save you from an enormous mess and loss of all of your dishes, glasses, etc., or losing food packaged in glass such as peanut butter, jelly, olive oil, leftovers in your fridge, etc.


Securing your home against shaking:

  • Ensure that your house is bolted to your foundation and any cripple walls are braced. While this can be expensive, it may be the single best investment you make in your home.
  • Consider installing a seismic gas shutoff valve to prevent gas leaks.
  • Consider bracing any chimneys.


Protecting your furniture and kitchenware from falling and breaking:

  • Secure any large furniture against a wall with brackets, screws, or similar.
  • Secure your water heater to the wall with heavy gauge metal strapping.
  • Secure television and other large appliances so they can’t fall over.
  • Consider lining cabinets with rubberized mats and installing secure latches on cabinets and doors.
  • Consider installing ledge barriers on the front of bookshelves.
  • Consider using adhesive such as “museum putty” to secure objects to shelves.
  • Attach refrigerator to the wall and consider using child-proof door locks or similar to prevent door from opening.


 Planning  for an earthquake with your family:

  • Have a plan for meeting and/or communicating with family members after an earthquake, and a follow-up or backup plan in case the primary plan falls through.
  • Make sure everyone in your family knows who your out-of-state contact is in the event that you have phone service. This number should be saved in your phone contacts as 1 EQ Text so that it shows up first on your list; if something happens to you people will know who to contact. Similarly, it is recommended that you record your local emergency contacts under “ICE” (In Case of Emergency). For example, ICE – husband/wife. After an emergency, phone lines are expected to be saturated and people are recommended to contact others by text, email, or social media.
  • Subscribe to text alert services offered by state or local government agencies or organizations such as the Red Cross. (Search on Google for the best current option.)
  • Make sure everyone knows to drop, hold, and cover your head during an earthquake, and not to run outside or get in doorways.
  • Try to make copies of important documentation and store them in the cloud. Important physical documents such as passports should be kept in one place.
  • Have a store of cash in a safe place in your home. You should assume that you will not be able to get cash for some time after an earthquake, and without power you may not be able to purchase anything without cash for some time. We recommend that you have enough cash, in $1, $5, and $10 bills, to make any essential purchases (food, batteries, toilet paper, etc.) for at least a month. It would also be a good idea to have extra checks on hand.
  • Ensure that you have a fire extinguisher in the house and that everyone knows where it is and how to use it.
  • Consider taking a first aid class.
  • Make sure your phones are backed up on the cloud.
  • Ensure that your family has enough savings in the bank at all times to live for 3 months without any income.
  • Put copies of any important electronic documents on a USB stick, and also back up in cloud storage such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. Paper documents can also be scanned.
  • Hold an earthquake drill at home.


Stockpiling water:

Water is really the most important thing you need to have in your home, and if you only do one thing to prepare, you should store up water. The City of Portland recommends that you have at least a 2-week supply of drinking water, assuming 1 gallon per person per day. In reality, you would be wise to store much more. While authorities will likely be able to make water available to people within 2 weeks, you will have to walk to where it is being offered, wait in line, and the amount you get may be heavily rationed. Invest in the convenience of your own water supply, and have the benefit of being able to wash occasionally! Remember, running water may not be available for as long as 1 year.  It is likely that once roads are repaired water trucks will make scheduled deliveries to homes like garbage trucks, but not every day. You should invest in at least 1 large, durable water container that can be refilled easily (5-7 gallons recommended) as you may be refilling it for a long time.

  • Have at least 1 large durable water storage container with a dispenser spigot that you can carry moderate distances to refill. You can buy a 5 or 7 gallon container even if you don’t feel it is too heavy to carry, because you don’t have to fill it all the way up. We find the Reliance Jumbo-Tainer to be the best choice for ease of carrying.
  • Have at least 14 gallons of water for each person in the home, including pets. Water should be replaced every 6-12 months depending on the container. Do not store water in your basement. (Our recommendation is 100 gallons per family: 40 gallons from hot water heater, 50-55 gallons in large water containers/drum located together in an accessible place, and 5-10 gallons in smaller containers distributed around your home. For a family of 4 with a pet, this would be enough water for around 3 weeks.)
  • We recommend that you purchase 1 extra 5-7 gallon storage container to share with those who have no water, and mark it as such. People will be asking you for water. When they come, if you have water dedicated to sharing, you can offer it unhesitatingly. On the other hand, if your dedicated water has been consumed, it will make it easier to turn people down in the event that your own personal supply is running low. Having water dedicated to sharing shows people that you care and have thought about others, even if you can’t help them, and even if they are your friends.


Bedroom bag/box:

If an earthquake occurs at night, you will want to have the following items on hand in a place where they are easy to access, preferably from your bed. We recommend putting these items in a box or bag under your bed and tied or attached to the foot of your bed. You should assume that in a major earthquake there will be no light, your dressers will fall over and be inaccessible, and there will be glass all over the floor.

  • Pair of sturdy shoes, preferably slip-ons
  • Flashlight, headlamp, or one of the LED dimmer lights from this kit with new batteries
  • Whistle
  • Full set of clothes
  • Extra pair of glasses, with straps so you don’t need to put them down


Essential records and evacuation items:

In the event that your house must be evacuated due to fire, flooding, etc., it is recommended that you keep a bag ready in an accessible location with the following items.

  • 1 month extra supply of all essential medications. Ask your doctor for a prescription, and purchase these at low cost from discount prescription services such as Blink Health or GoodRx.
  • Extra prescriptions for essential medications, for purchasing after your supply runs out.
  • Extra hearing aid batteries, contact lenses, or similar items.
  • Any essential personal items
  • Book of blank checks
  • Cash in small bills
  • Copies of essential paper records, such as birth/marriage certificates, passports, adoption papers, social security cards, mortgage/property deeds, car titles, insurance policies/phone numbers, bank account records, credit card numbers, contact information for any creditors you may have to renegotiate with, etc. These records can also be stored separately in a fireproof, waterproof lock box that could be transferred to a go-bag later.
  • USB stick with any relevant electronic documents.
  • It’s a good idea to store camping equipment along with a warm jacket and hat outside in a waterproof container.
  • Full water bottle.
  • Roll of toilet paper and a few trash bags.
  • Travel umbrella, for rain, sun, or privacy going to the bathroom.
  • A few energy bars.
  • One or more emergency blankets.


Durable provisions: (enough to last 30-60 days)

  • Extra batteries, especially AA and AAA batteries.
  • Toilet paper!! This will be in short supply and is a public health issue.
  • Tampons and/or feminine hygiene products
  • Biodegradable liquid soap for washing dishes, hands, and bathing. Bars of soap require more water.
  • Extra trash bags of various sizes
  • Wet wipes or similar for dry-bathing
  • Diapers and other items for babies or small children
  • Saline solution for contact lenses
  • Any items for denture care
  • Antibacterial hand sanitizer or wipes.


Miscellaneous items:

  • Headlamp, lantern, or similar hands-free light
  • Brita counter-top water filtration system/dispenser
  • French press or 1-cup drip coffee maker, if you drink coffee from a coffee maker
  • Manual can opener
  • Clothes made of wool or synthetic fabrics, especially capilene, polypropylene, or similar synthetic outdoor wear, can be worn multiple days without becoming uncomfortable or smelly and can be washed and dried more easily than cotton.
  • A cheap foam dispenser for soap can significantly save water in washing and bathing.
  • Work gloves, if you don’t have them
  • Cell phone charger
  • Propane (for cooking and heating), camp stove, and/or gas heater


Food provisions:

While food may be hard to find for a certain amount of time after an earthquake, it is not likely that you will be forced to endure long periods without food. Our food supply is handled by a robust market in the private sector; farmers, supermarkets, and delivery services like Amazon are all independent operators all have an interest in continuing to make food available. Large companies have deep pockets, smaller businesses have strong community relationships, and we would expect a large pool of temporary entrepreneurs delivering food for money.  Furthermore, during the first week of power losses, there will likely be an abundance of frozen food that needs to be eaten or it will perish. This includes restaurants, schools, and institutions, which will have to prepare and sell or give away all their stored food.

It is recommended that you have at least 2 weeks of food stored, more if you live in an area that might not allow vehicle traffic after an earthquake. Some canned food should be left outside in the unfortunate event that you might have to evacuate. For food kept in the home, ensure that bottles and jars are stored in cupboards that are latched so that they can’t fall out and break. Our recommendation is to focus on simply having a couple weeks of the food you normally eat on hand.

  • Extra month’s supply of pet food.
  • Cans of food that you like, including tuna, beans, canned chicken, soups and stews, canned vegetables, canned fruit, etc.
  • Jars of food that you like, such as peanut butter, jelly, pickles, and any home preserves.
  • Easily consumable long-lasting foods, such nuts, crackers, chips, chocolate, etc.
  • Coffee and tea, and plenty of filters. If you drink coffee, make sure you can make coffee without power.
  • Some amount of high energy/protein bars for the first 24 hours when food preparation may be difficult.
  • Hard cheese, which can last for some time outside a fridge.


Maintaining your supplies:

  • Remember to drain and replace the water in your water heater at least once a year.
  • It is recommended that any stored water should be replaced every six months. During the dry months of July and August this water can be used on plants and grass.
  • Make sure any stored medications are replaced before their expiration date.
  • Know how long the batteries you buy last, and make sure you replace them when they start to run out. (The batteries provided in this kit have a 10 year shelf life.)
  • Remember to periodically replace any pain relievers, ointments, etc. that you add to the Trauma Kit.
  • Ensure that you always have at least one full propane tank on hand.


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