You don't feel it at first.
And if you do, you probably just brush it aside.
“Oh, the neighbor’s dogs are at it again. “That truck sure is darn heavy.”
...Then stuff starts flying out of cabinets. And you swear you could see the ground split in two.
Reality sinks in.
It’s an earthquake.
Earthquakes happen when you least expect them. You’ve gotta be prepared to face a major one, no matter where you are, what you’re doing, or what time of the year it is.
In this blog, we’ll discuss what you need to know about quakes and the essential survival supplies you’ll need. Let’s get right to it:
We all know what earthquakes are. But before we get into the nitty-gritty of survival supplies and earthquake safety in general, let's take a moment to grasp their full…magnitude on the human race.
Why Do Earthquakes Happen?
Way below the ground we're standing on, there are huge plates of rock known as tectonic plates.
Now, these plates are pretty restless. They love to move around. They even bump and grind against one another every now and then.
But at some point, all that activity gets too much to handle and...bam, rocks start to smash. These movements cause what scientists call seismic waves, which travel and make their way to the surface. And that's basically how (most) earthquakes happen.
What Are the Types of Earthquakes?
We can break earthquakes down into two main types, natural and manmade. The former is caused when tectonic plates shift while the latter, as the name suggests, involves blasts caused by human antics.
Quakes can be further grouped into the following categories:
- Tectonic: This type of quake happens when pressure from tectonic plates releases, transports waves of energy through the crust, and reaches the Earth's surface. It’s the most common type of earthquake.
- Volcanic: Volcanic earthquakes have something to do with the magma below the Earth's surface. When the magma moves, it disturbs the rock surrounding it to the point where it breaks and causes tremors. The seismic waves can then be used to predict eruptions.
- Collapse: Sometimes, tiny earthquakes happen in underground caverns and mines. These are called collapse earthquakes. They're caused when rocks explode and generate seismic waves. Major landslides can also cause them.
- Explosion: When a chemical or nuclear device detonates, it releases a huge amount of energy. The result is an explosion earthquake.
How Often Do They Happen?
Quakes actually happen all the time; though, you don't feel them in most instances. Most of them don't even cause damage.
But when they do, boy, can the fallout be devastating on homes, water and sewer pipes, buildings, bridges, gas lines, and life as we know it.
How Do You Judge an Earthquake’s Severity?
An earthquake's severity involves two things—magnitude and intensity.
Magnitude means the quake's size. It's determined based on the amount of seismic energy discharged from the earthquake's underground source.
Intensity, on the other hand, describes its effects on the earth's surface, people, and structures. Basically, it's the amount of damage dealt by the quake. An earthquake’s level of intensity depends on how near or far one is to the epicenter.
How Bad Can an Earthquake Get?
The earthquake recorded as the most powerful in history happened on May 22, 1960, in Valdivia, Chile. It's often called the "Great Chilean Earthquake" or the "1960 Valdivia Earthquake."
It had a 9.5 magnitude. The tremors were so intense that they triggered tsunamis felt by people as far as Japan and the Philippines.
In recent years, there've also been some pretty strong quakes, like the 9.0 quake that struck Japan in 2011 and caused nearly 500,000 people to evacuate and the powerful 2004 earthquake in Indonesia that caused a massive tsunami and ended over 200,000 lives.
So, we've established the kind of threat earthquakes pose. The next course of action is to identify the survival supplies you need to prepare for a big quake. Keep reading:
What Should Your Earthquake Survival Supplies Include?
Face it, as long as you live on planet Earth, you can't escape the shaking, trembling, and the is-this-really-happening-or-am-I-just-being-paranoid feeling we call earthquakes.
Normally, quakes just happen for a few seconds. But the devastation that follows can last days, weeks, or even months. We’re talking about downed utilities, collapsed bridges and highways, damaged buildings, and dozens—or maybe even hundreds—of people forced to evacuate.
No one wants a reality like that, but it can happen. So, start stocking up on survival supplies now to be ready to face it.
Here’s what you need:
You need one gallon of water per person per day for 72 hours.
Scared you'll run out? Then a portable water filter can help you in a pinch. Use it to purify H2O from public fountains, the toilet flush tank (yep, you read that right), your hot water heater, and melted ice from the freezer.
After an earthquake, you can't light up your stove just yet.
Intense tremors can cause leaking propane tanks and busted gas lines, so unless you wanna cause a fire, you really shouldn’t attempt to make your mamaw’s signature fried chicken.
Stick to shelf-stable or non-perishable food in the meantime. Make sure they're loaded with calories to keep your stomach full.
These would be smart choices:
- Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and veggies (pack a can opener while you're at it)
- Peanut butter
- Protein bars
- Whole-wheat crackers
- Trail mix
Wear a pair of gloves to guard your hands against cuts, scrapes, and abrasions as you sift through debris.
Choose a set of gloves that offers full Kevlar lining to protect your mitts from high temperatures and sharp objects. They should also be comfy, especially if you'll be wearing them for a while.
Keep a pair of sturdy shoes so you don't step on fallen nails, shards of broken glass, and other debris. This'll also be useful when you walk down long flights of stairs during an evacuation.
Use duct tape to tape a broken window, reseal your emergency rations, or to make a sling for someone's injured arm. There’s really no limit to what it can do.
First Aid Kit
The CDC recommends keeping the following first aid supplies in your earthquake kit:
- Aspirin and non-aspirin tablets
- Diarrhea meds
- Prescriptions and long-term meds
- Antibiotic ointment
- Hydrogen peroxide to clean and sanitize wounds
- Eye drops
- Individually wrapped alcohol swabs
- Dressings (ace bandages, bandage strips, cotton-tipped swabs, rolled gauze, adhesive tape roll)
- Bar soap
- Safety pins
- Pocket knife
- Needle and thread
- Small plastic bags
- Paper cups
We can't leave out paracord from this list! With this survival item, you can make a sling, a stretcher, and even a makeshift ladder. Just make sure you know how to tie knots, though.
The beauty of having a multitool is that it's so convenient. You don't need a huge toolbox of tweezers, a bottle opener, a screwdriver, a knife, pliers, and other fancy-schmancy gizmos when you've got 'em all in one handy tool.
This survival staple works well as an emergency shelter or as a way to signal for help. You can even turn it into a DIY stretcher.
Need to see in the dark? Stay far, far away from that candle we know you're eyeing.
A handy flashlight's just what you need. TAC9ER's tactical flashlight, in particular, would be a great option.
It's got built-in USB charging which means you don’t need an electric outlet to juice it up. Charge it in your car, your laptop, or on a portable power bank. Its high lumen output will allow you to see in the dark, assess for threats, and even signal for help. And with its strike-bezel edges, you could even use it to break through stuff in case you get trapped.
The best way to stay safe during an earthquake? Know what's going on. Your emergency radio can help you get those answers you're seeking. Get a portable or hand-crank radio (preferably an NOAA weather radio) to listen to crucial broadcasts.
Personal Hygiene Products
Yeah, the water’s out. But that doesn’t give you a free pass to neglect your hygiene.
In fact, maintaining basic personal hygiene is especially important in natural disaster survival. It’ll help keep germs and disease from spreading.
Gather some TP, baby wipes, a toothbrush, toothpaste, feminine hygiene supplies (if applicable), and hair care products...you know the drill.
You’d also want to have these items at your disposal:
- Extra clothes
- Jacket or sweatshirt
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Local maps and a compass
- Power bank
- Food, water, and meds for pets
- Extra cash ($5, $10, and $20 bills)
- Recreational supplies for children and adults
- Extra pair of glasses or contact lens solution
- Fire extinguisher
- Paper and pencils
- Extra batteries
- Respirator mask
- Whistle and small mirror for signaling
- Jumper cables for your car
Where Should You Store Your Survival Supplies?
Experts can't predict where and when earthquakes strike. For all you know, you could be in the shower, in the middle of work, or on the way to your buddy's place.
By stocking up on survival supplies, you'll be better equipped to handle the aftermath of a brutal quake.
The key is to keep these supplies in multiple areas, like your home, your car, and your workplace—basically, places where you spend a considerable amount of time in.
Each kit should have at least 3 days’ worth of supplies.
In Your Home
Following a cataclysmic quake, water, electricity, and phone service will be down for days.
If it’s safe to shelter in place, then you can ride it out with the stuff you’ve assembled in your earthquake kit.
Store your supplies in a place that's secure yet easy to access, like your garage. Garages are typically built on top of concrete floors that should be able to remain steady following huge tremors.
In Your Car
Whether it's going to work, running errands, or heading to the in-laws' for your weekly Sunday barbecue, we reckon that you spend a lotta time in your car.
If you're on the road when a serious earthquake strikes, keeping survival supplies in your car trunk can help you stay alive until you get to safety.
In Your Workplace
Besides assembling kits for your home and car, you also need to make one for your workplace just in case intense tremors occur while you're on the job.
Keep your earthquake kit near your work table, not in a supply closet. Trust us on this.
You see, if you keep your supplies in a closet, they may get locked away and the only way you'll be able to grab 'em is if the person with the key is there. Not exactly something you wanna take your chances with.
All good? It’s now time to talk about another important part of natural disaster survival: your earthquake safety checklist. Here’s what you should know:
Bonus: Earthquake Safety Checklist
While there’s no doubt that the survival supplies you’ve squirreled away will be instrumental in helping you tough out a formidable quake, these aren't the only things you need to secure.
Don’t leave these out of the equation:
Things to Learn
Knowing these things will come in handy when your area experiences a couple of strong tremors and shakes.
- Know where the safe spots in every room of your house are located.
- Learn basic CPR and first aid.
- Stay up-to-date on your community's risk and response plans.
- Find out how to shut off water, gas, and electricity.
- Be familiar with the emergency procedures in your kids' school. Make sure your kids know them, too. From there, you can discuss how you’ll reunite with them.
Home Evacuation Plans
When a big one happens, there's a chance you may have to evacuate your home. It's best to have a game plan for this so that you and your family will know exactly what to do when the time comes.
Here's what you gotta do:
- Make a sketch of your home's floor plan and discuss the evacuation details of each room.
- Map out another way to escape from every room (if possible). If you need equipment like a rope ladder, then indicate where they can be found.
- Mark where your earthquake supplies will be placed.
- Pinpoint the location of utility switches or valves so that you can shut them off (if you know how to).
- List down places where your family can go if staying home isn’t an option (this'll help you find them if you’re separated during the quake).
Make a list of the things you want to prioritize when you have to evacuate. This should include:
- Items that you'll hand carry
- Other items that you and your family consider important
- Items to be taken out by car or truck if there's any available
- Things to do if there's time, like turning utilities off and locking doors and windows
List Down Important Information
Write a list of important information and keep it in a safe, easy-to-access location. You need to add:
- Important phone numbers (ex. fire, paramedics, police, and medical centers)
- Phone numbers of water, gas, and electric companies
- Names and contact numbers of your neighbors
- Names, addresses, and contact numbers of your insurance agents (also list policy types and numbers)
- Name and contact information of your landlord or property manager
- Crucial medical information, like your prescriptions, allergies, medical conditions, etc.
- The year, model, vehicle identification number, and license number of your car
- Your bank's or credit union's contact number, account types, and numbers
- Radio and television broadcast stations to monitor for emergency information
Collect Your Important Documents and Keep Them All in a Fireproof Safe
Have these documents ready so that you can just grab ‘em and go if there’s a need to evacuate.
- Birth certificates
- Social Security cards
- Ownership certificates
- Household inventory, like your list of stuff, photos of the things in every room, and pictures things considered valuable (e.g., paintings and collectors' items)
When You Return Home
Once the earthquake's done, step inside your house only if there's no major damage. Then, check the following. Remember to be careful when you do these.
- Inspect your floors, walls, windows, doors, and staircases for damage. If there's any, take pictures for insurance purposes.
- Check for broken gas lines or fallen power lines and report them to the utility company ASAP.
- Examine closet and cabinet doors (be cautious since the stuff inside may have shifted).
After you’ve done your inspection, you can start cleaning and making repairs. Wear the proper gear (long-sleeved shirt, long pants, sturdy shoes, and durable gloves) while you work.
You should also request a professional to fortify exterior features that may have had some damage, like canopies, sliding glass doors, decks, and porches.
Everyone and their Aunt Susan need to get ready for a huge earthquake, no matter where they live.
Yeah, technology has gotten so advanced, but it still can't make exact predictions when it comes to tremors and shakes in the Earth. You really can’t afford to be caught off guard.
Gather all your supplies, learn what to do before, during, and after a quake, and stay vigilant. You’ve got this!
Have you ever experienced a massive earthquake? What was it like? Share your experience in the comments.