By now, every Californian has heard a lot of talk about “the big one.” While this impending earthquake could be one of the biggest of all time, the truth is that one can strike at any time. While it’s easier to predict a weather event like a hurricane, disastrous and destructive earthquakes can and have come without any kind of warning at all. Even if you don’t live in a so-called earthquake zone, it’s highly recommended to at least have a bug out bag stocked with essentials for survival. While any kind of emergency kit will certainly help when it comes to surviving a natural disaster, protecting yourself and your family from the dangers of earthquakes requires adding some specific items to your kit. Below we list some of the items we recommend adding to your very own homemade earthquake survival kit. Keep in mind that as with building any kind of survival kit, each individual family or household is different, and will require different items to add to their individual survival kit.

Start Building Your Earthquake Survival Kit

One of the main goals of building a survival kit for earthquakes is to have it be as lightweight, simple and effective as possible. You might need to take your kit on the go, so it must be portable and easily accessible. Most people have their mobile devices with them at all waking hours, so that probably goes without saying. If you’re one of the few that don’t always carry their phones around, this kit still makes some recommendations so you can stay in contact with your family and call for help if needed. Before we dive into the specifics of what to add to your earthquake survival kit, keep these three things in mind while preparing yourself and your family:

  1. Your vehicle could very well be inaccessible. It could be covered in rubble, or the roads could be flooded and covered with rubble. This makes traveling by car impossible.
  2. Debris could trap you somewhere for days, so be sure to keep your kit somewhere you can grab it quickly.
  3. When the aftershocks come, major gas leaks, flooding and fires can occur as well.

With these preparation considerations in mind, let’s get into what you need for your simple and affordable earthquake survival kit.

The Basic Necessities

  • First and foremost, you’ll need a backpack to store all of your items. Purchase a backpack that is durable and tear resistant if at all possible. If you’ll need to walk long distances, you might want to consider purchasing a hiking backpack as well. You’ll need a backpack that is highly portable because you will need to do a lot of moving and maneuvering. We recommend against using a duffle bag for this reason.
  • The second most important item is a first aid kit. If you buy a first aid kit, make sure it has enough gauze and antibacterial ointment. Sprains and broken bones can occur during an earthquake, so add some extra splints to your first aid kit in order to deal with these accidents as well as possible.
  • A strong flashlight with extra batteries. We recommend picking up an LED flashlight with a metal case.
  • An emergency whistle. Calling for help only lasts so long before you’re out of breath. Emergency whistles can also be heard at longer distances than voices can.
  • Thick work gloves.
  • A lightweight and breathable poncho or raincoat.
  • Extra clothing.
  • Some petty cash. You might need to get a cab or rent a hotel room somewhere away from the worst destruction caused by the quake.
  • Water. A gallon per person per day is recommended, but a gallon of water weighs over 8 pounds. This can get heavy quickly, and drastically reduce your mobility as a result. Consider adding a LifeStraw to your kit so you can hydrate yourself if you run out of water.

These essentials cover the bare minimum of surviving an earthquake. If you want to be more prepared, there are some other items we recommended adding to your survival kit.

Other Items to Add to Your Earthquake Survival Kit

  • A hard hat from a hardware or home improvement store or a bike helmet to protect yourself from falling debris. Falling debris is one of the biggest dangers and cause some of the most injuries in the event of an earthquake. Adding a hard hat or a helmet can help protect your head.
  • A solar-powered charger for your mobile device, for obvious reasons.
  • Emergency hand crank radio with a USB charging port. Getting reception on your mobile phone in an earthquake could be difficult or even downright impossible. Keeping a radio in your bug out bag will help you stay informed of emergency notifications, such as areas to avoid and evacuation instructions.
  • Emergency food bars. If you’re trapped or roads are blocked, you’ll need some sustenance to survive. Food bars are lightweight and provide some of the best nutrition in a pinch, and they don’t need to be cooked.
  • A pocket knife.
  • A pry bar, just in case you need to lift rubble or open a door that’s jammed.
  • Warm emergency blankets.
  • A firestarter kit. Keep in mind that gas leaks are common during earthquakes, so don’t start a fire if you’re in an area that has experienced one.

Items Not To Add to Your Earthquake Survival Kit

There are a lot of items on this list, so fitting them all into one single bag could be tricky. If you have someone in your family or household who is also able to carry a bag, you might want to consider splitting your items up into two bags. Remember, the main things to include are water, a communication device, extra clothing and a first aid kit. Even if you add these simple things to your kit, you’re better off than if you didn’t have one at all. Earthquakes are absolutely terrifying events, but using this checklist to prepare yourself can ease your mind a little bit.