A few months back, my friend Stephanie forwarded an email to me with an alert from someone’s friend of someone’s friend at Homeland Security forwarded from someone at the U.S. Geological Survey. It explained that due to an alarming amount of recent seismic activity, a large earthquake might be in the immediate offing for we in the So Cal area. It went on to mention that, earthquake predictions are unreliable but to use this time as the motivation to check your preparedness and be ready; if The Big One didn’t happen in the next 3 days, it was still going to happen sometime.
We compared notes on our shocking lack of preparedness. Stephanie mentioned that after a quick mental review of the supplies in the house for her family of six, if the big quake should hit now, after 20 minutes they would be eating each other. We were not much better off here. At best, we were “prepared” for 3 days of eating mayonnaise sandwiches in the dark. Unacceptable.
My mom was still living in Northern California during the big and deadly Loma Prieta quake in 1989. More specifically, she was in Aptos, 2 miles from the epicenter. As I watched the live news coverage of the quake, there was very little information to be had other than that the epicenter of this giant quake was based in my mom’s living room. I had no way of contacting her. I was worried, but the one thing I did know was that as long as she had made it through the shaking, she would be prepared for what came after. I knew she had enough canned goods and batteries in the house to outfit the neighborhood for a month. She ended up losing some glass things and had some structural damage, but she was lucky, and fine, and organized, and ready.
So, I knew what ready looked like. It wasn’t us. That one dead flashlight in the garage wasn’t going to do much for us in the event of a big quake, mild storm, or even 20 minute power outage.
I decided I needed to make it all happen while I was still motivated by fear and paranoia. I made a late run to Ralph’s (at 11:00 PM on a school night) and filled a shopping cart with 3 first aid kits, a palette of batteries, gallons of bottled water, a serious ton of weird canned stuff (Dinty Moore Beef Stew anyone?), and a small propane BBQ.
It's done. We have stuff. We have a plan. We have emergency kits in both cars. If I am forced to camp out on the 210 for 3 days, I can make coffee. We have a butane lantern for seeing the rubble. As directed, I also hid some cash. After the quake, ATMs and credit cards could be worthless and Coinstar does not accept tears.
According to the Holy-Crap-You-Are-Screwed email, here is the basic list of stuff to have on hand. (Not just for earthquakes - this also works for tornadoes and hurricanes, times of civil unrest, or living until your unemployment check kicks in.)
• Half gallon of water per person in your household per day. At 7 days, that’s 3 ½ gallons per person.
• A week’s worth of food – and don’t forget a manual can opener and a propane stove or outdoor grill to cook it on.
Some suggestions for your food cache:
• Canned meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, soups
• Protein bars
• Dry cereal or granola
• Peanut butter
• Dried fruit
• Canned juices
• Non-perishable comfort foods, like chocolate
• Bottled drinks with electrolytes, such as Gatorade
• Baby food in jars, plus formula, for the little ones
• Pet food
• Lanterns and flashlights - It’s going to be several weeks, possibly months - without electricity.
• Battery-powered radio
• Extra prescription meds - You can ask your doctor for a 1-time additional prescription, then rotate those into your regular supply each month to keep them fresh.
• First Aid kit - Include anti-diarrhea medication, in case you ingest some bad water.
• Garbage bags - You can line your toilet with these, too, since there won’t be any water to flush when you get that diarrhea.
• Alcohol gel for hand washing
• Toilet paper, paper towels, disposable diapers (For the baby. Or you. You are a mess.)
• A communication plan - The California phone servers will be down and/or overwhelmed, but you may be able to reach someone out of state if you use a cell phone. Designate one out-of-state person to be your family’s contact person, and make sure that all your family members living in LA know to call that person if you are not all together when a quake happens. If your kids are at school when it hits, they need to know to call Grandma in Florida so that Grandma can relay messages for you.
Those are the absolute basics. Don’t forget to keep food, water, and blankets in your car, as well as an extra pair of sneakers, socks, and a sweat suit or something comfortable to wear. If you are unfortunate enough to be on a freeway at the time of a major quake, you will probably be stuck there for days. Bust out the coffee.