I was over at Ikea the other day and bought another package of candles. (Ikea is
a Swedish furnishing store.) I like the boxes of fifty white candles for $5.95.
I took them home and added them to my earthquake kit.
My earthquake kit was a plastic basket sort of like the kind you pick up in
supermarkets when you only have a few things to get. In the five or so years since I
put it together, the basket has cracked. Last week I bought a new plastic box at
HomeBase to hold all of our equipment.
Everything in my earthquake kit is sealed in zip-close plastic bags. This is to
ensure that if the kit got wet, the stuff inside would not get wet. If you start to
prepare for earthquake, you have to consider the possibility that it might be raining when
you would have to evacuate, or that a pipe might leak. Better safe than trying to
light a candle with a soaked pack of matches.
My kit contains the following:
Here are some of the reasons behind my choices.
I chose sanitary napkins over tampons because if it is difficult to wash your hands, it
is not advisable to insert a tampon. Tampon use carries some risk of toxic shock.
In addition, sanitary napkins are great as a pressure bandage for large wounds.
I though a lot about Robert Heinlein's Have Space SuitWill Travel in
preparation for this. Heinlein had his character Kip repair and wear a spacesuit.
This suit is somewhat different from the ones that astronauts really use. At
this time in the indefinite future, people work on the Moon, doing construction and
mining. They are not always inside the bay of a Space Shuttle, connected with a
tether to a source of power, air, and food. The interior of the space suit contains
a miniature pharmacy, with pain killers, uppers, protein pills, etc.
I chose to include sleeping pills and caffeine tablets because they are the
closest thing I could get to "uppers" and "downers" legally.
(Kip worked in a pharmacy and had help getting prescription drugs.) I figured that
immediately following a severe earthquake, there might be a need for sustained work, such
as digging people out of rubble. Caffeine tablets would help keep rescuers working
as long as possible. On the other hand, once we had recovered who we could, and were
somewhere out of immediate danger, we would need to sleep again, despite continuing
aftershocks. (The aftershocks of a 6-8 pt earthquake can be in the 5-7 range, and
would qualify as serious quakes themselves if they were not
I make sure that the canned fruit we have is packed in heavy syrup. "Heavy
syrup" is sugar water. Stress and hard work are a big consumer of calories.
In an emergency, a person who is catatonic or otherwise unable to be fed, can be
made to swallow this syrup. And, it can be fed to nursing infants if
absolutely no source of milk or infant formula can be found.
I used to keep a package of baby wipes in my kit. This is a partially separated
roll of soft paper towels in a plastic tub filled with fluid. The first time I
needed them, I discovered that they had all dried out. Although they are more
expensive and the packaging cannot be recycled, I switched to individually foil-wrapped
towelettes. I also like that new antiseptic handwash, but nothing takes off dirt
Although we have a shovel for gardening work, and I could technically dig
a toilet hole if I needed to, for short term problems, I prefer the trash bag method.
Line the dry bowl of a toilet with a heavy duty trash bag (lawn and garden are
good). Use the toilet. Use a single bag repeatedly for liquid waste, but
remove and tie off the bag immediately for solid waste. Keep a separate bag in the
bathroom in which to deposit the tied-up bags.
I pay a lot of attention to lights and candles. This is in addition to the
regular candles and flashlights we have around the house and the (wood burning) fireplace
and (charcoal) grill. In romantic histories, they say that "man tamed
fire." In truth, we have come to rely on fire so much that we are significantly
shaken without it. People who have experienced some trauma and especially children
will be much more relaxed and confident with a single candle lit in a darkened room than
without it. In addition, most of us are not prepared for the deep darkness that
would follow a blackout. We are used to streetlights and even the glow of city
lights reflected off of the humidity in the atmosphere. The light from a VCR
faceplate can light a room sufficiently to allow you to orient yourself and prevent you
from running into the wall on your way to the bathroom. If the power goes out, you
will appreciate having a sure source of light.
I went to see a man at the Naturestill Pure Water store (9545 Central
Avenue., Montclair, California). This is a facility where water is distilled in hug
machines. It is boiled to produce water vapor, and the vapor is cooled to produce
pure water. It is 50¢ a gallon, as compared to about 25¢ a gallon from a water
machine, but a recent story in the news about contaminated water machines makes me leery
I once attended a presentation on earthquake preparedness by a group
called Quakesafe. The presenter told us that water should only be kept for six to
twelve months. The plastic containers that hold the water decay in light. Her
family drinks bottled water, and twice a year they rotate fresh water into the earthquake
kit and drink the old stuff.
The Naturestill man said that was true of the water you usually buy in
stores. This is made from #2 plastic. It is sensitive to light and air and
breaks down over time. On the other hand, when you buy water from delivery services,
it is stored in #1 (PETE) plastic. This stiffer plastic will last for much longer.
I was concerned about storing water now and having to re-purchase next
summer. Instead, I bought twenty gallons of water in PETE bottles.