The Earthquake Blog
Still Haven’t Made an Earthquake Kit? Get Started with These 8 Must-Haves 0
Still don’t have an earthquake kit at home for your family? Does even thinking about it make you freak out a little? We know how you feel. It took years of living in California before we finally decided to kill the earthquake anxiety and get it done. Thank god the big one didn’t happen while we procrastinated.
It’s not that we didn’t know better ‒ we knew we needed to prepare, and we worried for our family that we hadn’t already. We were just so overwhelmed by the prospect of figuring our what to put in it, how to plan, finding supplies we could trust, and not leaving anything. So don’t feel bad ‒ we’ve been there too!
Let’s take the stress out of it. We’ve helped over 10,000 people get prepared personally following recommendations from FEMA and government agencies, and we’re happy to share our system and help you get it done now. After all, you can’t prepare after an earthquake strikes.
Here's the short list:
The most important thing is to prepare a thoughtful plan on how your family will respond after an earthquake. Map out an evacuation plan for your home, highlight danger areas to avoid, and settle on a primary and backup meeting place. Create and print a list of emergency and personal contacts. Find out where local agencies place shelters in the aftermath of a disaster. Know your work/school plan and evac routes.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Rendezvous Point. Decide where your family can safely meet, and even plan for a backup location. Most days your family is separated (at school and work). Even if you are home when a quake strikes, evacuating can be confusing.
*PRO TIP ‒ Buy, print, or make local maps, and mark hospitals, urgent care centers, and possible evacuation routes. Google maps may not be an option, so be ready to work off a paper map.
You can't survive without water, so make it a priority. Find bagged water with a long shelf-life (5 years+), and get enough for at least 72 hours per-person. Beyond bagged water, set your family up to create your own clean water with purification tablets, an expandable water carrier, and a water filtration bottle. We make sure our bags have water capabilities for a gallon of water per-day per-person. Don’t settle for less.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Bagged water. You can’t fill up old bottles and call it a day. You need water that is sealed air-tight to avoid bacteria for at least 5 years. The last thing you want in an emergency is contaminated water, so look for bagged water that is Coast-Guard approved.
*PRO TIP ‒ Find yourself without water? Your water heater, ice cubes in the freezer, and even the back of the toilet (purified) are all good sources of drinking water.
Keeping energy levels high when you need to travel on foot is vital, so throwing old granola bars and a can of soup in your bag won’t cut it. Your family needs high calorie and nutrient content that will hold up in any condition.
Find food with a long shelf-life (5 years+), and get at least enough for 72 hours. Our bags are packed with over 1,000 calories per-person per-day, and yours should be too.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Military-style MRE bars, because they are dense, sustaining, and long-lasting. They are good for at least 5 years, so you won’t have to keep re-provisioning.
*PRO TIP ‒ Basic snacks won’t cut it- you need something advanced. After a disaster, food becomes currency. Don’t pinch pennies.
Being able to treat wounds is a survival must. Get a large first aid kit, and make sure it has bandages, gauze, tape, alcohol pads, and splints at the very least.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Latex gloves. You never know who might have a communicable disease, or what you may have to touch in the course of providing first aid.
*PRO TIP ‒ Stock up on medicine to treat illness and wounds. Think aspirin, ibuprofen, antacid, antibiotic ointment, and burn cream, among others.
Emergencies are less dangerous with updated info and light, but it’s tough when internet, TV, phones, and the electric grid are down. You need evacuation instructions and survival info, so an off-the-grid radio is key. Pack extra flashlights, waterproof matches, a 30-hour candle, and bright sticks. Even a Flint and Steel comes in handy when you are desperate for light and warmth.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Experts agree, a hand crank-powered radio/flashlight is crucial. It gives you access to light and communication without batteries or the power grid.
*PRO TIP ‒ Find a hand crank-powered radio/flashlight that also charges your phone. You’ll be glad you can stay in touch.
This isn't the first thing people think of, but it is an absolute game-changer in an emergency. Pack travel-size soap, shampoo, conditioner, razor and shaving cream, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, infectious waste bags, maxi pads, a washcloth, glasses, contacts and contact solution.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Infectious Waste bags are particularly important- not disposing of waste leads to infection and disease. Often these are the biggest dangers.
*PRO TIP ‒ Pack Maxi Pads. It’s often overlooked, but makes a huge difference in comfort and hygiene.
Sometimes the most dangerous part of a disaster is the sharp, toxic, unhygienic or generally treacherous environment left after an earthquake. Pack goggles, a dust mask, work gloves, and waders/galoshes.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Leather gloves; your hands are the easiest places to cut with debris after an earthquake, and an infection can be lethal.
*PRO TIP ‒ Make sure your dust mask is N95 certified. That means it’s medical-grade and can actually remove harmful particles in the air. Think about building debris after a collapse, like lead, asbestos, and other chemicals.
Staying dry and warm is essential the key to staying alive and healthy. You’ll want thin, lightweight sleeping bags, blankets and ponchos, as well as body warmers and an emergency tent.
* MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Emergency blanket. They are heat-reflective and the lightest weight; specifically designed for emergencies.
*PRO TIP ‒ Pack quick-activating hand/body warmers and a fleece blanket for extra protection against the cold.
Think carefully about what you’ll need when evacuating ‒ you won’t have internet or phone service. Pack copies of personal documents, family and emergency contact info, cash, house + car keys, glasses + contacts.
*MUST-HAVE-ITEM ‒ Medication. If it’s vital to your health now, have extra packed for an emergency. It’s very unlikely that the pharmacy will be open.
*PRO TIP ‒ Cell signal in a disaster area may be jammed, so have a pre-established out-of-town contact person for you and your family. Write it down and have a copy in your earthquake bag.
You know you need one, so stop putting it off and get it done right now. If you don’t have time to track down the best tools and materials to do it right, we’ve made one for you. The Earthquake Bag is tailored specifically for your family needs, and has even more than the recommended food, water, and tools for less than it costs to buy them yourself.
ps - Our Complete Bags are 25% off right now. Oh yeah, and we donate $5 to those in need of emergency help right now for every order we receive. Hope we can help you out!
- Zach Miller
Do You Live On One of SF's Liquefaction Zones? 0
If you live or work in the Marina, SOMA, FiDi, the Mission, Mission Bay, Dogpatch, or Hunter's Point, you likely do.
How SF Set Itself Up for Damage
San Francisco's coastline looks different now than it did 150 years ago. As SF developed and grew, the city expanded our scraggly bay coastline into a smooth, straight line. As SF historian Katelin Ghormley explains, the red areas are mostly pre-WWI landfill. If you remove them, you see the natural coastline & what it looked like before the Gold Rush of 1849. Originally, there were a ton of natural coves, but with the massive influx of people, it resulted in a combination of planned and unintentional filling. The financial district for example, has 60 buried ships that we know of underneath the buildings that were abandoned as men headed to the gold mine fields.
The Richmond and Sunset
The yellow areas are naturally occurring loose fill, most notably the Richmond district on the west side that used to be sand dunes. Not as bad as the red areas, but worrisome. You know about the Sutro Baths right? Well, Mr. Sutro bought up the entire Richmond district (near his baths) while it was still dunes during one of SF's big housing crisis'. Of course you can't build a house on sand, but he terraformed it and made a huge profit. Unfortunately, it's still all sand underneath all that topsoil.
The Marina, Soma, Fidi and More
Parts of the Marina, for example, were created when a lagoon was filled with dune sand and building rubble from the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 to create space
for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Mission Bay was previously an actual bay, until the city filled it in to expand the city. The area previously known as the Barbary Coast in the Financial District is located a half-mile from today's coastline. Those filled-in parts of the city are built on soil that isn't as densely packed, so they are much more susceptible to damage. When this soft soil starts moving during an earthquake, it becomes like quicksand (liquefaction) and can shift the the structural integrity of buildings, and lead to water and gas pipes bursting.
If you live in one of these areas, it is even more important that you are prepared to act quickly, and potentially evacuate your building quickly. I have The Earthquake Bag, underneath my bed because it has everything I need to get out of my building in under a minute. I want to know I'll have food and water, an emergency radio, first aid kit, tools for evacuating, helping others evacuate, and surviving the first few days after the next major earthquake.
What Happens When the Ground Liquefies?
It's when the strength and stiffness of a soil is reduced by earthquake-shaking or other rapid loading. It occurs when the space between individual particles of soil is filled with water, exerting a pressure on the soil that influences how tightly the particles are pressed together. Prior to an earthquake, the water pressure is relatively low. However, the shaking can cause the water pressure to increase to the point where the soil particles move easily with respect to each other (imagine shaking a bowl of oatmeal).
Liquefaction has been responsible for tremendous amounts of damage during earthquakes around the world, and in the Bay Area. The 1989 quake devastated the Marina in particular because of it's composition, and led to 1990 Seismic Hazards Mapping Act, requiring the California Geological Survey to map and publish liquefaction risk areas. Knowing is half the battle, and it's allowed us to fortify the buildings that are in the most compromising locations.
How to Prepare
You know you need one, so stop putting it off and get it done. It was important to me to have a smart, well-thought-out bag I could trust. If you don’t have time to track down the best tools and materials to do it right, we’ve made one for you. It’s The Earthquake Bag, and it’s our mission to make sure everyone either buys one of ours or builds one of their own. Everyone is safer when we all are more prepared individually.
Whether you live in a liquefaction risk area or not, make sure that you have the tools you need, food and water, and a plan by the door or under the bed. We know San Francisco will experience major earthquakes again, and we are smart enough to be prepared for whatever happens.
- Zach Miller
We thought we prepared for an earthquake... we were wrong. 0
Photo Credit: Ross Setford
Written by Steph Pemberton, New Zealand
It was just after midnight when the shaking started.
Initially it was enough of a jolt to wake us all up, but not enough to get me out of bed.
Once I realized it was a big one, and I mean a BIG one, it was already too late. The earth was rumbling like a freight train and the house was swaying side to side. I tried to run for cover, but the power of the earthquake threw me sideways into a chest of drawers.
Winded and bruised, I made it to a doorframe while we waited for the shaking to stop.
It didn’t stop.
The earthquake lasted for two minutes- an eternity.
Once the ground finally settled, an eerie silence filled the house. Whether out of motion sickness or absolute pure fear, I ran to the bathroom to be sick.
After trying to settle back to bed with our hearts racing a million miles an hour, our house suddenly illuminated with a bright light. We went to investigate, assuming the streetlights or a neighbor with a flashlight as the likely culprit.
We gingerly crept back to bed thinking it was over, but an hour later the tsunami sirens sounded and within 60 seconds we were out the door. Five of us, plus a dog, piled into our car and headed for the hills.
When it came to earthquakes, we thought we were prepared. After the devastating Christchurch earthquake in 2011, the whole country was on edge.
Trying to be proactive, I headed off to my local hardware store to put together an emergency kit. And I went all out. Flashlights, batteries, dust masks, a fire extinguisher, first aid kits, blankets, a radio, gloves, food, and toilet paper – you name it, I bought it. There were enough supplies to look after five housemates and a dog for three days.
“She’ll be right” is a typical Kiwi attitude, so some laughed at what they deemed as me being excessively over-prepared. Just you wait, I joked, you’ll come begging for some supplies in the next earthquake!
I packed up my emergency kit into a large container and gave myself a pat on the back.
But fast-forward to the 7.8 earthquake we experienced two weeks ago, I was kicking myself.
Of course it was a great idea putting together an emergency kit, but with mere minutes to evacuate, we couldn’t take the kit with us, because a) it weighed 70 pounds, b) the container was too big to fit in the car, and c) it was in the laundry cupboard under a heavy toolbox.
While it would have been ideal if we were stuck in our house, in the instance of getting evacuated we couldn’t take it with us.
Panicking and unable to decide what to take, we left with the clothes we were wearing and nothing else.
The power in the whole city was out, and at 1am it seemed like peak hour traffic down our quiet street.
We took shelter at a friend’s house on the hill with some others also trying to get to higher ground. Huddled around a tiny radio, we sat in the dark waiting to hear news about the possible tsunami. It wasn’t until four hours and no tsunami later that we got the all clear to go back home.
Our house was unscathed aside from a few items smashed on the floor, but the full extend of the damage wouldn’t be known until the sun came up.
Roads torn up, buildings on a lean, the coastline uplifted, entire towns cut off from landslides, and the downtown of Wellington, the capital city, closed down. Two people died, one crushed underneath his home.
Photo Credit: Anthony Phelps
Growing up in New Zealand, we practice earthquake drills at school. But you never prepare for the biggest earthquake in New Zealand’s history to hit at midnight.
Bewildered and without power, it’s hard to make sense of the situation and figure out what to do. And although we had an emergency kit, we couldn’t get to it in time and it was too heavy to carry if we were unable to use our car. We needed something lighter, that we could grab in an instant.
Everyone in Wellington knows the risks of where we live. The city is situated right on top of the collision zone where the Australasian Plate meets the Pacific Plate – which often makes for a bit of a bumpy time.
So it’s surprising how unprepared we all are. We know big earthquakes are coming, we know we should plan for it, but we don’t think about getting around to it until it’s too late.
Two weeks after the earthquake, many organizations are still locked out of their offices – some are too dangerous for people to go back inside, and some are now being earmarked for demolition.
The first thing we did when we got back to work was to check our emergency packs. We each have one under our desks with essential items, and practically, it’s in a backpack.
Why didn’t I think of using a backpack? It seems so obvious now. We’ve learned we need to have something we can grab at a moment’s notice if we’re being evacuated again.
The most important thing is to get to a safe area as fast as possible. So an emergency kit in a backpack is perfect for this.
It’s not about being equipped for every scenario, but taking practical steps that will help you get through.
Organizing a portable and practical emergency pack for your home and for your office is the simplest way to be prepared.
- Zach Miller
Giving Campaign Update: Your orders have changed lives 0
2016 Donation Overview
- Zach Miller
Southern California Earthquake Advisory Issued- Risk of Major San Andreas Quake 0
Photo courtesy of OES
The California Office of Emergency Services (OES) issued an earthquake advisory warning residents and officials in Ventura, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles, Kern and Imperial counties that there was a greater possibility of a major earthquake through Oct. 4.
The USGS says that data indicates a one percent chance of a magnitude 7 or greater earthquake on the Southern San Andreas fault within the next seven days- about 600 times higher than the normal risk level.
Officials are preaching caution and calm, but are encouraging people to take the opportunity to prepare a quake plan and get emergency supplies gathered. FEMA and most other agencies recommend at least 2-3 days of food and water, communication and light tools, shelter and warmth, and other preparedness tools.
“California is earthquake country. We must always be prepared and not let our guard down,” says OES Director Mark Ghilarducci. “The threat of an earthquake on the San Andreas fault hasn’t gone away, so this is another important opportunity for us to revisit our emergency plans and learn what steps you need to take if a significant earthquake hits.”
More than 200 earthquakes have been recorded in the past few days. This marks only the third time since earthquake sensors were installed in 1932 that this part of the state has seen such a swarm.
Scientists estimate that a big earthquake happens in this area once every 150 or 200 years, so experts think the region is long overdue for a major quake. The San Andreas fault’s southern stretch has not ruptured since about 1680 — more than 330 years ago.
“Any time there is significant seismic activity in the vicinity of the San Andreas fault, we seismologists get nervous,” said Thomas H. Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, “because we recognize that the probability of having a large earthquake goes up.”
In 2008, USGS researchers simulated a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in the Salton Sea part of the San Andreas fault. The USGS simulation predicts that when the fault hits Cajon Pass, Interstate 15 and rail lines could be severed. Inland Empire towns could become a cascade of fallen brick, crushing people under collapsed buildings that had never been retrofitted.
Los Angeles would feel shaking for a full minute (compared to only 7 seconds during the 1994 Northridge earthquake). The quake could reach as far as Oxnard, Bakersfield and Santa Barbara. About 1,600 fires could likely spread across Southern California due to broken gas and electric lines, and powerful aftershocks of up to 7 magnitude could affect as far away as San Diego county.
The ShakeOut simulation puts the death toll at 1,800 people, and such an earthquake could cause 50,000 injuries and $200 billion in damage.
- Zach Miller
Thought about building an Earthquake Bag? Here’s What Experts Put in Theirs 0
It was 4 years of living in earthquake country before I finally checked it off my list- the earthquake kit. I’d finally decided to just buy one- I looked at literally hundreds of earthquake bags being sold, but couldn’t find a smart, thoughtful kit worth my money.
I wanted to create the most intelligent earthquake kit possible, so I signed up to learn from the experts. After 6 weeks of classroom study on earthquake prep and hundreds of hours of testing products in-the-field, I finally built the bag I had been looking for. I’ve got one sitting in my home, my car and my office right now, and I feel secure knowing my family will have the essentials they need in any disaster.
Since then, I’ve helped thousands of people buy or build an earthquake kit that will make a real difference in an actual emergency, and I share what I’ve learned with everyone I meet. No one knows exactly when the next major earthquake (or any emergency) will hit, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the need to be prepared. We are smart enough to think ahead before a disaster strikes.
Stop putting it off and build your kit now. Here are the most important items that both my experience and the experts agree are essential:
You can't survive without water very long. Find water with a long shelf-life (5 years+), and get enough for 72 hours. You need bagged water, purification tablets, an expandable water carrier, and maybe even a water filtration bottle.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Bagged water. Unfortunately we can’t just throw water in an old bottle and call it a day. You need water that is sealed air-tight to avoid bacteria for at least 5 years. The last thing you want in an emergency is contaminated water, so look for water bags that are Coast-Guard approved.
*PRO TIP- FInd yourself in an emergency situation with no emergency water? The back of the toilet, your water heater, or ice cubes in the freezer are all good sources of drinking water.
Being able to treat wounds is a survival must. Get a large first aid kit, and make sure it has bandages, gauze, latex gloves, tape, alcohol pads, and splints at the very least.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Latex gloves. You never know who might have a communicable disease, or what you may have to touch in the course of providing first aid.
Being informed is often the difference between safety and danger, especially when internet, television, phones and the electric grid are down. Emergencies become more manageable with access to updates, evacuation instructions and survival resources. Pack extra flashlights, waterproof matches, and a 30-hour candle and bright sticks. Even a Flint and Steel will come in handy when a source of light and warmth is desperately needed.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Hands down, a hand crank-powered radio/flashlight. Gives you access to light and communication without batteries or power grid.
*PRO TIP- Find a hand crank-powered radio/flashlight that also charges your phone. You’ll be glad you can stay in touch.
This is first on the list for a reason. Keeping energy levels high when you may need to travel on foot is huge, so throwing a few granola bars in your bag won’t cut it. The key for food is high calorie and nutrient content that holds up in any condition.
You can't survive without food and water. Find food and water with a long shelf-life (5 years+), and get enough for 72 hours. You need bagged water, purification tablets, and an expandable water carrier. For food, you want calorie and nutrient-dense food that holds up in any condition.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Military-style MRE bars, because they are dense, sustaining, and long-lasting. They are good for at least 5 years, so you won’t have to keep re-provisioning.
*PRO TIP- Basic snacks won’t cut it- you need something advanced. After a disaster, food becomes currency. Don’t pack pennies.
One of the most important things you can do is to prepare a thoughtful plan on how your family will react in an earthquake. Map out an evacuation plan for your home, and decide where to reunite. Create a list of emergency and personal contacts. Find out where local agencies place shelters in the aftermath of a disaster. Know your work/school plan and evac routes.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- A Rendezvous Point. Take the time to decide on a place for your family to meet. Much of each day your family is separated (school, work), and even if you are home there can be confusion while evacuating.
*PRO TIP- Buy, print or make local maps and mark hospitals, urgent care centers, and possible evacuation routes. Google maps may not be an option, so prepare to work off a paper map again.
This isn't the first thing people think of for an earthquake kit, but it is an absolute game changer in a disaster scenario. Pack ‘travel-size soap, shampoo, conditioner, razor and shaving cream, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, infectious waste bags, maxi pads, a washcloth, glasses, contacts and contact solution.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Infectious Waste bags are particularly important- not disposing of waste properly leads to infection and disease; often the biggest dangers after a major disaster.
*PRO TIP- Pack Maxi Pads. It’s often overlooked, but makes a huge difference in comfort and hygiene in a pinch.
Sometimes the most dangerous part of a disaster is the sharp, toxic, unhygienic or generally treacherous environment left after an emergency event. Make sure you have goggles, dust mask, work gloves, and waders/galoshes.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Leather gloves; your hands are the easiest places to cut with debris after an earthquake. Keep them protected with heavy-duty gloves.
*PRO TIP- Make sure your dust mask is N95 certified... that means it’s medical-grade and can truly remove harmful particles in the air after an earthquake…. think about building debris after a collapse, like lead, asbestos, and other chemicals.
When without heat or evacuating your home, staying dry and warm is essential. You’ll want thin, lightweight sleeping bags, blankets and ponchos, as well as body warmers and even an emergency tent.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Emergency blanket. They are heat-reflective and the lightest weight; specifically designed for emergencies.
*PRO TIP- Pack quick-activating hand/body warmers and a fleece blanket for extra protection against the cold.
Think carefully about what you’ll need when evacuating. Remember, you may not have internet or phone service. Pack copies of personal documents, family and emergency contact info, cash, house/car keys, glasses/contacts.
*1 MUST-HAVE-ITEM- Medication. If it’s vital to your health, have extra packed for an emergency. Very unlikely that the neighborhood pharmacy will be open.
*PRO TIP- Cell signal in a disaster area may be jammed, so have a pre-established out-of-town contact person for you and your family. Write it down and have a copy in your earthquake bag.
You know you need one, so stop putting it off and get it done. It was important to me to have a smart, well-thought-out bag I could trust. If you don’t have time to track down the best tools and materials to do it right, I’ve made one for you. I call it The Earthquake Bag, and it’s my mission to make sure everyone either buys one of mine or builds one of their own. Everyone is safer when we all are more prepared individually.
- Zach Miller