The Bare Necessities Earthquake Kit

Water is the most important item in an earthquake survival kit. | Nancy Phillips, Flickr Creative Commons

Water is the most important item in an earthquake survival kit. | Nancy Phillips, Flickr Creative Commons

As the topic of earthquake preparedness continues to get hotter each passing year without a mega quake, the items recommended for earthquake and emergency kits seem to become increasingly haute.

In September of 2005, The Los Angeles Times published a list of earthquake kit materials to keep in homes, cars and at work. The list, which was 59 items long, included items ranging from food and water to fire extinguishers and tarps—all very useful items.

This year, on Sept. 19, the Times again published an emergency kit list, this time including posh items such as a $30 24-pack of canned water with a 50-year shelf life, solar generators and more.

In the event that the Great California Shakeout scenario’s 7.8 magnitude quake actually devastated the Los Angeles area as projected, aid for many Angelenos would first come in the form of self-help.

Earthquake and emergency kits have become an essential way to help promote survival, but when dealing with tight budgets, some areas of Los Angeles are placed at higher risk due to the inability to afford all the necessary items.

“When you look at the data,” said Jarrett Barrios, Regional Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross, Los Angeles, “somebody comes up to you and says, ‘I appreciate your telling me to get my earthquake kit together but I don’t have the money to go buy all that water and batteries for lights. It’s enough for me to put food on the table.’”

With lists including solar and hand-crank-charged lanterns that also serve as USB and cell phone charging ports, it may be easy to lose track of what is truly needed to survive

“There’s the whole live on your own for a month kit,” said Mark Benthien, Director of Communication, Education and Outreach for the Southern California Earthquake Center. “And then there’s just make sure you won’t die of thirst.”

Here are the “really basic things” that Benthien suggests having in a bare necessities kit.


It doesn’t need to be the $30 24-pack.

“The most important thing is water,” said Dean Reese, Executive Officer of Ready America, Inc. and President, QuakeHOLD! Industrial, Inc. “If you can, plan on one gallon per person per day. That would be optimum.”

Death by dehydration can occur anywhere within a period of several hours to a week depending on the amount of activity and the temperature. For earthquake kits, a minimum of a seven-day supply is recommended.

“When the water is out for days to maybe even two weeks you’ll be very happy that you [bought some]. It’s very cheap,” Benthien said. “It’s literally a matter of getting an extra, big jug of water every week when you go shopping. Get that, put it in your car or in a closet.”

Though the Red Cross’ recommended keeping bottled water no longer than six months, in a pinch, bottled water company spokespersons said drinking expired bottled water is more likely to affect taste than health, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Benthien also recommended getting resourceful. Those who regularly drink bottled water can refill the plastic containers with tap water, saving them in their survival kits for hygienic purposes.

First Aid Kit

First responders would be unavailable for at least three days after the quake despite the 53,000 individuals projected to be injured and in need of emergency room treatment.

Materials provided at the 2015 Great California ShakeOut Breakfast Leadership Summit suggested having a standard First Aid Kit packed with bandages, gauze, wipes, rubber gloves, rubbing alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide to help care for injured family and neighborhood members before first responders arrive to help.


Non-perishable, canned food items that do not require refrigeration should be kept in kits.

Reese recommended having a minimum of 800 calories of nutrition in store per person, per day. Formula and baby food supplies for infants as well as pet food for animals should also be included.


In a large-scale earthquake, Benthien explained that many homes will be red and yellow-tagged, meaning completely demolished or unsafe for entry and retrieval of items.

“You may not be able to get to your prescriptions or able to get them refilled,” Benthien said. “You may not be able to access it if you’re in a shelter. You don’t want to run out of your prescription.”

Benthien suggested having copies of not only drugs but also eyeglasses, while materials suggested having a week’s worth of prescription drugs on hand in addition to, if possible, copies of the prescription itself.

Small Bills

Although Benthien acknowledged it is hard to get people to store money, he highlighted the importance of keeping just a small stash of low-value bills hidden away. ATMs would likely be out of service following an earthquake, while stores will likely deal with plenty of folks who have only larger bills.

“You don’t want to buy a bottle of water for $20,” Benthien said. “It doesn’t have to be a lot. But just have 10 ones and four fives.”


Basics like a cheap flashlight and a battery-operated AM/FM radio can keep you safe from injury at night when electricity and lighting are gone, and informed on new developments. A manual can opener will open non-perishable foods.

Child Comfort Items and Pet Care Basics

After a traumatic event, children will need something to keep them comforted and animals will need supplies to keep them contained and their surrounding environment clear of waste.

“Have an extra toy or teddy bear in the kit for a child,” Benthien suggested. “If you’re out of the house have some sort of comfort for them. Have some games.”

For infants, a week’s supply of diapers should be included, and having a car seat easily accessible is also recommended.

For pets, owners are encouraged to keep a copy of their pet’s license, clean up supplies, identification tags, a transport case and a leash on hand.

Important Family Documents

Copies of any important information pertaining to identification, banking accounts and financial documents, insurance, a family contact list and more should be scanned and kept on a flash drive with the emergency supplies.

For more information on additional items to add to an expanded kit, visit

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