After such a complete disaster people feel helpless, both to help the people who were directly affected by the earthquake and to help themselves better prepare for something that looks so utterly catastrophic. Which brings me to the point of this post...
You may not be able to help people who have suffered such a disaster and it is a crap shoot whether #1 an earthquake will strike your area and/or #2 how you will fare physically after such an event, but you can take this opportunity, and the $10 in your pocket, and put together a basic "earthquake kit" from your local Dollar Store. Here's what you need to buy:
- A bottle of bleach. After an earthquake, ALL of the water in the immediate area will be contaminated. The only hope you may have of procuring water to drink is to find a local source of water and using the bleach to decontaminate it yourself.
- A tarp. After an earthquake, it is a pretty good bet that you won't be sleeping in your house for a while, if it isn't totally destroyed, the aftershocks will keep you from staying inside for long. A basic tarp to keep the rain or sun off of you may be your only shelter.
- A flashlight. If you have ever been in a city when ALL of the power went out, you will know that it can become eerily dark where there was before at least street lights or the glow from traffic signals. Whether you need to see at night or you end up searching for loved ones in the rubble, a flashlight is very important.
- Matches or lighters. You may need a source of fire which can be useful for boiling water, cooking what food you can find, sending a signal for help, etc. Without matches or a lighter how will you get the fire started? Don't worry about finding materials to burn, after an earthquake, there will be wood, rubble, and other burnable stuff everywhere.
- Rope. Rope or para cord has dozens of uses. From hanging up clothes you have washed by hand to be bleached and disinfected by the sun, to tying up your tarp, to helping you ford a stream, or escape from a building, a rope can come in pretty handy during a disaster.
- A small radio. A small AM/FM radio may be your only source of outside information. While hardly anyone listens to a regular radio these days because there are so many alternatives (satellite radio, iPods, etc), the only way to access real time info after a disaster is usually via radio broadcast.
- Work gloves. After an earthquake (and most other disasters) one of the first tasks at hand will be to start the clean up and/or search for others who are trapped. Using your bare hands for these tasks can significantly shorten the amount of work you will be able to do. Having a pair of work gloves on hand is always a good idea.
- A breaker bar. If you have done any home rehab work, you know how important a breaker bar can be. During a disaster, they are also quite useful. From giving you some leverage to move heavy rocks to using it to break windows, and dozens of other uses, a breaker bar should make it into your emergency equipment bag.
- Soap or hand sanitizer. One of the reasons that emergency workers are so concerned after a disaster is because of the spread of disease. Disease spreads easily in unsanitary conditions. One of the easiest ways to stop or significantly curtail the spread of disease (besides drinking disinfected water) is to wash your hands frequently. If you have a scrape or cut, clean it with soap and water; after you go to the bathroom, wash your hands with soap or hand sanitizer. These simple things will go a long way towards keeping you disease free.
- Pick one: first aid kit, knife, duct tape, ax, big garage bags... As you are cruising through the Dollar Store, use your last dollar to pick another useful item to add to your supplies.
Here's a couple of caveats. First, I wouldn't recommend buying supplies at the Dollar Store that you are using to save your life. The idea is that even if you are flat broke, you could probably scrape together $10 to spend on emergency supplies and if you have no choice but to shop at the Dollar Store, the small cache of emergency supplies (of questionable quality) is better than not having anything at all. Second, your list of emergency supplies should encompass more than ten items, however, again, if you do not currently have the cash, or ability store more than a few things, it is better to have a handful of useful items than to have nothing at all.
Go out TODAY and get some basic preparedness gear together...you never know when your city will be the lead on the evening news.