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DIY Earthquake Kits

If you live on the West Coast of the United States the reality of a earthquake is very real. In the last 365 days there have been over 7,800 earthquakes in California alone. While the residents of California do not feel many of them, they happen daily.

In fact according to Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF3), there is a 99.7% chance a 6.7M or greater earthquake will strike California within the next 30 years.  The reality is that it’s not a matter of if but when the next big earthquake will hit the western coast of the United States.

This is not meant to scare but rather inform you. My goal is to make it possible for you to have a single person go bag in case of an earthquake that will get you through the following 24 hours.

While you can purchase pre-made kits, there is value in having your own DIY earthquake kit so you know the tools you are dealing with. Should you want to purchase a pre-built kit be aware of the claims made for food and water.

Many 72-hour kits claim to have 72 hours of water. This is dubious at best as these kits contain water pouches. Usually these pouches are about 4 ounces each, giving you 24 ounces of water total for a single person. If you know the 8×8 rule or eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day rule then you know that this is the minimum amount of water a person needs per day. Eight 8-ounce glasses of water is almost two liters of water while the 24 ounces in most 72 kits are less than a liter.

Along the same lines are 72-hour kit food bars which most people will not enjoy, especially children. I understand that sometimes there is an urge to take the path of least resistance however, in a survival or emergency situation comfort is helpful in keeping up morale as well as aiding in recovery and health. If you packed foods you enjoy and love instead of eating a lemon flavored food ration you will increase your mental state and be more likely to survive hard times.

I am a proponent one is none and two is one. So in this guide I will give you the amounts for two buckets. You should focus on food, water, and medical supplies. If you can fit an extra set of clothing in both of the buckets than you should try to do so. The goal is to fill a 5-gallon bucket (clean and unused if possible or if previously used cleaned with bleach and water).

Inside each 5 gallon bucket should go the following:

Water & Food

  • Water
    • Each bucket will have four, 12 ounce bottles of water. (8 bottles, 4 in each bucket)
    • While this is not enough for more than a day it will last 24 hours.
  • Food
    • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables. SPAM, Tuna, etc. Is high in calories and fat plus adds sodium in your diet. You can ad jerky and pemmican on this list as they will give you the fuel you need as well.
    • Protein or fruit bars. Granola and “Energy” bars are great walking food.
    • Nuts, unless you have a nut allergy. Nuts are one of the best foods for hunger. Try to avoid salted nuts if you have salted meat/fish in your bucket as too much salt can be bad as well and will make you thirsty.

First Aid Kit

After an earthquake, you, a family member, or friend may be cut, burned or suffered other injuries. If you have these basic supplies you are better prepared to help yourself and others when they are hurt. Knowing how to treat minor injuries can make a difference in an emergency. Consider taking a first aid class, but simply having the following things can help you stop bleeding, prevent infection and assist in managing further health issues. If possible purchased a sealed first aid kit.

The First Aid Kit should include the following:

  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding.
  • Soap and/or antibiotic wipes.
  • Antibiotic ointment.
  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes.
  • Thermometer.
  • Non-prescription drugs (aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever, anti-diarrhea medication, antacid, laxative)
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • and more

Other Items

Many times we have the basics in our kits but forget things that can make life easier and safer. Sanitation may be down for a bit so making sure you can stay clean goes a long way.  The risk for waterborne and other diseases increases after a disaster as access to water, exposure, and even contact with dead bodies (human and animal) is much more likely. Keeping yourself clean, your shelter picked up and your waste separate and contained will lower your chances of turning a simple cut into a full on infection.

With the advancement of cell phones having a way to power and charge your phone to call for help or reach out to loved ones is a great jump forward. Many people let their phone die and have no way to recharge. When developing this list communication was a big part of what I wanted to integrate into the bucket.

  • Cell phone charger (cable, plug, battery pack, etc.)
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Signal Whistle
  • Dust mask x2
  • Moist towelettes for sanitation
  • Garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Cash or traveler’s checks, change
  • Paper towels
  • Strike Anywhere Matches in a waterproof container
  • Paper, pencil
  • Dust mask
  • Manual can opener
  • duct tape
  • Unique family needs, such as daily prescription medications.
  • Swiss army knife or multitool
  • Backpack or Shoulder bag (It can be full of all the above items and put in the bucket as well).
  • Copies of important family records in a waterproof portable container and if possible on a USB drive. (Birth, Marriage, SS Cards, Homeowner/Renter/Earthquake Insurance).

If you live on the west coast or near a fault line you should be prepared for an earthquake. Taking steps to be prepared for the loss of your home and belongings should be taken into account as earthquake insurance can be purchased separately from your normal homeowners or renters insurance. Taking this extra step to cover your belongings is often overlooked until it is too late.

While I did not list on the list specifically a firearm or other self-defense weapon could be useful. In times of stress or breakdown people do not act in a rational manner as fear drives them to commit acts they might otherwise not attempt.

Notice that there are no clothing requirements for your emergency bucket. This can be added but I have found that usually the bucket cannot hold all of these items plus extra shoes, sock, underwear, shirts and pants. The point of the bucket is to be a quick grab and go single purpose item.

While I generally endorse a 72 Bug Out Bag over a single purpose item, this DIY bucket can be a first step towards a great 72 kit or it can be in addition to one you may already have. Planning for future events and emergencies should be a part of your family’s monthly priorities.

This article is meant to get your mind thinking about preparing for events that might affect your life in ways you might not otherwise have thought. I hope it helps. Good luck and good shooting!

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About James C.

James C.

James C. spent four years as a Gunner’s Mate in the United States Navy. He served two tours to the Persian Gulf and played a role in the Operation Iraqi Freedom as part of the Global War on Terrorism.

He has a Master’s Degree in Military History as well as an MBA. After leaving the Navy he married his wife, Krystal in Las Vegas and later joined the church in 2005. He and his wife have two daughters, Hannah and Emma.

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