By: Revanche

Earthquake and disaster preparedness

October 16, 2017

Earthquakes & fire: what supplies we need to stock up on I’ve written about being prepared for pet problems, considering a wide range of What Ifs and preparing for them, and financial preparedness in my In Case of Emergency series focused on getting a household in order for the worst possible scenarios. I started this post for a few reasons, but the disastrous wildfires in Santa Rosa no more than a couple hours away from us has made this even more compelling. One of our community members, DadsDollarsDebts was directly affected by the fire and had to escape with only minutes to get out, so I’m sharing this post earlier to join the Chain in hopes that we’ll motivate more people to get prepared, sooner.

This was a full to the brim month with oh, moving, and closing on our old place, and settling into the new place, and figuring out how to work everything.

Settle In mode has made me acutely aware that we aren’t prepared nearly enough for any surprise massive earthquakes, and the world around me makes me even more aware that we’re in no shape to face a major earthquake.

USGS warns us that we’re overdue and that it’s going to happen in the next 30 years: “In 2003, earthquake scientists led by the USGS estimated that there is a 62% probability of a magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquake in the Bay Area in the next 30 years.” As a California native, I don’t even roll over in bed for anything 5 and under, but 6 and up in close proximity? I’d sweat that. Every minute that goes by without being sufficiently prepared to last 3-7 days on our own is another minute developing my very own micro-ulcer. I know that it’s not likely to hit tomorrow but Mexico was just rocked by two very large quakes and that reality does nothing for my sensibilities.

Action is the only thing that helps, of course, so I’ve started working on our emergency plan with our friends in the region, updated Seamus’s microchip information, started a spreadsheet with our emergency supplies and a rotation schedule, bought our first batch of food supplies from Costco because they were on sale.

Still to buy: updated tags for Seamus with our new address, 28 gallons of water (7 days of water for the 4 of us), more lightweight, high-calorie, non-perishable food items, flashlights and backup batteries, a generator ($$$$), fuel for the generator. If I can’t unearth adequate medical and first aid supplies from our packing detritus, I’ll have to resupply those as well.

We need enough supplies for sheltering in place (with every hope that we’re able to safely do so here in our own home), and a portable version of the supplies if we have to evacuate. We’ll need large jugs of water and the more portable water packets for bottles.  I already keep extra medication for myself and Seamus on hand but I’m going to need to make up a go bag with those medications prefilled in case we have to get out quickly.

A satellite phone was tempting until I saw the cost – from $200 to $700 for the phone, and monthly fees on top of that. As much as I want to ensure that PiC and I will absolutely be able to find each other if a quake hits when we’re separated, that’s a really steep cost for something that might not even be in arm’s reach in the event. Plus, PiC has a terrible habit of forgetting things in weird places. We don’t fight often but I’m pretty sure we’d get in a big fight if he lost THIS phone. Scratch the sat phone for now. I’d considered walkie talkies but those seem to work best when you’re on a flat landscape.

A fire extinguisher at home, and maybe in the car, are also a good idea. Fires are a concern after earthquakes because of broken gas lines, and that’s why I’m looking at ways to heat up food that don’t involve an open flame. Food in the form of bars do in a pinch but I’d like to eat real food if we’re stranded for more than a few days.

A 5-minute bag. Much of my plans assumed we had as much as an hour to get out the door because when an earthquake hits, you just sit and deal until it’s over, THEN you creep out.  But fire can easily follow, as mentioned above. In that case, as many victims of the Santa Rosa fires experienced, sometimes you have less than ten minutes. I’m pulling together an essentials roller board suitcase with two changes of clothes for each of us, diapers and wipes for JB, a blanket for Seamus, some food and water for all, a first aid kit, our birth certificates, passports, credit cards, cash, and checkbooks, and the hard drive where I backed up all our photos and documents. I try to update that hard drive every couple of months but I’ve fallen behind due to the move. Time to get back on the ball.

Insurance coverage. This may seem like an afterthought but that’s only because it’s the first thing I took care of when we made an offer on the new place – I asked for quotes for both homeowner’s insurance and earthquake insurance through CEA. The latter is critical because losing your home to a quake is not covered under the normal homeowner’s policy. I’ve heard people who seem otherwise financially smart question the need for this rider and to that I’ll always say: do what you want, but we live in CALIFORNIA, home of the earthquake, I have no intention of being homeless AND on the hook for the remainder of my mortgage. We also have warranties on all our appliances and those will be stored online and in the hard drive as well.

Edited to add – gas up! This has been a really important change to our lives that I forgot to mention it because it’s been rather seamless, but thanks to Stacking Pennies for reminding me! Whenever our cars hit the  half tank mark, I always take it over to Costco and fill up on gas. Because if a natural disaster strikes and we’re fortunate enough to be able to evacuate, having a quarter tank of gas would not get us very far.

:: Do you know what your insurance covers? What natural disasters are a problem in your area? What do you do to prepare? Have I missed anything?

Other posts in the chain from the community:

Anchor: DadsDollarsDebt – Tubb’s Fire – A Sudden Evacuation
Anchor Two: Chief Mom Officer – A Harrowing Escape Inspires The Personal Finance Community – Beyond The Emergency Fund
1: OthalaFehu – Cool As A Cucumber
2: The Retirement Manifesto – Am I A Prepper?
3: Mrs. Retire to Roots – In Case Of Emergency Follow The Plan
4: The Lady In Black – Emergency Preparedness
5: The Green Swan – Preparing For The Worst
6: Minafi – Minimal Hurricane Preparation
7: A Gai Shan Life – Earthquake and disaster preparedness
8: The Financial Journeyman – Emergency Preparation: Be Proactive
9: John And Jane Doe – Thinking the Worst: Emergency Planning or Fighting the Last War?
10: Adventure Rich – Emergency Preparation Up North
11: Money Beagle – How Much Would You Replace If You Lost Everything?
12: Crispy Doc – Fighting Fire With FI/RE
13: She Picks Up Pennies – How Can A Planner Be Unprepared?
14: Chronicles Of A Father-Getting Ready for a Natural Disaster



37 Responses to “Earthquake and disaster preparedness”

  1. Cindy in the South says:

    We have tornadoes, and tropical storms. All our cell towers go down during huge tornado outbreaks, and/or massive tropical storms (it is usually, but not always, downgraded from hurricane status by the time it reaches me)…I have a solar cooker, 14 days of water, and six months of food storage (canned and dried).

    • Revanche says:

      A solar cooker! That’s genius, thanks for sharing! And you’ve got a great food supply, if you’d care to share, what kinds of foods did you store?

      • Cindy in the South says:

        I have dried beans but that is not for emergencies (because it takes water to soak and cook dried beans) so I have canned beans for emergencies, canned fruits, canned vegetables, dried fruits. I also have rice and pasta but, again, water is scare during an emergency so I do not consider cooking those when I do not have access to a water supply. I guess my short answer is it depends on whether or not you have clean water. If not, then I have canned fruits, vegetables, beans, that can be popped in solar cooker. If it is a financial emergency, such as I do not wish to spend money on food, I will cook the dried beans, pasta, rice, etc. I always keep on hand spices, crackers, and peanut butter also.

  2. The biggest issue in NC is flooding, often hurricane related. We’re pretty far inland, but massive amounts of rain still cause flooding in Raleigh periodically. Fortunately, we’re on high ground. Floods, in and of themselves, are unlikely to bother us but could conceivably make it difficult for us to reach Jon’s aging parents.

    My dad has been hit by a tornado and it took a good year to rebuild his house. Even now, you can see where trees in the surrounding woods fell. Jon and I have had multi-day power outages from ice storms or tropical storm-related winds. In the summer or fall, it’s inconvenient. In the winter, though, heating becomes a problem. We have a small electric inverter that will run off of the cars and power a lamp or radio. We also have a bigger generator that can do more but have never bothered hooking it up. We have gas logs and gas grills, so we can cook some things and stay warm. And plenty of flashlights, canned food, blankets, etc.

    • Revanche says:

      Do you have much more warning when a hurricane or tornado is maybe coming your way? I assumed that you have SOME warning, maybe a day or two in advance.

      May you never NEED that bigger generator.

      • With hurricanes, we usually have a week or more warning that something might be headed our way. We watch a lot of weather channel when one’s headed for the east coast.

        Tornados? Not so much. They tend to arrive with heavy thunderstorms, but thunderstorms can be a daily occurrence in warm weather. We get tornado watches (conditions favor tornados) fairly often, and tornado warnings (tornados were spotted in the area) a few times a year. But I’ve personally never seen or heard one, and unless it’s really close most people probably don’t do much to prepare. The advice is that if you hear it (supposedly sounds like a loud train), you run to a windowless area of your house, preferably a basement, and hunker down to wait it out.

  3. Thanks Revanche for participating in the chain with this great post. I’m making a list of all the things I want to do this weekend to better prepare. It’s a lot of little things that I’ve thought I’d get to “later”, so I’m going to make later be now instead.
    Liz@ChiefMomOfficer recently posted…A Harrowing Escape Inspires The Personal Finance Community – Beyond The Emergency FundMy Profile

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  5. SP says:

    This is really good. I have a pretty basic supplies but probably need to refresh and increase the water and refresh the medical kit. Packing a suitcase / backpack would also be smart.

    Earlier this summer there was a fire close enough to our area that I had a large suitcase packed (T was out of town). That experience made it clear our important papers were not all together and I didn’t even know what I should pack. If I only had 5 minutes, some things would have been lost. I also wonder about a fireproof safe/box instead or in addition to a bag.

    Some tips passed on during this: make sure you know how to open your garage door even when the power is off, with a flashlight and keep your car filled with gas if possible.
    SP recently posted…September UpdateMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Thanks so much for the reminder – I added a note about gassing up the cars! That’s hugely important. And also I need to learn how to open our garage door.

    • SP says:

      What did you choose for food supplies from costco? Just curious. We have some high calorie but presumable very gross MREs that will last quite some time, and some freeze dried backpacking food that we can cook with our camp stove. Backpacking supplies overlap heavily with emergency supplies, it turns out (water filters, camp stoves, first aid, backpacks/sleeping bags/tetns, etc.)

      I had never considered buying a generator. Is this a convenience or do you see a case where it would approach a necessity?
      SP recently posted…September UpdateMy Profile

      • Revanche says:

        We already had some of the Mountain House foods that you had recommended from backpacking but since we also need to be prepared to have to eat cold, due to risk of fire or just not having enough potable water to be cooking, I also added some boxes of bar, juice&veggie packets, spam, crackers and peanut butter. I’m not convinced that the peanut butter is a good choice because natural PB has to be refrigerated after opening but we’ll have it as an option in case things aren’t so dire. Luckily we already have water filters on hand because those are pretty pricey. I need to have a good think about what else makes sense to add to the food stash because those are pretty bare staples for a week.

      • Revanche says:

        For the generator – it’s mostly to make sure we have an option to get power somehow if it’s safe to run. If it’s really cold, we’d need some power to run a little heater because I can’t tolerate too much cold before I shut down, JB and Seamus need heat when the temps are below 60 at night. It’d be nice if we really only needed to run it to power our phones though. Uh, nice in terms of level of disaster. Not nice that we spent $1000 for a phone charger 😀

  6. […] There are other articles in this chain mail including so far; RetirementManifesto, RetireToRoots, TheGreenSwan, TheLadyinBlack, Minafi, and AGaiShanLife. […]

  7. We also have tornadoes, tropical storms, flooding, etc.

    We’ve been updating our emergency supplies– got a new first aid kit and a bunch of additional stuff. This amazon review comment had good suggestions for additional supplies:
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted…Should you ever fill a non-tax-advantaged IRA (answer: maybe): An obnoxious post from having upper-middle class incomeMy Profile

  8. Cassie says:

    We have tornadoes, hail and blizzards. I’d say my biggest concern would be having the power go out in the middle of winter during a cold snap. We do have a natural gas fireplace which is good in case of emergency, but it’s quite expensive to run. We also have a natural gas BBQ (and do grill during the winter). Being snowed in is a realistic possibility as well. I would consider it a problem if both of those things happened at the same time for an extended period of time, though we do have food supplies to see us through if something like that happened.

    Tornadoes are less likely, but they do happen. A large one cut through Edmonton and killed quite a few people during the 80’s. It actually came right close to my husband’s house at the time! It’s not the #1 worry for me, but it’s still there.

  9. […] Link 7: A Gai Shan Life – Earthquake and disaster preparedness […]

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  11. Sense says:

    As a disaster scientist who struggles to get people to take emergency preparedness seriously, THANK YOU for this and also, I LOVE PEOPLE LIKE YOU.

    Shi* happens. It is always surprising to me to encounter folks who think they are immune.

  12. […] Link 7:  A Gai Shan Life – Earthquake and disaster preparedness […]

  13. Kris says:

    As a fellow Bay Area resident, preparing for an earthquake is a very important reminder that it can open at any moment and getting ready for it is the best way to approach it.
    I never considered a satellite phone but sounds like a good thing to have in a disaster.
    Kris recently posted…My Financial MistakesMy Profile

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  21. My husband wondered what would we do since we do not own a car…
    The 5 minute bag is a great idea. I wanted to buy some flame proof bags from Amazon but the reviews alludes that it doesn’t work…it burns in a fire so that makes the entire purchase questionable. We still need some sort of place to store high sensitive material.

    We have a walk talkie, I didn’t know about satellite phones and wow they’re definitely high way robbery!!!

    • Revanche says:

      I would suggest that you look into forming a carpool with nearby friends for an evacuation – we are working on that for friends in the area who also don’t have cars. I’m thinking about buying a fireproof case for sensitive documents and data storage but I haven’t picked one yet.

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