Shelter and heat
In the summer we have baking sun, and in the winter we have pouring rain. Neither will be much fun to be stuck in if your home is not inhabitable. Bear in mind that "uninhabitable" doesn't mean destroyed — it just means that you're not really sure how extensive any hidden damage might be and you don't want to take a chance on being inside during an aftershock until the building has been properly inspected.
Eventually there will be public shelters set up, FEMA will bring in trailers, and so forth, but for at least the first few days after a really big earthquake none of that is likely to be available. For that time frame, a camping tent is probably your best bet. Get a tarp that you can put under it as a ground cloth, and you can also use it in the summer as a sunshade. If you don't like sleeping on the ground, remember to include air mattresses. If you like camping, the same gear you use for that will be perfect.
There are a wide range of tents available, from little tube tents barely big enough to fit one person to multi-room family tents. You'll probably be setting them up in your own yard or at least your own neighborhood, so weight isn't really an issue. Choose one that fits your family's size and your budget, but remember that sleeping in an uncomfortable tent is a truly miserable experience.
Here in Silicon Valley we are blessed with a mild climate so literally freezing to death is unlikely even without an actual heater in our shelter. On the other hand it can get a bit nippy at night, so good sleeping bags and/or blankets are a must. "Three-season" sleeping bags should be adequate, since the 4th season is winter (that's real winter, as in frozen water) and we don't really have that here.
You've probably seen super-lightweight aluminized-mylar "space blankets," and those really are effective at keeping in body heat. They also have another characteristics that the package won't tell you about: if you sleep on one it makes loud crinkly noises every time you roll over or squirm in your sleep. For car kits where minimizing size and weight are crucial that's a reasonable trade-off, but for home supplies where you have enough room to store them, more conventional wool blankets might be a better choice. Of course using your normal bed-blankets is fine, too
Not to belabor the obvious, but it is essential that you practice with all this stuff. The first time we did a camp-out drill, we confused the tent's "grommets" with its "loops" and got the tent poles in the wrong place, the air pump didn't fit the air mattresses properly, the air mattresses leaked, we didn't have enough blankets so people were freezing, and somebody with sleep apnea had to sleep in the car because we had no backup power for the CPAP machine. The time to discover all those problems is before you are forced to stay in the tent, but you can make it game by having a "sleep-out in the backyard" with the kids. You can even choose to do it in the summer the first time so you can guarantee no rain on the very first try.
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This page was last updated on 2013-02-23.