When you decide where to store your earthquake supplies, don't
assume that they all need to go in one place. Of course you don't
want them scattered all over your home because that would make them
hard to find in a hurry, but I do recommend that you keep a
3-day kit in each of your family's primary vehicles.
Everything else can go in one or perhaps two locations inside or
outside your home.
There are a couple of reasons for putting
a kit in each car:
On the other hand
you'll have too much stuff to put everything in your cars,
so you'll need to pick another place for the bulky stuff.
- At least one of your cars is almost always where you are.
Even if an earthquake occurs at an inconvenient time,
having car kits makes you much less likely
to be stranded somewhere with nothing at all.
- Earthquakes sometimes damage houses and apartments so badly that
they can no longer be safely entered. Cars don't collapse and
will often remain accessible even when the home is not, so at least
some part of your emergency supplies will remain available to you.
Even if your car is damaged beyond repair by falling debris, there is still
a chance you can retrieve your kit from it without endangering yourself.
You definitely want to keep all your stuff gathered into some
small number of containers, and while almost any container will work,
some are better than others.
For car kits:
For home supplies:
- It's hard to beat a backpack. These are easy
to fit into a trunk or the back of a station wagon or minivan,
and they have the huge advantage that if you have to evacuate on
foot they are much easier to carry than anything else.
Make sure you get one big enough to fit your whole 3-day kit.
This is such a good idea that
many pre-packaged kits actually come in a backpack.
- A common recommendation is to put all your
supplies in a big plastic garbage can.
This has the virtue of keeping everything in one place and protected
from water, but if you need
to move your supplies that big can could be awfully heavy.
You'll also need to unpack everything in order to reach the stuff on the
bottom, which might not be optimal if it happens to be pouring rain
(as it often does here during the winter) when the quake occurs.
- Bags and cardboard boxes might work, but they don't provide
a lot of protection for your gear. They can also be awkward to store
if you have an assortment of different sizes.
- Large rectangular plastic tubs with locking lids.
These have a lot of advantages:
Overall, I think tubs are the best method I've seen.
- They can all be a uniform size so you can stack them efficiently.
- They can seal out water and bugs reasonably well.
- If you choose transparent plastic you can tell what's in them even
if the labels are missing or obscured. This could be important if the
contents of your closet are dumped into a heap by the shaking.
- You can choose a size that is big enough for efficient storage,
but small enough so you can move it without undue difficulty.
- If you choose your water containers carefully you can stack your
plastic tubs on top of them.
Accessibility after an earthquake
Your supplies will be useless if you can't get to them after an earthquake,
and the ideal situation is to have a small outdoor shed which is far enough
from any large building to ensure that nothing will collapse onto it.
Most of us don't have this luxury, so we simply have to use common sense
and store our stuff where it's most likely to be reachable even if our
buildings suffer some damage.
If you have to make some compromises here don't give up; just do the best
you can with what you have available.
Try to avoid obvious problems like putting supplies deep in the interior
of the house, or in locations where something heavy is likely to fall on
There are various kinds of security we can consider here:
- Physical security from theft: If you store supplies outdoors, you
probably want to lock them up — but also think about what your family
will do if they key gets lost or misplaced in the confusion following
- Security from vermin and insects: Even if you opt for storage inside
your home, bugs can and will try to eat your food. If you store outdoors,
animals will be amazingly good at finding food and chewing through whatever
is necessary to reach it. Make sure everything is thoroughly sealed up.
(Hint: cardboard boxes are not bug-proof. Plastic tubs are not
squirrel-proof. Nothing short of metal is rat-proof.)
- Security from water damage: You might have a pipe burst, or you might
have to carry your supplies through the rain. Plastic boxes will take care
of this nicely.
Heat and humidity will affect some types of supplies, especially food.
Sometimes this will conflict with other storage criteria, so you'll have
to make choices and perhaps split storage between a couple of areas.
For example, tools like crowbars and shovels which would be needed
to move rubble must be stored outdoors where they will be accessible,
but hot and cold won't affect them so that's OK.
Food, on the other hand, must not be stored where it gets hot, so you'll
have to keep that indoors.
There are few perfect solutions, but something is always better than
nothing so just do what makes sense for your situation.
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This page was last updated on 2013-02-23.