This page is part of the Peace Heathens' Seattle Crisis Resource Directory.

Earthquake Preparedness

Even if you're not the sort of person who stocks up on duct tape and plastic sheeting, it makes sense to be prepared for certain kinds of emergencies. After all, we live in earthquake country. After a major quake (or in any other disaster), the more people who can take care of themselves and their neighbors, the fewer need to be helped by the inevitably scarce aid workers.

Much of the following is paraphrased from an article by Rob Anderson in the September 2003 issue of the Roosevelt neighborhood newsletter The Roosie. Thanks to them for their permission use their research.

Somewhere in your home, you should have:

  • Some big plastic jugs of water (5 gallons per person is a reasonable stash).
  • Foodstuffs (at least a week's worth of non-perishables, preferably ones that require no cooking or can be cooked on a Coleman stove, etc., for which you maintain an adequate fuel supply)
  • A first aid kit.
  • Emergency lighting (flashlights, candles, hurricane lanterns with fuel, etc.)
  • Blankets and / or sleeping bags (enough to keep you warm in the winter if the heat fails).
  • Battery-powered radio with spare batteries. Battery-powered Citizens' Band and HAM radio can be even more useful.
  • A cell phone is not a bad idea either, although you should not presume that during a disaster you will be able to get signal.

You can improvise your own disaster kit, or get a prepackaged kit from any of a number of sources. One of the many sources for disaster survival kits is the American Red Cross online store, selling a variety of kits ranging from an under-table kit with a small water pouch, a dust mask, a whistle, and a light stick, to elaborate kits including first aid supplies, food bars, emergency blankets and even hygiene supplies.

Besides these material things, you should have a plan. Have a gas line? Know where to shut it off (and who in the household takes responsibility for doing that promptly in the event of an earthquake). Have other potentially hazardous things in your house? Identify them, mitigate the damage in advance wherever possible, form a plan for the things that can't be done in advance.

  • "Strap in" your water heater.
  • Secure tall bookcases to walls.
  • Know who plans to fetch the pets... and the baby.
  • Know the safest places in your house.
  • Know where you plan to re-unite after a disaster so you can all know each other are OK. Ideally, agree in advance on a non-local person who can be an additional point of contact. For example, if all of Seattle is a post-quake mess, it would help to know in advance what out-of-area relative family members scattered about the city might all try to connect to for word on each other: in a general emergency, long distance communications may work better than local communications.

In an emergency, try to secure your own household and family first, then try to help you neighbors. Especially in an earthquake, search and rescue may be crucial. Recognize that a person trapped in a collapsed building may often be able to actively collaborate in his or her own rescue. Along with your neighbors, be on the lookout for major hazards (e.g. a broken gas main); try to contain major hazards, but also try to report them to the proper authorities.

Obviously, having a neighborhood plan in advance as well as an individual household plan is a great idea. The Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare (SNAP) program helps Seattle neighborhoods set up such a plan.

This page last fully fact-checked: March 2017
This page last modified: March 22, 2017
Previous section: Emergency Phone Numbers.
Next section: Miscellaneous.

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