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How to Pack Your California Earthquake Survival Kit

Updated on March 21, 2017

This is embarrassing, but I had my “California earthquake survival kit" on my to-do list for two years. Does this sound familiar? Think about all the disasters that are happening, e.g., fires, mudslides, earthquakes.... Why be caught unprepared when the Big One hits?

Perhaps because I've got a background as a Girl Scout ("Be prepared" was their motto), I decided to get my act together and gather the items for my earthquake survival kits. Here, I've done the research and made easy-to-follow shopping lists for you.

What You'll Need in an Earthquake, According to Experts and Survivors

I got my information from those who deal with disasters every day: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Red Cross. Visit their websites for more detailed information; they hold treasures of great ideas and information.

Firstly, know that you need to have three separate earthquake kits: one for work, one for your car, and one for home. You never know when an earthquake will hit, and where you’ll be, so you’ve got to be prepared.

  • The Work Earthquake Kit: Fill a backpack with comfortable walking shoes and enough food and water for three days.
  • The Car Earthquake Kit: Fill a backpack with food and water for three days, a first aid kit, jumper cables, a flashlight, and a blanket.
  • The Home Earthquake Kit: Fill a backpack with food, water, and essential supplies that you’ll need (see lists below) for three days. Additionally, FEMA recommends storing an additional two weeks’ worth of supplies in your home.

Map of the many earthquakes that have occurred in California
Map of the many earthquakes that have occurred in California

Contents of the Do-It-Yourself 3 Day Earthquake Survival Kit

Are you one of those people who like to do their own research and pack it all up your own way? If so, simply gather the materials on the lists below.

What will you need? Think of it this way. You may be on your own, and it’s commonly recommended that you have supplies for three days or 72 hours. Imagine not having access to electricity, gas, lights, phone service, or water for several days. You may not be able to go to a store to buy your supplies. Is this scary enough for you? It is for me, so let’s get our bags filled and ready!

According to the Red Cross, here are the items that you will need to complete your kit for one person:


If you have to evacuate your home, you'll need one gallon of water per person, per day, and they say to plan on three days of evacuation. They also recommend keeping a two ­week supply of water at home.

Useful things to know about emergency water (per FEMA) is that the best source for your emergency water is commercially bottled water, such as Arrowhead or Sparkletts. Remember to observe the expiration date.

You can also get yourself 2-liter plastic soda bottles (they don’t have the chemical BPA which leaches out from plastic) and thoroughly wash them with soap and water.

  • Sanitize the bottles by swishing the insides of the bottle with a solution of 1 teaspoon non-scented liquid bleach to 1 quart of water.
  • Rinse the bottle with clean water, then fill it with tap or filtered water.
  • Write the date on the outside of the bottle and store it in a cool, dark place.
  • Replace this water every 6 months.

Emergency Water Pack from
Emergency Water Pack from


Make sure to pack non-­perishable, easy-­to-­prepare items (­a three-day supply for evacuation and a two-week supply for home).

Good choices: Canned foods, dry mixes, salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals, trail mix, and MREs from military surplus stores. Also include food for those with special diet needs.

Avoid foods that will make you thirsty and make sure you have a manual can opener handy.

Other Important things to remember:

  • Make sure to use food before it expires. To help you keep track, place the older items at the front of the shelf and new items at the back.
  • Make sure to write dates when you store food items and change supplies every six months.

Emergency Food Bars for stocking your Earthquake Backpack. These bars last 5 years!
Emergency Food Bars for stocking your Earthquake Backpack. These bars last 5 years!

Pack These Essential Items in Your Earthquake Survival Backpack

• Flashlight
• Battery­powered or hand­crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
• Extra batteries
• First aid kit
• Medications (7­day supply) and medical items
• Multi­-purpose tool
• Sanitation and personal hygiene items (includes toilet paper, moist towelettes)
• Copies of personal documents (driver’s license, credit cards, social security card, medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
• Cell phone with chargers
• Family and emergency contact information
• Extra cash and coins
• Emergency blanket
• Map(s) of the area

Consider Packing These Items for Family Members
• Medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
• Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
• Games and activities for children
• Pet supplies (collar, leash, license tag, food, carrier, bowl)
• Two­-way radios
• Extra set of car keys and house keys
• Manual can opener, cooking utensils, plates, cups

Other Supplies That You May Want to Pack in Your Kit:
• Whistle
• N95 or surgical masks
• Matches
• Rain gear
• Towels
• Work gloves
• Tools/supplies for securing your home
• Extra clothing, jacket, long pants, long sleeve shirt, hat and sturdy shoes
• Plastic sheeting
• Duct tape
• Scissors
• Household liquid bleach
• Entertainment items
• Blankets or sleeping bags

The Red Cross Survival Backpack, $50, from the Red Cross Store
The Red Cross Survival Backpack, $50, from the Red Cross Store
Contents of the Red Cross Survival Kit
Contents of the Red Cross Survival Kit

The Easiest Solution: The Pre-Packaged Red Cross Backpack

I was pleasantly surprised to find the convenient and very reasonably priced Red Cross Survival Kit—only $50— which is great for people who don’t want to have to shop around and gather all the items. Here’s what’s included:

  • Battery powered flashlight (batteries included)
  • Battery powered radio (batteries included)
  • Emergency blanket
  • Food bars (4,800 calories total)
  • Work gloves (one pair)
  • 12-hour light sticks (3)
  • Moist towelettes (6)
  • Breathing mask (NIOSH-N95)
  • Plastic sheeting (10' x 10')
  • Rain poncho
  • Personal first aid kit
  • Roll of duct tape
  • Water (2 quarts)
  • Water container (2.5 gallon)
  • Whistle
  • First aid and emergency preparedness booklet

You'll find other really cool items at the Red Cross store. Check it out!

Ready America 70280 Emergency Kit, 2-Person, 3-Day Backpack
Ready America 70280 Emergency Kit, 2-Person, 3-Day Backpack

From the Manufacturer

Each kit contains enough emergency supplies to sustain two people for three days, as recommended by the American Red Cross. There's food, water and emergency blankets, plus a First Aid kit (33 piece), two 12-hour safety lightsticks, dust masks, nitrile gloves and an emergency whistle. Each kit also contains emergency ponchos and pocket tissues. The kit, in a handy backpack, can be stored at home, at school, and at the office.

Product Description

Because you never know when there will be an emergency situation, it's wise to always be prepared. To avoid being caught unprepared, make sure that you have the Grab 'n Go 3 Day Emergency Kit 2 Person Backpack on hand at home, at school and at the office. Each kit contains enough emergency supplies to sustain two people for three days. The three basic essentials, as recommended by the American Red Cross, are in every handy backpack.


Peace of Mind!

There you have it...Your complete California Earthquake Survival Kits, Made EASY! I've got peace of mind for surviving the quake. Do you?

Now...Onward and upward to earthquake-proofing my home!


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    • profile image

      liseth 2 years ago

      Really helpful thank u so much

    • profile image

      Julie 4 years ago

      This is really good to be prepared for an earthquake and be ready. This helped me with my homework!! Now I can tell my whole family about being prepared.

    • profile image

      hw 4 years ago

      helped me do my hw thnx

    • profile image

      hun 4 years ago

      Thanks very much this has helped with my homework i am defiantly prepared for any earthquake in california

    • profile image

      hi 5 years ago

      helped me with my home work.this is very helpful

    • unvrso profile image

      Jose Juan Gutierrez 5 years ago from Mexico City

      You provide very useful information for this type of natural disasters. I'm interested, since I live in an area of high seismic activity.

      The city where I live was hit by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake early this year, fortunately, there was no major damage; however, there have been some minor earthquakes thereafter.

      Voted useful!

    • profile image

      Angel 5 years ago

      What do you pack for kids 1-3 years of age?

    • profile image

      unknown 5 years ago

      thanks that just did my homework! I have got to buy one!


    • profile image

      umknown 5 years ago


    • profile image

      Nora1212 5 years ago

      This is a great hub. I don't think that people are as prepared as they should be. And I especially don't think they know what they need to be prepared! I am going to e-mail this to all my family that lives in the California area. I bought one online at and it had everything in it that you said we should have. Keep it up!

    • profile image

      BASHER 6 years ago

      Thank you very much!

      This had helped me for my homework

    • profile image

      sam-sam 6 years ago

      Thanks, now I won`t be scared of the quake that may occur in San Francisco Thanks (: But now I just need the red cross emergency pack just in case (: Thank You so much

    • profile image

      hi 7 years ago


    • sibaja_software profile image

      sibaja_software 7 years ago from Italy

      Great hub, it is always good to be prepared.

    • racerx12345 profile image

      racerx12345 8 years ago

      Hi Rebecca!

      Thanks for visiting. I've read that large families can store their food and water in a large, weather-resistant trash can that can be stored either in the garage or outdoors. I would think it's prudent to make sure that the food items are stored in a cool, dry place indoors, since any type of food smell would attract critters (and wouldn't that be a bummer if your food supply were gone during an earthquake?!).

    • rebeccahappy profile image

      rebeccahappy 8 years ago from Canada

      Wow This is a pretty thorough explanation of all you would need.What do large families do when they have to store all that water and food is my question. Being prepared is huge.

      Thanks for deciding to share your knowledge.I guess anyone living in those earthquake zones could use it.