On Thursday night, I was in the kitchen whipping up a tart when suddenly, the cabinets above the counter started shaking. For a moment there, I thought my vertigo meds were off-kilter, but then it turned out that we were in the midst of another earthquake. (To everyone on Facebook, yes, it was an earthquake and no, you weren’t dreaming.)
Japan is said to experience more than 100,000 earthquakes every year (1,000-1,500 of which register past 7 on the Richter Scale and are thus strong enough to be felt by people), but despite our proximity to the said country, events such as these are a relative novelty in the Philippines. So much so that the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvocs) has issued repeated warnings about an upcoming magnitude 7.2 earthquake dubbed the “Big One.”
Now, no one can predict when an earthquake will strike exactly, but we can still take a leaf out of our Japanese neighbors’ books and have earthquake survival kits ready.
So, what should be in yours and your family’s? Read up and find out:
1. The Basics.
AKA food and water, it’s advisable to pack edibles that don’t require refrigeration and little to no cooking or water. Ready-to-eat canned meat or vegetables are always a given, as are crackers, dried fruit, peanut butter, or cereal bars. Don’t forget to include a can opener and paper or plastic plates, cups, and utensils.
As a rule, human beings need a gallon of water a day, so bear that in mind when preparing three-day supplies for each member of the family.
2. A First-Aid Kit.
Sustaining a cut, burn, or any other minor injury is a possibility in any emergency situation, so your earthquake survival kit should enable you to treat any of these immediately. Sterile gloves, dressings, adhesive bandages, antibiotic soap and ointment, and antibacterial/burn ointments are all first-aid staples.
Thermometers, eyewash solution for flushing out the eyes, and non-prescription drugs like aspirin, paracetamol, and anti-diarrhea medication are good to have on hand as well. If you or any of your family members require prescription drugs (e.g., for blood pressure, etc.), put together a packet of these, but rotate them periodically so that you don’t end up with expired medications during an emergency.
3. Clothing and/or Bedding.
Allot one change of clothes per person, including underwear, a jacket or coat, and sturdy walking shoes. Lightweight rain coats could also come in handy, as would blankets or sleeping bags.
4. Special Needs Items.
If you have an infant or an elderly person in the family, consider their special needs as well.
For babies, you should keep a supply of baby formula or powder, diapers, feeding bottles, diaper rash ointment, and baby food. Senior citizens may require extra wheelchair batteries, a list of the make and serial number of any medical implant such as pacemakers, and extra spectacles or hearing aid batteries.
If you wear contact lenses or glasses, bring along an extra pair and a bottle of contact lens solution.
First off, you need to bring along copies of everyone’s passports and ID’s. Records of medical insurance policies would also be helpful, and you can store all these in a waterproof container to prevent them getting damaged during an emergency.
Other things that fall under this category are waterproof matches or lighters, personal hygiene items like feminine products, cash or travelers’ checks, a signal flare, pen and paper, and of course, your mobile phone (though this will probably be on your person anyway, judging how everyone’s updating their FB walls immediately after an earthquake).
Should you prefer something more portable, here are the absolute essentials that you can pack in a smaller earthquake kit:
A three-day supply of food and water.
Important family documents such as passport and ID’s.
Personal hygiene or feminine products.
Whistle (for signaling or calling for help).
Dust mask (a folded-up cotton t-shirt will do in a pinch).
Manual can opener.
Matches or a lighter.
Plastic sheeting and duct tape (which can be used to put up a shelter in place when and if needed).
Garbage bags and plastic ties.
A fully-charged power bank (charge it up from time to time).
Wrench or pliers for shutting off utilities.
Lastly, be sure to keep your earthquake kit in a place where you can easily grab it on your way out of the house once you feel the tremors coming on. Some people like to keep it in their car, but storing it in the garage or someplace near the doorway is fine too so long as you keep the bag out of direct sunlight.
Of course, there’s always a chance that the “Big One” won’t actually happen (and I believe I speak for everyone when I say that we pray it will be so), but you don’t want to be the guy or girl caught with their pants down (figuratively, I hope) once the earth gets moving, do you?