Earthquake Preparation & Safety

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Preparing for an Earthquake


Preparing for an Earthquake

Non-annoying way to secure kitchen cabinets?

Aug 2014

The recent Napa earthquake has me looking around my home to see if there are ways that we can increase safety: securing furniture, wall-hung artwork, etc. Are there any non-annoying ways to secure kitchen cabinets? The goal is to keep them from flying open in the event of a big shake.

BACKGROUND: We own our kitchen, and have fairly high-quality wooden cabinetry. In our previous home, we installed plastic latches that I found immensely off-putting: in order to get a dish, you need to have both hands free to work the latch, which took about 2-3 seconds to do. I found this to add up to a cumulative annoyance, and it was compounded whenever friends visited (''help yourself to a glass of water... oh yeah, here's how to open the danged cabinets'').

MY HOPE: I'm hoping there is some usability-forward mechanism that a) isn't low-quality; b) is not an eyesore and preferably does not negatively impact the outside of our cabinetry; c) isn't a major hassle to use every time you need to get something.

My dream is that someone, in this earthquake prone and functional-design mecca, has a solution that works. It does not have to be cheap, or something that I can install myself (although those are bonus points). I simply don't want to hate my kitchen except for when an earthquake is in progress.

Many many thanks in advance. The Shaken Chef

Check out We installed them in our kitchen. We haven't had a chance to test them in a real quake yet, but at least I can guarantee that they are not annoying! berkeley resident

the ''push to open'' type of latches work for this. but personally, as a carpenter, homeowner and foodie, i find them annoying to install... though some people love them on shaky ground

We have these on all of our upper cabinet doors, and find they work well (installed eight years ago and still working fine) They don't take two hands - you just push the door forward (toward''closed'' to ''unlatch'', then the door pretty much opens itself. We tell guests just ''push before you pull.'' In case it matters, our doors cover the frames. If your doors are inset into the frames, you probably have to add a little block on the shelf to raise the ''socket'' part of the latch high enough to ''catch'' the ball part. fellow earthquake-country resident

All our kitchen cabinets are protected by very simple, low tech devices sold under the name Seismolatch. They are mounted at the tops of the cabinet frames and are designed to drop a hook into a catch mounted on the back of the door. It takes a pretty hard shake to cause them to drop into place. Banging or slamming doors doesn't do it. In fact, the Napa quake wasn't strong enough to cause any of them to deploy, so I have no idea how well they will work when the big one hits. They're cheap and unobtrusive, and can be easily reset if you happen to knock one with a glass or dish. (Disclaimer: I don't have any personal or financial relationship with the manufacturer.) They assured me that they have been thoroughly tested and they will activate before the dishes force the doors to open when the shaking starts. We have a lot of valuable old dishes, so we're counting on them to keep the doors shut. Installation is made relatively easy if one is handy with such things. Google Seismolatch for further information. ccd

Try searching ''Safety 1st Magnetic Locking System Complete'' on Amazon. I have those at home. I did not install them for earthquake mitigation, but after the last earthquake, I was glad we had them (our house came with them). From the outside, you would not even know that they are installed. To open, you just need to use the magnet ''key'' that comes with the system. I keep these ''keys'' on my fridge for easy access. ShakenByEarthquakeToo

What do you secure with Earthquake straps?

March 2012

What items in your home do you secure in the event of an earthquake? What straps or other products do you use? Our big priority are bookcases and the TV- are the ''Quake hold'' straps strong enough or do we need something else? What the smaller things like pictures on walls, lamps, and vases? Thanks! Jenny

I can speak to the vases and lamps. I have a number of breakables on my fireplace mantle and I use museum putty. You can find it on line, or in some stores. It costs about 5 bucks. It's like silly putty. You place it under the object, press down hard on the surface you wish the object to stay on, and it forms a vacuum like seal. When you wish to remove object, simply rotate gently and the seal is broken. It works like a charm. dana

Good Question. Good idea to secure:
- Anything more than 4ft in height (consider 3ft if you have small children)
- Anything more than 400 lbs (consider 200 lbs if you have small children)
- Anything that would topple if a child climbed on it (dresser, tv stand)
- Anything that has potential to block an exit path from any room. Some items may not tip over, but could ''walk'' across a floor in an earthquake, and block a door.
- Items that could fall off a shelf in an earthquake and hurt someone - books, knicknacks, etc (secure these with a 1-inch seismic lip edge, bungies, quake putty, etc)
- Framed art/mirrors hanging on wall. Puzzle hooks, aka maze hooks are a nice solution (Quake Hold A-maze-ing picture hook for example). The design is such that the picture hanging wire can't be jostled off of the hanger. They sell these at Osh and Home Depot.
- sit on the floor at your child's level and look up and around for things that could tip, fall, or otherwise injure a child during an earthquake. Remove or secure those items
- Look carefully at sleeping areas, at what could fall on the bed, since about 1/3 of your time is spent there
- Even without earthquakes, many children are severely injured each year by climbing on bookcases and dressers, or by tipping over large screen TVs onto themselves. Earthquake straps can do double duty to secure these items.

It is very important to screw the wall end of the strap into a wall stud. Simply Using sheetrock anchors does little for earthquake safety.

To secure larger or heavier items, basically the more straps/anchors you use, the more secure it will be. Check the size/weight specifications from the manufacturer of the product you are using. I think Quake Hold is the most common brand, because they are sold at Osh and Home Depot. Interestingly, I looked for weight specifications on their web page, and only found advice based on the size of an object, not the weight. Which kind of makes sense, because the force of movement would likely be a factor in addition to the weight.

Here are a couple of fantastic resources: (this website also sells some industrial seismic anchoring products) L

BOOKCASES and other large casework: L-shaped metal bracket - hardware store - install by having the L wrong-side-up with one leg screwed into the top of the casework and the other leg bolted into a 2X4 in the wall -

TV, COMPUTER, etc.: Many, now, have holes in the stand to screw them down, but commercial earthquake straps work too.

PAINTINGS, PHOTOS, other hanging art: Get earthquake hooks in any hardware store - white plastic block that can be screwed into the wall and the wire for hanging is put into the labyrinth -

Old wood-framed houses will sway more than new construction. Except for brick chimneys, these houses will, most likely, survive.

When an earthquake starts crawl under a strong table - - - best to have a plan !

You start strapping with the things that pose the greatest hazard. Big and top heavy items like china cabinets, water heaters, refrigerators, and heavy TV sets, things up high with mass and weight that will injure you. Table lamps won't hurt you much at all. The key to strapping is to bolt or screw into wall studs not just plasterboard. So a stud finder of some sort is needed. You can use strips of steel sheet-metal, nylon rope,old hinges,steel cable, and nylon cable ties so long as it/they are strong enough. There is a type of cable tie with an eyelet for screws that is ideal for earthquake strapping. If a huge bookcase is strapped snugly to wall studs not much stress will be put on the strapping material as the bookcase can't move much anyway. Galvanized steel unhardened sheet metal or wood screws/eyelets are best as the hardened ''grabber'' type screws so common for everything these days are liable to sheer off when loaded. The bigger and heavier/taller the item the bigger the strap and the more straps you need. There will be an abundance of online information on how to strap and which items are critical to strap like water heaters, clothes dryers, and stoves. Things with gas lines. builder, engineer, woodworker

Use Museum Wax for your knick knacks and pottery. Child proof locks for your kitchen cabinet doors. You can buy picture hooks that sort of clip down so that the picture cannot bounce off the hook. cocosar

Hi, For really large and heavy items I use earthquake cable straps, which are plastic coated metal cables with screw caps. They go through brackets that you attach to the furniture and the wall. They're stronger and better attached than the velcro and woven straps.

For larger pictures on the wall you can buy earthquake picture hangers. They look like a maze in cross-section so the hanging wire can't pop out.

Finally, for small decorative items you can buy earthquake wax. It attaches small items firmly to a surface, but scrapes/rubs off cleanly (with a little effort.) It's also called museum wax. Firmly attached

Earthquake! keeping books from falling off shelves

Feb 2012

We have three tall IKEA billy bookcases (made of particle board) filled with books. They are securely attached to the wall but I would like to do something to them to keep the books (especially from the higher shelves) from falling off in an earthquake and crushing my toddler. Ideally I would like it to be something I can do myself. Ideas I have thought of:

1. Hot gluing a half inch high strip of wood to the edge of each shelf to create a lip (I am not sure if this would really keep the books on the shelves but it would be easy to do)

2. Attaching a chain across each shelf a couple inches up from the shelf using eyehooks (I wonder if the eyehooks would stay in during an earthquake or just get ripped out)

3. Drilling a hole in the side a couple inches up from each shelf and running a metal rod through Has anyone earthquake proofed their shelves and have any good advice? Thanks! I am not looking for recommendations for people to do this for me and I know about the doors for the bookcases at IKEA. toddler mom

I earthquake-proofed the inside of my house as you are planning to do, including some very tall IKEA bookshelves.

Go to the earthquake aisle of any hardware store (I went to OSH on Ashby near 9th St. in Berkeley). Get the rubber bookholders - they come in various colors and are fairly inconspicuous once installed. (Installation does require a drill.)

Your idea for creating a ''lip'' also will work and is one of the possibilities recommended by the earthquake preparedness agencies.

Also, get rubber, gridded shelf-liner and lay a sheet down on each bookshelf, then set the books on top of them. This keeps them from sliding. (Don't lay books sideways. Put them upright as usual.)

Attaching the shelves to the walls with the hardware that came from Ikea is probably insufficient. In the earthquake aisle, get either L-brackets or furniture straps and attach the shelves to wall studs with those. These hold more weight. The straps will indicate on the package how much weight each holds, and you can figure out how many you need to use. You should do the same with your major appliances (furniture straps attached to wall studs).

For minor appliances iike printers, microwave, stereos, etc., get Velcro with sticky backing in the earthquake aisle and attach the appliances to the surface they're sitting on. You can do the same with plants.

For smaller breakable items (vases, etc.) and lamps (which can fall on you), get museum putty in the earthquake aisle, which creates a strong but temporary bond.

One very important thing to do is attach safety latches to your cabinets, especially in the kitchen, with all the breakables, sometimes overhead. You can also lay the dishes down, within the shelves, on the rubber matting so that they slide less and will be less likely to break even inside their safety-latched cabinet.

In the utility room and/or garage, put all toxic chemicals and cleansers on lower shelves, and/or in safety-latched cabinets. Make sure that that no two containers of cleansers that are dangerous to mix with each other are near each other. (Bleach and some household cleaners shouldn't mix and create a noxious gas...I forget now which ones they are.) Earthquake Freak

A friend in Mendocino uses small bungee cords on his china cabinet. I think that would be easy. Just use those screw-in round hooks on either side, like your ''rod'' idea, and attach thin bungee cords to each side, about 3-4 inches up from the shelf. They have a little give to them, but books would still be held in. heidilee

A relative of mine who worked for the Red Cross advised that the best way to keep books from falling off shelves during an EQ is to pack them very tightly. Of course, if this is a bookshelf you use often, that can be tough. Unprepared, but working on it . . .

Hi, When my kids were younger I had similar worries and I just packed the books in very, very tightly. Al

I really like your idea of the metal rods. I would use two for each shelf-one and inch or two up and another about 6-8 inches up depending on book side. Make the rods extra long for some stick out on each side. They can be placed from the front slipping right to left. Another idea is bungee cords and Styrofoam blocks-but not very pleasing to the eye. A third idea is nylon cargo netting similar to that used in trunks and the back of SUVs. If you bought a cheap (damaged even) shelf unit from IKEA with a matching wood somebody with a table-saw could rip the board into strips about 4-6 inches wide and cut to length to screw onto each shelf you have from underneath. You need more than a thin strip to keep the books from tumbling out. Hot glue probably won't work as it will set up too quick to do a long board. Gorilla glue would work.Use tape to catch foam out. Most important of all is that the bookshelves are screwed/bolted to the studs in the wall. The real danger is not a couple books falling but the whole bookcase falling. There is a woman in Oakland that used to do in-home child proofing of all kinds. Can't remember her business name but you should be able to Google her in Piedmont. woodworker

I, too, used some nicer looking bungee cords on some of our bookcases, especially on the upper shelves. The bit of ''give'' made it easy to take out books, but wouldn't let them fall off. One more thing that others haven't mentioned yet - if the shelves are adjustable, make sure the shelves themselves can't slide out of the case. That means you need either a front ''frame'' (lip) that keeps the shelves in, or you need to secure each shelf to its support brackets (we used little screws; maybe not super strong, but better than nothing). And if possible, put heavier books at the bottom and save the upper shelves for lighter paperbacks. R.K.

Family disaster plan with a middle schooler

Jan 2012

Hi folks: We're thinking through possible disaster plans in case of earthquake, etc. Our daughter is an 8th grader at Longfellow, almost 4 miles from our Berkeley home. I work in SF (with a bicycle in SF for part of my commute) and my partner in Oakland. We have able-body privilege so we can walk long distances to meet our daughter as needed. I'm wondering what sort of plans other families have devised. Do the schools and afterschool programs keep the kids until they are picked up by an authorized adult? We can't count on BART, right? How did you commuters manage during the Loma Prieta quake to pick up your kids and get home?

Gosh. The loma prieta quake was years before my highschooler was born! I had no kids and spent the night in sf with friends after getting off an ac transit bus. We drove home (1o of us in an suv) early the next morning through marin county. I think folkks with kids made a point of getting home that night and their kids were at friends homes by then. The quake was in late afternoon, so took a while for some to get home. We always have east bay people on our pick up list for the kkids. We also have an outside of neighborhood site designated iif they cannot get to home. Anonymous

If there is a disaster your child will only be released to people named on your emergency card. On my children's emergency cards there are both family members and friends from school who can pick them up. If you would like to know more about Longfellow's disaster plan or planning in general please come to our next PTA meeting on January, 10 at 6:30. The Red Cross will be presenting on this very topic. Longfellow PTA President

Earthquake kit for baby

Nov 2011

With all the recent earthquakes in the East Bay, I am updating my earthquake kit and trying to figure out what to pack for my 5 month old baby. My biggest question is regarding food. I have not worried about this before because my baby is exclusively breast fed and I am still on maternity leave. However, we'll be introducing solids soon and more importantly, I'll be going back to work soon. I guess I will put in a few jars of baby food, but I know that milk is supposed to be the most important food source for the first year. If an earthquake happens while I'm at home, obviously there is no problem. However, what if it happens while I'm at work? I work in SF and it's unlikely I could make it home if there were a big one. My baby will be in our home with a nanny, so I guess I should just put some formula in the earthquake bag? Is there a recommended formula for babies who have been exclusively breast fed? Also, the other things we have in the earthquake bag for baby are clothes, diapers and wipes, a couple toys and some infant tylenol. Anything else I am forgetting? Thanks so much. Worried sick, but trying to be productive

Any formula is fine. I found individual packets of Enfamil that could be mixed with 8 oz water -- liked that because if sanitary conditions are bad they're not open until the moment of consumption. A suggestion - put a note in your calendar a month before it expires and donate it somewhere that could use it. Mine just expired in the kit and I felt rotten throwing it away. always be prepared

Any standard infant formula will do, since it's really only for a true emergency (ready-to-serve is easiest, but more expensive; powder + extra water is cheaper but more work), with bottles and nipples. In just a few months, your baby can drink regular milk.

Blanket (note that the typical emergency mylar blankets may not be safe for infants).

In addition to jarred baby foods, consider some finger foods (cheerios and similar).

Heavy bags for dirty-diaper containment until you reach an appropriate place for disposal.

Hand sanitizer (for everyone).

If you have room, a cheap umbrella stroller or carrier will make evacuation easier if needed. prepared mom

Securing storage bin for earthquake supplies

March 2011

So, I am cringing that I still don't have my bin together for earthquake supplies, and I'm hoping that I can get some advice about the thing that keeps tripping me up. I know that people advise using a rolling garbage bin, or a deck box. But these things don't have any closing mechanism - don't they warp in the sun, and then allow critters in? How do they stay closed? If this is the bin you use, how do you keep it securely closed (yet easy to open for an emergency)? Please advise! This is getting ridiculous! anonymous

We use 2 of those big plastic Rubbermaid bins with lids that snap tight. Purchased at Target. I'm not sure of the size in gallons, but they are maybe 2x3x2 feet or something like that. (Also have a few gallons of water next to the bins.) We have some paperwork inside there in a ziploc bag, but everything else (canned food, 1st aid kit) is just loose inside the bins. They sit in our backyard, not particularly under cover. Various vines have been growing up around them, and rain certainly collects on the top, so they get kind of gross-looking on the outside. But I opened them up very recently, and everything inside looked as clean as when we first stocked it all 5-6 years ago. No evidence of critter entry or water damage. prepared, hopefully

If you plan to use a rolling garbage can, get a good quality one so it will last (you don't want the wheels popping off just when you need to move it!). You can secure the top against animals with a bungee cord. You should keep the can out of the sun if possible. We got one of those smallish Rubbermade sheds and keep two cans in it - one with most of the usual stuff that we'd want if we had to leave our property, and one with blankets and extra clothes. (Each one is lined with a big heavy-duty garbage bag for added protection). There is also room in there for a case of bottled water, a box with more food, and a siphon/hand-pump to access water in the 55 gallon drum we keep next to the shed. RK

tie something around it... use a black rubber tie down, or a rope; it does not have to be super tight. or get a plastic bin with snap on lid. oren

A good earthquake survival kit for the home?

May 2010

After watching 60 minutes tonight I got motivated to buy a good survival kit for our 3 person family. Any recommendations for a store around here or one online? Thanks!

I hear you. I can't help but feel that we are next. The impending doom got me off my ass and I found a good one at OSH in Berkeley. 510-540-6638 1025 Ashby Ave Berkeley It's all enclosed in a back pack (kinda handy) and has mostly dried foods. I'd call ahead to make sure they have some in stock. I got the last one but they probably have reordered by now. I also picked up a couple of good mid sized first aid kits there. Anne

Your Safety Place in Dublin has absolutely everything (pre-assembled kits and individual pieces). You can order online at or over the phone - they are really nice and helpful too. I felt like a lot of the kits that I saw elsewhere didn't really have all that much so I ended up creating one by filling a large rolling garbage can with all the essential pieces. anon

Earthquake preparations at home

Jan 2010

I'm gathering kits for earthquake emergency at our home. Where do you put supplies? Our garage is in our basement and I fear not being able to get below the house to access supplies if left in the garage. Do you store supplies/emergency kit outside or do you split it up around the house? Where do you store water and how do you store water? Any other essentials for 2 kids under 5yrs? Thanks!

I recently took the Community Emergency Response Training class (CERT) and they recommended getting a rolling garbage can and filling with earthquake supplies to keep outside (and of course label it so it doesn't get taken on trash day!). i would not keep them in your basement because in the event of an emergency like an earthquake, the last place you want to go is deeper into your house, esp. a sub-level. Also, keep in mind the kind of stuff we store in our garage-which we probably shouldn't- (extra paint, chemicals we don't want in the house, etc.) so there could be some fire danger there. Here's a link to a supplies list from the CERT class (and it recommends how much water, etc.): By the way, I highly recommend the CERT class - I learned a lot and felt much more empowered of how to handle emergency situations.You can find more info from your local fire dept. anon

I recommend storing EQ supplies outside the house in a Rubbermaid-type of shed. I used to have a side business selling sheds filled w/ EQ supplies but stopped doing that years ago. My website is still up and you can visit it for ideas of what the shed looks like and what supplies to put into the shed. The website is I recommend storing water in a 55 gallon drum. You can purchase one from a company in Oakland with the tel #(510) 893-2791. Reece

Our nanny lived through the huge Mexico City earthquake and requested we have a backpack with kid food inside the house for easy grabbing. We store more supplies outside in a rolling, closed trash can a few feet from any building walls. The city of Berkeley does periodic earthquake preparedness classes which include an excellent book. The basics are water, canned or easy prep food, warmth and sanitation. We have two ''luggable loos'' which are toilet seats clipped onto big paint buckets, to be lined with heavy duty trash bags for waste. I still am not sure if we have closed-toed shoes, flashlights, a crank radio and other supplies in the earthquake bin yet, and the water has to be changed out with new water preservative added. Haiti's earthquake makes it very vivid, no? - like to be ready

Our garage is above ground, so we have most of our supplies there. Outside, we have a large, heavy duty locking chest that contains our water (5 gal. per person plastic jugs, rotated 3x year), a first aid kit, flashlights and batteries, and a basic tool kit (wrench for turning off gas, crowbar for prying things open, heavy gloves, duct tape, plastic bags, etc.). We do have several first aid kits distributed around the house, garage and car. Your post reminds me that we need to add some small things for my son for comfort and distraction, perhaps copies of some favorite books. LR

Earthquake kit storage

Oct 2009

I am embarrassed to say that what has held up the completion of our home earthquake kit/supplies has been the question of what the heck to store it all in. I know that some have used the huge, wheeled plastic garbage bins. What do people recommend, that is easy to get into, and is waterproof? Do those big plastic deck storage boxes stay water tight? Please advise! Thanks. anon.

My neighbor used a heavy duty plastic bin designed for outdoor use and rats ate thru it and enjoyed his food and other earthquake supplies. I haven't set mine up yet but I intend to use steel or some type of metal container, possibly garbage cans. reva

We use one of those horizontal Rubbermaid storage sheds, and so far, it's been water-tight (it is under our deck, so that probably helps some). Inside it, we have both a wheeled garbage can with the basics (for ''evacuation'' situations), and then less-portable boxes of additional canned foods, etc. for situations when we wouldn't have to evacuate, but would be on our own for a few days, potentially without utilities, or access to stores, etc. In adition, we have a large water barrel that we put a five-year preserver in, so we don't have to worry about it too often. We keep the pump for that in the shed, too. Each car also has a small kit with minimal supplies. R.K.

We use a very large rolling garbage can for our supplies. In addition, we have some camping stuff stored in an outside shed that we can get to...or pick through if it collapses in an earthquake. Go to the American Red Cross website. They have a good list of supplies for a home kit. Also, they sell supplies on their site. Lastly, I encourage you to think of things like feminine hygiene products, medications, and glasses. Stuff you'd really not want to be stuck without. You should clean out the supplies once or twice a year, too, to be sure stuff hasn't gotten moldy or expired or whatever.

Our son had to put one together as part of a 7th grade project. He also had to learn where our gas shutoff was, show that our hot water heater was strapped, and so on. It was very educational for us and made us get our act together!

Yes, the boxes made for outside storage that come with a tight lid and a lock, are protecting the contents from rain. We have had our storage box for about 2 1/2 years now, and everything in there is in separate plastic containers - 1 for medical supplies, 1 for toilet paper, 1 for clothes, etc., and all is perfectly dry. Take care

Need suggestions for earthquake food supplies

Feb 2009

Before Christmas, I went through my earthquake food supplies and discovered that several cans had burst/leaked and that many others were nearly expired. I am now planning to replenish my supplies and realize I don't really know what I should have for our family. I had canned fruit, Chef Boyardee, Ramen noodles, condensed milk, instant coffee, hard candy, peanut butter and lots of water. It hardly seemed adequate for a family of four and its shelf life was less than a year. Any suggestions for nutritious but edible AND storable food for the earthquake kit? Thanks. Andrea

General earthquake preparedness handbook: If you're not into do-it-yourself kits: Prepared

Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). My family are all from the New Orleans area and had the ''opportunity'' to sample these from the military post-Katrina and they were actually quite happy with them. Katrina was the catalyst for us finally getting our supplies in order. Some MREs can keep for as long as 10 years. We bought a case from a military surplus site. You can find some through as well. So far, we have never tasted our batch, but you can order differnt types of meals. I think this is a better option than the cans because they seem to be made to withstand disaster. They store well. We decided that we'll have an MRE party when they expire and get another one. prepared

REI has really great dehydrated meals that we use for camping trips, and also for our emergency kit at home. Mountain House is one brand that we like. You do need boiling water to rehydrate them, though- so you'll need supplies for that, too (camp stove or burner and fuel). elizabeth

Earthquake Kits

March 2007

This last tremor has pushed me out of my state of denial and I am ready to attempt some earthquake preparation for my family. One of those all purpose kits that is already put together is probably most realistic for us. There are so many offered on the internet with varying prices and supplies. Any recommendations for what to get and where to get it? Thanks - Want to Be Prepared

We have camping stoves so we have a couple full cans of propane in our backyard storage shed at all times. I went out and bought three days worth of food for our family at REI. I bought those freeze-dried bags of food for backpacking. I did this a year ago and all the food has expiration dates between 2009 and 2013. I bought several gallon-sized water bottles and keep them in the house and try to use and rotate them every 6-12 months. I have a shortwave radio that can be cranked for power and a first aid kit. I have a couple of packs of wipes for sponge bathing. That's what we got. Andi

One thing I found to be most important to prepare for earthquakes is window film. I know a guy who installs a thick, un-noticable clear film. email me if you like more info. Darren

Whichever kit you decide upon (you can see ours at ), be aware that no kit can supply you and your family what you need in terms of water and food. These must be supplemented. A 55 gallon barrel outside is a great idea for ensuring sufficient water.

The recent 4.2 ''quakelet'' of March 1 was a good wake-up call. It's helpful to remember that a 7.2 quake, which the Hayward could easily produce when it ruptures, would amount to 35,900 times as much energy released as the 4.2 The shaking could be as much as 1,000 times what we felt on March 1: shaking so violent you can't stand up.

Kits are essential, and you might want to give some attention as well to an automatic gas shut-off valve, securing your furniture, and having your retrofit (if any) checked for adequacy. Larry

How to prepare for an earthquake?

March 2007

Hi all: Just half an hour ago I felt a pretty big earthquake for a few seconds but enough to scare me to death: I'm new in California and have no clue as to how to protect my child and I! So I have a few questions for you guys: 1- What are the essentials in an emergency package? 2- Should I have one at home and one in my car? 3- Where do you store those things in your place? 4- We live on the third floor in an apartment building. Are we supossed to leave the apartment if there is an earthquake or are we supossed to stay in? I know they tell you to run under a table... but on a third floor?

I checked on the internet and find tons of ads for companies trying to sell you their anti-earthquake savvy... I can't afford that though and, as I said, I'm new here so I don't have much info. So, thanks in advance for all the advice you could provide. Earthquake-scared!

The US Geological Survey is my bible for all things earthquake. They are also the place to go if you feel a quake and want immediate info. (You can even get RSS feeds of recent quakes!) They are located in Menlo Park--a great field trip if you are new to quake country!

With just a quick search, I found a few (free) documents:

Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country

Protecting Your Family From Earthquakes-The Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety (in English, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean)

List of Useful Web Sites That Supplement the Above Handbooks quakecrazy

I've done a whole lot more e-quake preparedness than pretty much anyone else I know (except one neighbor who's a true survivalist) I'm in no denial that a big one could happen anytime, maybe in 10 minutes, maybe not til I've passed on!

But I live in a house which makes it easier for me to do as much as I have, which is that I have in the back of my back yard 4 large plastic trash cans full of supplies, including: extensive first aid supplies in a small backpack, (old) clothes & shoes, a small tent, a rain poncho, an old sleeping bag, extra pair (old) eyeglasses, a hand crank radio, 3 flashlights & batteries, around 14 Meals-Ready-to-Eat (army rations from a surplus store, never go bad, not gourmet but it's food), canned food, dog & cat food, medications I take daily, cooking supplies (little one burner stove and fuel, a pot, plates & cups & utensils, paper towels), soap & other personal hygiene stuff, toilet paper, $100 cash, and probably more stuff I'm forgetting.

Everything's in double layers of trash compactor bags inside the trash cans, each tied closed separately (they're the strongest), the lids are held tight with bungee cords, and it's all stayed dry through many rainy winters. I rotate the canned food and medications with fresh.

I also have a huge (I think it's 20 gal) water container that I bought off PN for $5. (pure serendipity, I'm sure it cost a lot new).

My thought is to have some extra supplies to share with other people who haven't planned so well.

Inside the house I have a large crowbar under my bed (for jammed doors, etc), shoes & socks by my bed, a couple of small fire extinguishers (a good idea anyway), & flashlights stashed all over the place. My large bookcases are bolted to the wall.

I had an e-quake valve installed on my gas line, & had my house bolted to the foundation.

In my car I have first aid supplies, a few warm clothes & pair of shoes, 3 gal water jug, medications, clif bars & p-nuts & raisins & a couple of MREs, flashlights, cash, & probably a bit more stuff I'm forgetting. I try to remember to keep my gas tank at least half full.

It was work to set it all up, but I made it a creative game & had fun. I'm not paranoid about it, don't dwell on it, do know the best things to dive under in my own house, & it gives me some peace of mind to know I'm as prepared as I can be, and the rest is up to chance and nature. It's just part of living here, it's nature at work! Maybe you can translate some of this into apartment life. Anon

OK, I don't to freak you out but our most recent quake was not a really big one. The only reason I point this out is that the Loma Prieta (1989) was a 7.1 -- keep in mind that the Richter scale increases logarithmically (10x each time). That's why it is GREAT that the recent minor quake has you thinking about preparedness, because there's a lot you can do to be safe and prepare for a situation where there is no electricity, etc. May I recommend the Chronicle's quake page, which has links to all kinds of resources, including supply kit lists, pet care, and so on:

I really don't think you need to seek out a consultant unless you have some specific circumstances not covered by the general information. There are some very common sense strategies you can implement, and in doing so you can have very fruitful planning conversations with your family, employer and friends. A few more little ones and you might even think they are kind of fun LR

we keep a 72 hour backpack in the car and have flashlights and emergency stuff at home too. the red cross website has a good list of what should go in, and what to do in a quake. also maybe has advice. and prepared

Go to and check out the disaster preparedness section. It is incredibly helpful. I have lived in California my entire life, and even though I am accustomed to earthquakes, I realized about a year ago that I was completely unprepared. I used the Red Cross site to get my act together and now feel pretty prepared.

i re-located recently to the Bay Area. please have a look at for some useful info and resources. --sfb

I used to live in Los Angeles so I have been in some big earthquakes (Northridge, Big Bear, Landers, etc.). I'm working on my earthquake kit as well and there is a lot of information on the internet about what to store (water, food for a few days, etc.) One thing I did was purchase about three days worth of food for my family from REI. I bought those freeze-dried meals for backpacking. They will be good for years (they all expire between 2009 and 2013) and all you have to do to prepare them is boil water. (We keep a camping stove and extra fuel in a storage locker in the backyard.) As for what to do during an earthquake, do not run outside! You don't want falling plaster or other things on the building to fall on your head and kill/disable you. Go under a sturdy piece of furniture to protect your head, or go in a doorway (furniture is better but a doorway is good too). After the earthquake is over, then you can go outside, although beware of strong aftershocks. (The aftershocks started right away after the Northridge quake.) Find a safe place outside, when the ground is still, away from things that could fall on you if there was a large aftershock. One nice thing about living in CA is our building codes and building materials help protect us during earthquakes. We don't make our buildings out of unreinforced concrete or bricks like the villeges that get leveled during quakes in other countries. Andi

Earthquake preparedness service?

Dec 2006

I know that there are pleny of disaster/earthquake preparedness kits available for purchase. We have some odds and ends tucked away. . . . But does anyone know of a service that will help us get truly organized: make sure we have all that we need, that it is accessible, that our disaster plans are sound. It shouldn't be so difficult to accomplish on our own. But since it isn't happening, we are ... Looking for Help I think this would help! christine

Water storage for earthquake supplies

Oct 2005

I am looking for a somewhat local source to purchase a 55 gal. plastic drum for water storage for earthquake supply. There used to be a source in Berkeley, but they are out of business. I have found a source in Idaho and another in Southern Ca. but shipping is very expensive. Does anyone know where I can get one. I also have many friends who are interested. Thanks.

Containers Unlimited 10901 Russet St Oakland, CA 94603-3727 Phone: (510) 430-0503
Sells new and used plastic and steel drums of all sizes. - Vicious Recycler

I was looking for a 55 gal drum for drinking water for a while, couldn't find one, but it occurred to me after a while that at 8 lbs/gal, a full 55 gal drum would weigh 440 lbs and be a real problem to move. Besides that, you can't just pour out of it easily, it takes either a pump or a special stand that stores it on its side. So I forgot the drum idea and bought a number of 7 gal plastic containers from REI - later found them at Wilderness Exchange for about a dollar less. These are made specifically for drinking water, food-grade plastic plus there's a faucet that lets you put the container on a table top and easily draw off water. At 56 lbs full they're not really easy to handle, but manageable. Grandpa

Buying an earthquake emergency kit

Sept 2005

I'm in the process of trying to prepare emergency kits for our family to use in case of an earthquake or other emergency. I've been innundated with lists of what to gather together and pack so I don't need help there. However I've noticed that there's many many companies and catalogs that supply prepackaged ''survival kits'', and would like to buy one. (Usually includes first aid kit, food bars, flashlight, radio, etc. and we would add to it.) It seems there is a great variety in prices and possibly quality between the products of these companies. Can anyone suggest a reputable company that provides safety/survival gear and equipment? Online or local. Thanks very much. Susan

There is an earthquake store in Emeryville on Hollis, around 62nd street. You can't see it from the street, as it is tucked away in a building. You can find them in phone book; I'm sure the name starts with Earthquake, and it may even be the Earthquake Store. I purchased some home emergency kits and supplies from them, and I purchased some larger, institutional supplies from them for my son's school and for my previous workplace. They are very nice and extremely helpful regarding what you'll need for what type of location for however many number of days. Need to Make A Visit There Too

I bought several kits from the Red Cross on line - they're very complete and seemed the best deal. Elena

The Red Cross has emergency kits. They also have lots of other useful information. You can find them online. doctorsydney

I tried to order from Quake Kare, Inc right after Katrina. I guess everyone had the same idea! After nearly a month, my order had not even shipped. They did not tell me that there would be a several week delay and they did not reply to my emails. Finally I got someone on the phone and cancelled my order due to poor customer service. After spending time online looking for another supplier or a local store where I could go, I finally decided to try Not only did they have a kit instock (although they are sold out of some), but they were offering 25% off and free shipping. I just placed my order! Preparing for the ''big one''!

What kind of container for earthquake supplies?

May 2005

Now that I have children I'm finally thinking about putting together that earthquake preparedness kit. I am wondering if experienced folks out there recommend a particularly good box/storage unit to use outside. Looking at the recommended items for 2 adults, 2 children and a dog, it seems like I'd need a pretty good sized container. Thanks, Rachel

we used two smallish rubbermaid containers, the black and gray ones with snap-tight lids. smallish - is ~12x18x9 inches maybe? (I'm not going to crawl under the bushes and check! :)) You might want to use 2-3 smaller containers to make it easier to store them as well as easier when you want to remove expiring food stuffs and easier to move if they are ever needed! shaken not stirred

Good for you getting around to this Bay Area essential! If you have space, do one wheeled garbage can (so you can move the stuff to a safe spot), and then either another garbage can or a plastic bin with a tight lid to store additional canned food, blankets etc. in case you just have to camp out in your backyard for a while. Ideally, within the wheeled can, have a backpack or two with only truly essential items, in case you have to evacuate quite far. Keep some in your car at all times, too. I line the can with a havy-duty garbage bag, and within that, put items into zipper-loc bags. Tuck the liner-bag inside the can (not hanging over the edge, and put a bungee over the lid to keep it secure. There are spiders along the edge, but everything inside seems fine even after several years. Don't seal the zip-lock bags, though, because then condensation might be a problem. R.K.

Earthquake-safe wall decor

March 2004

I recently vowed to stop living like a college student and finally fix my place up. I have a couch in the only logical place it can go in our living room, and above it is a BIG blank wall. It looks stark and ugly. Same goes for the blank wall over our bed. I've read that it's not safe to hang items of any weight above beds and places where you sit. What then to do with the blank wall? Beth

Although I've hung pictures with shatterproof glass and shrinkwrapped posters, the best is textiles. A fun piece of quilt or handmade rug are classic choices. But antique clothing (kimono, lacy child's dress, beaded fabric hats from indigenous cultures) or a collection of soft handmade dolls can be wonderful. These can be hung directly on a wall or nailed over a piece of rice paper or fabric already tacked to the wall. I have seen paper cutout silhouettes mounted on rice paper and fabric that way. Long Chinese paper scrolls are grand. The truly skilled paint a mural directly on the wall. I personally hung a large Japanese resist cutout used in printing fabric that I got for nearly nothing at a yard sale. Good luck! goldman

I'd consider the risk acceptable as long as you have your artwork securely attached to the wall. There are plenty of strong hooks and hanging products available for the purpose.

However, there are also good options for lighter, softer and safer decorative items. Textiles can be a good choice - - painted silk hangings, batik cloths, tapestries, quilts. Or put up (securely wall-mounted) shelving and fill the shelves with baskets, stuffed animals, or other collectible items.

If those options don't appeal, instead of mounting a painting on the wall, you can simply paint the wall itself! A mural (or other decoration applied directly to the wall) is most often used in bedrooms, but you can certainly do them in other rooms, and it can be any style, color, etc. you like. Holly

For the bed, maybe a large headboard bolted to the bed or the wall. Or decorative mosquito net hung from the ceiling. Or fabric curtains on the wall, draped and arranged. Many ideas in the catalogs. For the couch, bolt a proper picture to the wall. Or just put up a poster. Or a tapestry. Or vintage jewelry on pushpins. Display your hankerchief collection. How about postcards? Maybe a mural painted directly on the wall. sunsolsal

You could hang a beautiful quilt or tapestry, or (depending how formal your room is), a dry-mounted poster that is not framed or under glass. For heavier items, it is possible to hang them safely - but you shouldn't use the regular nailed-in picture hooks. Buy some of the special ''earthquake-safe'' ones. There is a closed-loop version(you have to thread the hanging wire through, and then re-fasten it to the frame), and a kind that has a sort of ''maze'' the wire is pulled down through - so it can't ''jump'' up and off the hook. If the artwork is very heavy, definitely have it hanging from at least two hooks, secured into the wall studs with long lag-screws. If it a framed picture, I recommend replacing the regular plate glass with acrylic or safety-glass. R.K.

There are earthquake safety straps for heavy objects that hang the wall. You attach them to the picture and then clip them on to a hook that's been put into a wall stud. We got some off a baby proofing website, but I've also seen them for sale on earthquake safety websites. So you could hang a painting over your couch.As for the bed, I would hang a tapestry - such as a kilim rug, a weaving, etc. It's light and decorative. Another alternative is to paint the headboard wall a different color than the rest of the room or do a faux finishing technique on that wall. Anon