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How to Prepare for the Bay Area's Next Earthquake

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The South Napa Earthquake is a sobering reminder that the Bay Area could be hit by a devastating earthquake at any time. Are you prepared?

Prepare your earthquake kit now, so you will have it ready when it's needed. (<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthworm/5548393406/in/photolist-9shY4h-jihtFt-5kXzYL-5Wyh9b-bUqEtX-5kTiPD-9qTeg8-7vJFqB-7BBZa1-58Sd9V-9uoGMB-9pTWMd-9pTHj3-QwLi-nc7WCJ-nc8tCi-kWuK3f-neat5c-nebnaH-nc8dM7-neaToH-nc7Tzi-neaEHa-necDYw-necEWU-7vJcEc-7wywPB-n9fva4-7xKbSr-dqZiLS-7FcDNt-7Fgxg9-9q28ag-6yqdYU-6ym5q4-6ym7Dn-bqFHea-nvyqGe-brCi22-8gZPeG-7xbRwi-8gn3gi-e5Xk5P-7zVtS2-nc7T4t-nc842Q-9pPrsX-9pWSAh-4QGAB7-9pPvoM">Earthworm/Flickr</a>)
Prepare your earthquake kit now, so you will have it ready when it's needed. (Earthworm/Flickr)

1) Create an Earthquake Kit

Unlike hurricanes and other severe storms, earthquakes come without any notice, so it's imperative to have a supply kit that will keep you and your family safe and comfortable if disaster strikes. You should have supplies for three days.

Necessary items:

  • first-aid kit
  • one gallon of water per person per day
  • flashlight (and extra batteries)
  • enough non-perishable food to feed each person for three days
  • a manual can opener for all that food
  • fire extinguisher

Good to haves:

  • warm clothes and sturdy shoes
  • sleeping bags or blankets
  • cash
  • tools
  • heavy-duty plastic bags and tarps
  • cell phone chargers
  • list of emergency contact numbers
  • battery operated or hand crank radio

Personal items:

  • prescriptions
  • personal hygiene items
  • personal documents
  • items for children and pets

Download the full list from SF72.org. You can also read it in Español, 漢語, русский and Việt.


The USGS recommends that you split those items up into personal kits that can be easily carried and are easy to reach. In a strong earthquake, debris could be strewn all over the floor. To keep your feet safe after nighttime disasters, the USGS recommends keeping a drawstring bag with a pair of sturdy shoes and a flashlight tied to the foot of your bed. The bigger items can go into a household kit that is easily movable and watertight.

Once you've assembled your kits it's important to make sure that you regularly check them. Has the food expired? Has the water evaporated? How old are those painkillers? If you are someone who needs to regularly take medications, experts recommend swapping out the drugs with fresh ones every month.

2) Make a Plan

Now that you have the basics in hand to survive for three days, it's time to make sure everyone in your household knows what to do in an emergency.

  1. Identify who are the people you'll need to get in touch with if something happens.
  2. Identify an out-of-town contact who can serve as a hub for information if you can't reach others in your area.
  3. Establish a meeting place. Do you know where to go if everyone is spread throughout the area at work and school? SF72 recommends picking a central park or landmark. Don't choose a house in case it's inaccessible.
  4. Know the locations of utility shutoffs in your home and keep needed tools nearby. Know how to turn off the gas, water and electricity; turn off the gas only if you smell or hear leaking gas.

3) Prepare Your Home

Most damage in earthquakes is caused by shaking. You can do simple and inexpensive things now to help reduce injuries and protect your belongings.

Start by moving heavy furniture, such as bookcases, away from beds, couches and other places where people sit or sleep.

Next examine where art and heavy objects hung on the wall would fall, and possibly shatter. Keep heavy art away from beds or sofas. Make sure you're using closed hooks to keep everything on the wall.

Store heavy items and breakables, like wine glasses, on lower shelves. You can also use earthquake putty, museum wax or quake gel on the bottoms of collectibles, pottery and lamps to keep them from falling.

Secure the top corners of tall furniture into a wall stud, not just drywall. You can use flexible-mount fasteners, such as nylon straps, to allow furniture to sway independently from the wall, reducing the strain on studs.

Learn More

If you're a home owner, you can take the USGS' quiz to see what kind of retrofits your home may need. Houses and apartments that are older and taller are more prone to damage. Find out the kind of earth you're on as well. Liquefaction and land slide zones can pose their own types of problems.

Also, find specific resources in your county:

Alameda County

Contra Costa County

Marin County

Napa County

San Francisco County

San Mateo County

Santa Clara County

Solano County

Sonoma County

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