Earthquake kits for cars tend to miss the mark on the specific items that you should have on-hand.
Earthquakes are unpredictable, dangerous, and above all else they’re very confusing. Every normal, consistent thing around you quite literally shifts and shakes out of control, throwing normalcy out of whack.
Crummy earthquake kits don’t help either, which is why you should end up assembling your own. This is a list of the essential items you need to keep in your car in the event of an earthquake.
1. Bottled Water
As one of the most essential things we could pack for any occasion, bottled water is of the highest priority. In the event that your car is lodged somewhere or it’s pinned underneath a structure, you need to be able to sustain yourself.
Ideally, you’ll have enough bottled water for a seven-day supply. It seems excessive, but this is definitely a “better safe than sorry” type of situation.
If you regularly travel with others, consider doubling that water supply to have a seven-day supply for two people. This is going to take up more space than just about anything else you have, but it’s important.
If you aren’t a fan of bringing thin plastic bottles in cases in the trunk, you can consider a stainless steel one-gallon jug. These work to prevent air and dust from getting into your water, and can be stored more compactly than a bunch of bottles that end up rolling around under the seats anyways.
2. Nonperishable Foods
Water and food; it should come as no surprise that these are the two most essential items you should have in your car during an earthquake.
Because you run a risk of being trapped in and around broken pieces of asphalt (depending on the magnitude), you need to be able to sustain yourself if you get stuck while cleanup and rescue efforts carry on around you.
Nonperishable foods include granola bars or nutrition bars that include honey (one of the longest-lasting foods out there), emergency dehydrated meals, jerky, and other foods that take years to degrade.
Chances are you’re not going to constantly check the expiration date of the food in your earthquake car kit, so it’s best to be forward thinking with the expiration dates.
3. First Aid Kit
Hopefully you’ll be safe, but it’s an earthquake: anything can happen. Having a first aid kit is essential in any vehicle, and if you currently don’t have one in your car, you should seriously consider picking one up.
There are car-specific kits like these that include emergency blankets, bandages, and small tools that help with patching up a wound.
While these are often afterthoughts, first aid kits are the most important things you should have on-hand next to food and water.
Consider the fact that you may have passengers or family members with you when disaster strikes, so this isn’t a suggestion: it’s absolutely mandatory in every one of your vehicles.
If you aren’t keen on buying a pre-made first aid kit, you can use the Red Cross first aid kit assembly guide right here to develop your own. There’s a list of all the recommended items and supplies that you should have on-hand in your first aid kit, whether or not you buy one from them.
Earthquakes are spontaneous; you could be anywhere when it happens.
God forbid you’re driving through a tunnel or underpass, and anything around you collapses – you’re going to be left in the dark with no way to know what is and isn’t safe. Eventually, the car battery will die, and you’ll have to rely on your flashlight.
Once it gets dark, panic begins to settle in. Tactical flashlights can run for days on end with the lowest possible settings, sometimes stretching to over one-hundred straight hours.
Alternatively, you can get a hand crank flashlight in the event that you end up spending more time than expected waiting for a rescue mission to come your way.
When shopping for your flashlight, do yourself a favor and ensure it has an SOS mode. A tactical flashlight with an SOS mode and a minimum of 500 lumens will be enough to signal first responders so they can pinpoint your location.
In the event of an earthquake, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to witness looters taking advantage of the situation. That being said, as we’ve seen in 2020, people are going a bit crazy.
This is just a rule of thumb for prepping in general, whether it’s against earthquakes, a power grid attack, or hurricanes – it’s important to have something to defend yourself with, and that you know how to use it.
If nothing else, having the peace of mind that you have a self-defense weapon and the know-how to use it effectively will help ease your thoughts.
When you feel like you’re in control of a situation, or that you have some level of control at the very least, it’s easier to make calculated decisions and try to keep a level head.
Money for fuel once the debris is cleaned up, to buy food, water, or anything you were without during the situation.
If you get trapped for a few days and burn through the supplies you brought along, you’ll have hard bills on-hand to get a hot meal, stay at a nearby hotel, or do something to take your mind off of what just happened (like going to the movies).
It’s always a good idea to have hard cash on-hand instead of just your card.
7. Spare Clothes
One change of clothes. We talk about personal hygiene later on in this guide and how important it is when you’re in a situation like this.
Having fresh clothes to change into, even if it’s just for the moments following rescue, helps to reassociate that you are not stranded or forgotten. That you have control.
What do you control every single day?
What you wear. It’s a habit, a rhythm that tells you “I made a choice” in some regard. In situations such as earthquakes where we often feel helpless, this small gesture can be more mentally powerful than you think.
Mix that with the fact that if you’re stranded in an earthquake you could be sweating profusely (given the usual geographic area that earthquakes hit).
8. Important Documents
We have to accept the possibility that these situations could lead to severe injuries and potentially blacking out as a result. Having important documentation on you, such as allergies, medical information, and pre-existing conditions is imperative.
An earthquake could occur, and the next thing you know, you’re waking up in the back of an ambulance. It’s not pretty to think about, but we need to prepare for it.
9. Portable Power Banks
I don’t need to remind you how important electricity is. If you’re still able to run your car and use what’s left in the battery to charge your cell phone and anything else you might need, you’re running on a limited time crunch.
Portable power supplies generally refer to power banks: lithium-ion batteries with multiple ports to charge your personal electronic devices, such as phones, mini refrigerators for medication, and smart watches. You can bring power with you in multiple ways:
Pre-Charged Power Bank
Buy a 20000mAh power bank and charge it before you leave the house. This is the most common method because it’s as natural as making sure your phone is on the charger and with you when you leave the house.
If you leave these to sit for too long, power loss will occur, so it’s good to use up what’s stored in the battery at least once every thirty days.
Personal Solar Panels
You can use these to directly charge phones and power banks.
If you’re stranded due to an earthquake, you might not have the ability to use one of these, but depending on the severity of the issues (or if you’re trapped with debris around you), these could come in handy.
I don’t anticipate you actually having one of these on-hand except in very niche, specific situations. A portable generator would be excellent during a situation like this, but you should exhaust other options before using one.
These heavy, gas-guzzling generators work like a charm, but they could be overkill. The only plus side is that the loud motors would alert rescue workers if you were trapped.
10. Personal Hygiene Products
If you get trapped in your car—which is a possibility that we don’t want to write off – it’s not going to take long for odors to build. You’ll sweat, your body will no longer be clean, and any cuts you end up with will almost immediately be at risk for infection.
Some moist towelettes or wet wipes to keep yourself clean, as well as travel-sized oral healthcare supplies will go a long way.
Beyond keeping you clean and assisting in preventing infection, it’s a morale booster. If you’re trapped in a car or tunnel during an earthquake, you’ll need all the morale you can muster.
11. Spare Medication
This won’t work with every type of medication, but for the most part, you can spare one or two of your essential medications and place them in your car survival kit. The difficult thing is storing time-sensitive and temperature-sensitive medicines like insulin.
If you’re taking insulin, you might find yourself referring back to item number nine: portable power banks.
You can plug personal refrigerators into these to keep insulin stored properly for hours, and hopefully you’ll be rescued or find your way out of trouble before the battery on it runs out.
12. Spare Pet Food
Driving with your dog?
A lot of us do. The thing is that when you get stranded, your dog is just as confused as you are. They’re feeling out of place, scared, and maybe even jumpy. The one thing that can take even the most distracted dog and calm them down is some food.
On top of that, how long will you be stranded without access to food and water for your pet? A few cans of wet food in the back, plus a multitool with a can opener attachment (more on that later) will do you a world of good.
13. Dust-Proof Masks
We’re in a world where people will be wearing masks in public for the next decade. It’s going to happen. Simple masks can help prevent germs from infiltrating your respiratory system, but you need something a bit stronger to prevent any and all dust from coming through.
In an earthquake, the air is going to be polluted with freshly-raised dust. There could be concrete dust in the air, fumes from gas tanks of impacted cars, and debris from nearby buildings and destroyed structures. All things that you don’t want to be breathing in.
An N-95 mask is the answer. Demand can be tough during the COVID-19 pandemic, but if you can get your hands on them, they’ll be a lifesaver. The amount of dust and debris that you could end up breathing in is insane, and extremely dangerous. Equip yourself properly.
14. Survival Kit
Survival kits come with quintessential items that you could use in many adverse situations. Belt cutters, survival knives, emergency whistles to signal where you are to responders, and plenty more.
Survival kits are generally used in bug out bags and designed to give you access to reliable tools should you enter the wilderness. While you may not get use out of every item in a pre-built survival kit, you can always fashion your own.
Stash everything in a small nylon bag, and stow it underneath your driver’s side seat. Keep it somewhere accessible that you can anticipate getting to even if your car receives damage.
In most cars, the driver’s seat is far more fortified than the passenger and rear seats, making it more crush-proof. This, the glove compartment, and the trunk are going to be your best bets for storing your kit.
15. Spare Keys
This is just something that’s good to have on you. When any form of disaster or unrest strikes, it’s easy to misplace things in a panicked hurry. Spare house keys are simply a good idea.
If you have a shed, storage locker, or anything similar where you store firearms, supplies, or prepping gear, you should have spares now.
16. Paper Street Maps
Depending on the severity of an earthquake, certain services might be rendered useless.
You might lose all access to your cell phone service, street lights could be out, and you may have to rely on a compass instead of your GPS. It’s unlikely, but we’re here to prepare no matter what the odds are.
Paper street maps let you find out where you are, and mark a course from where you started. If you have to make it to a safe location, using a map will give you some form of direction. Using these with a lensatic compass will give you full navigation power over everything around you.
Do I Need Anything Else to Prepare for an Earthquake?
This list covers just about everything you could imagine needing in an earthquake situation, but you should still be prepared for other variables as well. Consider including these additional items for the sake of being prepared.
- Road flares
- Canvas backpack (in case you need to bring supplies and abandon your vehicle)
- Spare tire + tire jack
- Rain gear
- Vehicle fluids
- Emergency gas storage (2.5 gallons)
- Emergency blankets
- Small camping stove (mostly for heat)
- Spare fuses
- GPS unit (make sure the map card is up to date)
- Toiletry items
- Pen and paper
- Entertainment materials (morale is low; an mp3 player, book, or deck of cards would do wonders during this)
Be Prepared, Stay Calm
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
That’s a famous quote by Epictetus, which teaches us (through stoicism) that we can’t be in full control of what happens around us or to us; what we do from the point of the event is who we are. Those moments are where you’re going to sink or swim, so you need to be prepared.
Nobody wants to imagine themselves trapped under or around rubble during an earthquake, or for their car to be stranded. Do what is uncomfortable, mentally put yourself in that situation, and envision how you’ll get out of it.
Tectonic Events Are Jarring
Earthquakes come on suddenly, and are absolutely deadly. We often just think about being prepared in terms of SHTF situations revolving around EMP attacks, political turmoil, and civil unrest, but the fact of the matter is earthquakes are one of the most violent natural disasters we can face.
This list has you stacked to the rafters with the perfect items to help you out during an earthquake. Assembling your own car kit can be expensive, but it’s something that you’ll never regret putting together.