At the beginning of every preschool year, I’m required to put together an earthquake kit for my kids.
In a single gallon-size resealable bag, I shove a change of clothes, bottle of water, snacks with a long shelf-life and picture of the family. Some schools also ask for a letter to the child and a lovey, which is when McDonald’s Happy Meal toys come in handy.
I hate putting these together — it’s inconvenient. And after getting them back, unopened, year after year, they also feel like a waste of time. But today’s earthquake off the coast of Japan with accompanying and devastating tsunami, reminds me that, actually, a few minutes shoving packs of tuna and cans of fruit cup in a Ziploc isn’t such a grave waste of my time.
As tsunamis head toward the California coast, where we live, like, less than a mile from the beach, I’m also reminded of how completely unprepared my family is for even a much smaller natural event. We have no stash of bottled water or canned food. Who knows how old the flashlights’ batteries are.
Today is a good reminder of what families need to do — and it goes beyond stockpiling pallets of water. The biggest thing families like mine, who are spread out all over town is a game plan. Here are 10 things your family needs to be natural disaster ready — whether you live in the Pacific Ring of Fire or somewhere in tornado alley.
1. Game plan: you and your partner need to come up with a Plan A for when the big one hits. Who will pick up which kid and where will you meet. This way, if communication lines are down, Mom can be assured that Dad’s getting the toddler while she’s picking up the third-grader at school and the baby at the sitter’s.
2. Plan B: come up with a second gather and pick-up scenario for instances where one parent is out of town or in cases where one parent is stuck in traffic/an elevator/on the other side of the bridge.
3. Talk about Plans A and B with the kids. Let them in on the plans pre-disaster so they can feel reassured that they won’t be forgotten when something happens.
4.. Figure out who, outside of your city, you can call to send updates on your condition and whereabouts: that way you won’t waste your phone’s charge on repeating the same story over and over.
5. Earthquake disaster kits can include a whole lot of things you’re probably not going to bother to squirrel away in the garage. (Really? A coil of 1/2″ rope?) Minimally, they should include the following:
A gallon of water per person per day, one-week minimum
- Can opener
- Extra blankets
- Matches and lighters
- Cheap but decent shoes for adults (in case you’re caught in your flip-flops)
- Diapers, formula, bottles
- Toolbox (which doesn’t have to be in the kit as much as near it)
- Flashlights (one per family member) plus batteries
- Toilet paper!
6. Make your home earthquake/disaster ready: you can prevent a lot of injuries if you check for potentially dangerous flying objects now when the earth isn’t shaking. Secure shelving and tall cabinets and dressers to the walls.
7. Figure out your pet situation. Throw a bag of food and extra water dish in your family’s kit (also, a few extra gallons of water).
8. Know what to do as the disaster is hitting: in the basement for tornadoes, under a sturdy table for earthquakes, to higher ground for tsunami. Go through a practice once in awhile at home so it’s automatic if something happens.
9. Don’t panic, Part 1: remember, your kids are watching and taking cues from your emotions. It’s normal to be scared and, eventually, frustrated. But dealing with those emotions calmly will help the kids get through it, too.
10. Don’t panic, Part 2: remember, you’re not alone — your in it with the rest of your community. Stay calm, help others, you’ll get through it.
Crescent City, Calif., was ready. What about you? Do you have a family disaster plan?
Photo: Mr. Wabu via flickr