How to protect your family and pets in the event of an earthquake, vital supplies to have on hand, by Melissa Tompkins

Earthquakes are a looming threat here in California.  The “‘big one” is always near and we never know when it will strike.  Being prepared is important and something that we cannot afford not to do.

You should prepare yourself for two things, either you will be evacuated or restricted to your home.

Forced evacuation

In the event that you are forced to evacuate I recommend that you have a back pack with travel supplies in it.  One back pack for each person and one for your pets.  Prepare & store the back packs a head of time so that they are easy to grab in a quick evacuation.  Have extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes if you have to evacuate.  Also, if you have smaller animals that you will have to carry, make sure to have lightweight sherpa bags to use instead of just the big plastic ones.

EXTRA CASH – you may not be able to use your debit or credit cards

Food ideas

It is very important that you have non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home).

  • Beef Jerky
  • apple sauce packets
  • protein bars
  • peanut butter crackers
  • cans of fruit
  • cans of vegetables
  • cans of beans
  • container of nuts
  • can of tuna or chicken
  • pudding containers (the no fridge kind)
  • MRE’s if desired
  • Double zipper bag everything individually
  • Put tape on the food stuffs with the expiration date written LARGE on it so you can see it in low light


Water is an essential resource and you may be without running water for an unknown period of time.  Do not count on being able to buy it at the grocery store once the earthquake hits.  Have at lease one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home).  If you have animals, you will need at least one gallon for them as well.

Have a water filter drinking straw or water filtration device or bleach tablets in case you need to purify your water source.

First aid & toiletries

Having a first aid kit is imperative for treating minor injuries.  Getting medical assistance may be extremely difficult after a large earthquake so I recommend that you have more than one kit.  Have multiple kits for your home and another in your car since you may not be home when the earthquake happens.

Make sure that you have plenty of toilet paper and even feminine hygiene products, as pads can also be used for wound care.

You should not use your gallons of water to bathe with.  I recommend that you have baby wipes, at least two containers per person.  Get some dry shampoo, this is an excellent way to keep your hair cleaner.

If you take prescriptions, make sure you have at least a 7 day of your medications.  Pharmacies may not be open to give refills so don’t let yourself get low.

Safety stuff

Whether you are restricted to your home or evacuated there may be dangers everywhere.  Have a multi-use tool (like a Leatherman’s) easily available.

Make sure that you know how to turn off the gas in your home in case gas your line ruptures, which could easily cause an explosion.

Make sure that you have plenty of flashlights (at least one for each person). If possible get some collapsible solar lights so that you do not have to have as many batteries.

Get a two way radio.  Visibility and hearing may be limited and this will be important if you have to leave any where on foot.

Have a short wave radio –

  • They also have emergency radios at Bed Bath and Beyond.
  • Get the hand crank/solar emergency radio/flashlight/USB charger kind.

Extra batteries are very important.  Go through your supplies and determine what kind of batteries you will need to have on hand.

Make sure that you have an extra set of car keys and house keys in case you get separated or one of your family is injured.

The air may be filled with smoke, powder, gas, or other chemicals so I recommend that you have face masks on hand.

You may not have access to a heat source and if it is winter time the temperatures can drop quickly at night.  Get a Fire starter kit or long burning candle for heat as well as warming food.  Make sure that there are no gas leaks nearby.

Get an emergency flare, like ORION flares, this source of light, recognized by search and rescue internationally as an emergency distress sign.  It can also be source of heat & light, long shelf life and weather resistant. They are flammable solids but not unstable, once lit  they will continue to burn because the chemicals are oxidizers so they generate their own oxygen to support the flame (even drop them in water the keep burning until they run out of fuel).

Make sure you have plenty of blankets accessible, get the super thin aluminum foil kind and put in your backpack if you are evacuated.  Also get a rain poncho if needed and put it in the backpack as well.

You may need to get gasoline which may be very difficult during this time.  Make sure that you have some empty gas cans at home and if it is safe to store, have an extra gallon on hand.

Small but important supplies

  • A whistle, if you are trapped somewhere this can be used to identify your location.
  • Towels.
  • Work gloves.
  • Duct tape.
  • Tools/supplies for securing your home.
  • Extra ammo if you have guns.
  • Plastic sheeting.
  • Scissors.
  • Household liquid bleach.

Lack of sewage

If the water is not running, than neither is your toilet.  It will be essential that human waste is disposed of properly.  Get large buckets lined with heavy duty lawn bags with a little kitty litter for a make shift potty.

Personal use items

Make sure that you have copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies).

Write all of your medical, allergy and other information on cards and get some lamination plastic to seal them, separate cards for each member of the family (including critters).

Make sure you have your cell phone charger.  If you get the portable charging station with hand crank you will be able to charge your phone.

Make sure that you have your family and emergency contact information and maps of the area.

Entertainment items

Consider the needs of all family members and add supplies to your kit.  Have any necessary medical supplies on hand like hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, etc.  If you have small children make sure that you have baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers).

Importantly, have games and activities for children.  After the initial disaster happens there will be lot of wait time, games and activities will help keep the kids calmer.

Pet Safety Kit

Here is a list of things to think about for your pet:

  • #1 Make sure all of your pets are microchipped! What if you are not home when the emergency happens? What if they get scared and get out? How will you identify them?  Microchips are the easiest way to protect them.
  • Have contact info for you neighbors in case you are not home and they are able to help get your pet safely out of your home.
  • Know which hotels are pet friendly in a 10 mile radius of your home.  Remember, not all evacuation shelters will allow pets so it is important that you know where you can go.
  • Food: Keep at least three days of food in an airtight, waterproof container. Make sure you also have a bowl to feed your animals with.
  • Water: Store at least three days of water specifically for your pet(s), this is in addition to water you’ll need for yourself and family.  Make sure you have a bowl for this as well.
  • Medications: Keep an extra supply of medications your pet takes on a regular basis; store in a waterproof container. Remember, veterinary hospitals may not be open if they are also affected by the disaster, so you may not be able to get a refill on important medications.
  • Collar with ID tag, harness and/or leash: Your pet should always wear a collar with its rabies tag and identification. Makes sure you have your pets micro-chip ID number accessible to you
  • First Aid Kit: Talk to our veterinarian about what is most appropriate for your pet’s emergency medical needs.
  • Most kits should at least include:
    • Conforming stretch gauze bandage material (2” x 75”) – can be used to create a pressure wrap, sterile gauze pads (4”x4”) – can be cut to smaller size if needed
    • bandage tape
    • cotton tipped applicators
    • antibiotic ointment
    • flea and tick prevention
    • latex gloves
    • antiseptic wipes
    • anti-clotting powder
    • povidone-iodine prep pads
    • saline solution
    • tweezers, and scissors.
    • protective paws covers – remember there may be broken glass around, you need something to protect their feet if they have to walk on the ground.
  • Important Documents: Place copies of your pet’s registration information, adoption papers, vaccination documents and medical records in a clean plastic/waterproof container and add them to your kit.
  • Muzzle for your dog or cat.  Your pets are likely to be stressed or injured and may bite as a reaction to fear or pain.
  • Crate and another pet carrier: If you need to evacuate in an emergency you will need a safe place to transport your pet in. This is especially true for cats and smaller pets.
  • Sanitation: Cat litter & a litter box if possible.  Paper towels, newspaper, plastic trash bags and house hold coloring bleach will help to provided sanitation if/when needed. You can use bleach as a disinfectant (dilute nine parts water to one-part bleach). Use 8 drops of regular household bleach per gallon of water, stir well and let it stand for at least 30 minutes before use. DO NOT use scented or color safe bleaches or those with added cleaners.
  • A picture of you and your pet together: If you become separated from your pet during an emergency, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you in identifying your pet. Include detailed information about species, breed, age, color and distinguishing characteristics/markings.
  • Familiar items: Put favorite toys, treats or bedding in your kit. Familiar items can help reduce stress for your pet.

Emergencies are scary and can be life changing.  To protect all of your loved ones, both human and animal, the most important thing you can do is to be prepared.

Melissa Tompkins, BS, CVPM

selective focus photography of white and tan shih tzu puppy carrying by smiling woman

Photo by Helena Lopes on






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