My Incomplete Emergency Kit

Chile was hit by an 8.3 earthquake, and then a 15 foot tsunami. They killed 12 people. The news is already fading, possibly because the death toll wasn’t higher. The one million Chileans who had to evacuate, undoubtedly are very aware of the news even if Western media has moved on to the next story. As I’ve written before,

I live over an earthquake fault, have to drive through a tsunami zone to get home, am within about a hundred miles of three large volcanoes, and live on an island that is only tied to the mainland by one bridge and two ferries. Do I worry much? No, at least not about that. – What Me Worry

Chile quakes > 2.5

Chile quakes > 2.5

My neighborhood quakes > 2.0

My neighborhood quakes > 2.0

I do, however, take precautions; note the pre- and the -cautions. Today’s task was simple, but like many precautions, put off until it was heightened by news; it was time to open my earthquake kit and update it.

Take everything needed to survive a disaster and stuff it into a garbage can. Stick the garbage can outside because anything inside the house may not be accessible in a disaster. Figuring out what to pack is an exercise in frugality. What has true value when the bare essentials truly matter? And, what few frivolities can make the experience a bit more human?
Putting together a kit of stuff that is hopefully never used is very likely to be a thankless task that has costs and no benefits. Putting together an emergency kit, however, is better insurance than any policy and can be cheaper than an annual premium. I put this kit together years ago, so long ago that I don’t know how old it is. I’ve listed almost everything in the kit (I left out some details like specific clothes and meals) because others have asked for the list. My list is that of an amateur. I’m sure the Red Cross, FEMA, and local authorities have official lists; but this blog is about the reality of what one person does.

As tedious as this can sound, trust me, opening a can after years held a suspense. What crawled in while I ignored the kit? Had anything leaked and ruined everything else? Would those clothes fit?
Surprisingly, only a few things needed to be tossed or replaced. Drugs were out of date. A few fuel canisters were slightly rusted. The only thing that leaked was contained in one baggie that held a Sterno-type fuel canister and Coast Guard rations. I don’t want to know which leaked. I’ll just toss the bag. Two bugs died, stuck to the duct tape, immortalized or at least mummified.
Of course, I don’t want to use the kit, but I’m glad I went through it. It took less than an hour or two to unpack it, sort through it, and repack it. Resupply and upgrades won’t cost much, but with my finances I might do it incrementally because most of the important stuff is in there already. If you haven’t built a kit, take notes, check with the officials, and use it as an excuse for an eclectic shopping trip. And, I hope you never have to use it; but if you do, it can be one of the most frugal and valuable chores you’ve ever accomplished.

My Earthquake Et Al Emergency Kit

  • Medical (people are #1 priority)
  • Vodka (100 proof and a multi-tasker for a cheap disinfectant that can be drunk)
  • Gatorade (tastes good when working hard, and encourages replacing fluids and salts)
  • Imodium (which I’ll update and goes with the upset tummy)
  • Tums (because an upset stomach won’t be a surprise)
  • Advil (which I’ll replace with ibuprofen)
  • 53 piece first aid kit (unopened, and not going to, but could understand replacing much of it)
  • Safety Gear (protection to keep a healthy body healthy)
  • Boots (old leather ski boots because something tough is needed in case there’s lots of sharp debris)
  • Work gloves (plural because they will wear out)
  • Plastic gloves (because chemical and body fluids are messy)
  • Hat (I live by the Salish Sea, so rain might happen at the same time)
  • Safety glasses (duh)
  • Safety goggles (in case glasses aren’t enough)
  • Dust mask (the disaster could be volcanic)
  • Tools (to tear down, dig in, and build up)
  • Hammer (pulling and driving nails)
  • Nails (no time for screws)
  • Crowbar (a claw hammer may not be enough)
  • Utility knife (the more tools the better )
  • Screwdriver (unscrewing things like door hinges)
  • Shelter (in case it gets that bad)
  • Tarp (a couple big ones, maybe to patch a roof, maybe to create a roof)
  • Nylon line (rope might be better, but it is bulky)
  • Duct tape (an infinity of uses)
  • Plastic drop cloth (not as strong as a tarp, but can cover windows, create a dry space, etc.)
  • Food (gotta eat)
  • Sterno (any non-perishable heat source, especially one that doesn’t leak)
  • Matches (even for self-lighting stoves)
  • Metal cup (also serves as a mini pot)
  • Metal plates (paper plates aren’t as reuseable)
  • Paper plates (backup supplies and useful as signage)
  • Cups (drinking, storage)
  • Water bottle (in case clean water is available but in short supply)
  • Travel mug (like the water bottle for hot stuff)
  • Aluminum foil (the culinary version of duct tape)
  • Baggies large and small (good for leftovers, and general storage)
  • Utensils (something to cook and eat with)
  • Rations (something military, Coast Guard, etc.)
  • Freeze dried dinners (hiking food)
  • Beans (simple and nutritious)
  • Rice (simple and nutritious)
  • Paper towels (napkins, cleaning, toilet paper, whatever)
  • Clothes (just in case disaster strikes suddenly while naked)
  • Sweats (old workout gear that’s too tacky to wear elsewhere)
  • Sewing kit (a button can be a big thing if it isn’t there)
  • Poncho (about that rain and wind possibility)
  • Modern logistics (insurers and officials will have requirements)
  • Paper (good time for chronicling)
  • Pen (or pencil or both)
  • Sharpie (thick enough to make signs, thin enough to mark possessions)
  • Camera (was more of an issue before embedded cameras)
  • Radio (time to go old school, hand-cranked is best)
  • Light (LEDs make this much easier, hand-cranked is best, and is probably in the radio)
  • Glowsticks (not good for very long, but in the early hours it is good to have a non-combustible light source)
  • Daypack (in case evacuation is necessary)
  • Cards (for sanity if the situation persists)
  • Stuff for stuff (you know, stuff)
  • Trash bags (there will be trash, and can also supplement tarps, ponchos, etc.)
  • 5 gallon bucket with lid (storage, a seat, an icky toilet, a drum, etc.)
  • Garbage can (everything is packed inside it, but when it is empty it becomes a rain barrel, or storage, or a bigger drum, or a very cramped shelter)
  • Should add (as I emptied the contents I wondered why I didn’t have…)
  • Spare glasses (near and far as needed)
  • Folding saw (something for tear down, repair, and firewood)
  • Towel (a resourceful person always knows where their towel is)
  • Money (hesitate to put it in an outdoor kit, but cash machines might not work)
  • Copies of important papers (gotta prove identity and ownership and whateve)
  • Contact info (gasp, might have to actually use someone’s phone number or address instead of relying on the computer)
  • Wrench (for turning off gas or water)
  • Solar charger (amazing what can be charged now that technology has advanced)
  • Iodine (how did I miss iodine tablets or a water filter?)
  • Map (of course, a local map, to better communicate with others and plan routes as necessary)

(Pardon the formatting, but WordPress is not being WYSIWYG tonight.)

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: and at my amazon author page:
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4 Responses to My Incomplete Emergency Kit

  1. Kelly says:

    Great list! I’m inspired to put one of my own together.

  2. Pete Ivkovic says:

    Water. Water is huge.

  3. Tom Trimbath says:

    Glad I live where it rains, usually – except for those pesky droughts.

  4. Pingback: Whidbey Has Faults – About Whidbey

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