Earthquakes are not as predictable as we’d like them to be, so when it comes to being prepared, there’s a limited amount one can do. Nevertheless, it’s better to be as prepared as you can for natural disasters which can be inconvenient at best, and deadly at their worst.
One concern after an earthquake is having enough food and potable water – a problem that has to do with a disruption in transportation and related logistics. “It’s not that there isn’t any food, it’s getting food to the damaged area and getting enough there for all the people,” says Karen McHale, an expert in emergency response and the author of Economic Meltdown: A Family Preparedness Plan for Disaster. “There were people after Katrina that did not have food or water for almost a week before they were rescued or could get to a shelter. In northern Japan, there are now no roads, lots of toxic water (full of debris, gas, oil and salt) and the only way in is by boat or helicopter.”
Another common problem during earthquakes and similar disasters is lack of communication. Responders don’t know where people are, and are usually engaged in making a road to get into an area, or traveling by boat. This is due to massive amounts of debris blocking their path on the ground. So depending upon the extent of the damage near your home or blocking road access to your area, you could be waiting for help for many days.
McHale advises that in preparation for an earthquake, storing food and water is a good idea. This is especially important if you live in an earthquake-prone area, like the West Coast of the U.S. “If you store at a minimum a month of canned food, a manual can opener, and one gallon of water per person per day (30 gallons per person for a month), and you could get to this food after damage to your home, you could then get by until help arrived or survive at a basic level for a month or more,” says McHale. “Cans of meat, fish, fruits and vegetables would be the easiest to store and eat cold. Canned food tends to survive structural and water damage.”
Additionally, if you store a camp stove that runs on propane or fuel, you can store bags of rice and beans as well as MREs (ready to eat meals) and enjoy warm beverages, like coffee and tea.
You may not know when an earthquake will strike or exactly how severe it will be, but you can think ahead to what you’d need for survival in the event of extensive damage. Keep an accessible stash of food and water – particularly if you live along a fault line – and know you’re doing everything you possibly can.