Be Ready!

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Disaster preparedness is critical, yet many of us put it off until it’s too late. “It won’t happen here,” “things won’t be that bad,” and “it’s so expensive, I just don’t have the money” are reasons people commonly cite for not being ready should a disaster occur today.

Here in the Antelope Valley, we sit on top of the largest known fault line in the state, the San Andreas fault (you can see it from Highway 14, just north of Avenue S, where the freeway cuts through it – look for the heavily swirled rock patterns). The section of the fault we live in, known as the “Big Bend,” is highly unusual and doesn’t move as freely as the rest of the fault. In addition, while the northern segment of the fault (San Francisco area) has had several large quakes in modern history, most recently the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, the southern segment is considered to be 150 years overdue. A major quake in Southern California will cut off utilities, disrupt transportation and supply lines, create several thousand structure fires, cause massive structural damage across the region, and separate families for weeks, if not months. Emergency personnel and supplies will be tapped to the max, without enough of either to go around.

However, earthquakes aren’t the only disasters we face. Windstorms and rainstorms, flooding, blizzards (like the one in December 2008), fire, terrorist attacks, heat waves…the list goes on. Some of these may be short-lived and pass quickly, and may not seem like “disasters,” but they can all have the same after-effects nonetheless: cut-off utilities, disrupted supply lines, impossible transportation, medical emergencies, major traffic collisions, property damage, injuries, and deaths.

Are you worried yet? Good. Now here’s the good news: it’s easier to get ready than you think.

A good earthquake supply kit will also work for just about any other type of disaster, no matter how small. A few basic supplies are all it takes to make the difference between helpless panic and confident security.

This list is broken down into two sections. Take your time reviewing it. Remember, doing just a little bit each month is far better than not doing anything at all.


A disaster kit, if put together all at once, can seem expensive, especially for larger families. Add in the fact that you should have three kits - one each for home, car, and work - and the cost can seem overwhelming. However, just purchasing one to three items each month can break it down and make it manageable for your budget. We’ve suggested which items you should buy together to keep the monthly cost down. If you can afford to do so, make this a weekly guide rather than a monthly one, to be fully prepared that much sooner.

Month 1
  • Water – one gallon per person per day for 3-5 days (if you have a four-person family, 12-20 gallons)
  • Spare prescription medication – ask your doctor for samples or an extra prescription, and keep the extra in your kit; rotate it out every month with new medicine
  • Spare eyeglasses – when you get a new pair, put the old pair (in a hard case!) in your kit; the same goes for dentures if possible
Month 2
  • First aid kit
  • Utility wrench (for shutting off gas)
Month 3
  • Non-perishable food, preferably that doesn’t need cooking, such as canned foods, granola bars, jerky, “disaster food” bars, etc., as well as “comfort” foods such as cookies or candy – enough for 3-5 days
  • Hand-operated can opener
Month 4
  • Portable AM/FM radio (battery-operated, solar, or hand-crank)
  • Spare batteries if needed
  • Sunscreen
  • Bleach (for treating water from non-bottled sources)
Month 5
  • Flashlights – one for each family member (these don’t have to be fancy, and can often be picked up for as little as a dollar)
  • Spare batteries
  • Baby/toddler care items (if applicable), such as diapers, wipes, formula, etc.
  • Feminine supplies (if applicable)
Month 6
  • Change of clothes for each person – these can be older, worn-out items: instead of throwing them out or donating them, stick them in your kit (make sure you rotate them as your kids grow!); don’t forget socks and underwear
  • Comfortable walking shoes or sturdy boots – again, can be older items
Month 7
  • Fire extinguisher – we suggest getting an ABC-type extinguisher, and the biggest one you can afford AND reasonably manage (2A10BC lasts twice as long on both A and B type fires as 1A5BC, and 4A30BC lasts four times as long on type A fires and three times as long on type B fires)
Month 8
  • Blankets – solar blankets (these look like giant pieces of foil) can be picked up for under $2 apiece, and will keep you warm in the winter and protect you from the sun’s heat in the summer; they also take up very little space in a kit
  • Toilet paper and plastic bags for waste disposal (the bags newspapers come in work well for this purpose)
  • Pet food and care items, such as a water dish and spare leash (if applicable)
Month 9
  • Waterless hand sanitizer
  • Paper plates, plastic cups, plastic utensils, garbage bags
  • Comfort items, such as toys, books, stuffed animals, board games, etc.
Month 10
  • Storage totes to put it all together – should be water-resistant (a duffel bag won’t protect your kit in a flood) and shock-resistant in case it gets bounced around during the quake or an aftershock. Keep the items inside sealed in plastic bags to protect against bugs and condensation. Especially for larger families, several smaller totes may be easier to manage than one large tote.

Each month, set aside one hour of time to review skills and decide on a plan should a disaster occur, and mark it on your calendar. Remember, disaster planning is a family activity, so get everyone involved.

Month 1
  • Begin putting your disaster kit together. Plan out the items you will need (using our list above as a minimal guideline) and make a list.
  • Determine where your kit will be kept. Your disaster kit should be in a readily accessible place where it’s not likely to be blocked by other items that could fall in front or on top of it (garages are a bad idea unless you have no other options). Consider keeping it under your bed or by the front door, for example.
Month 2
  • Review or learn first aid and CPR skills, and have all responsible members of your household do the same.
Month 3
  • Learn where your utility shut-offs are and learn how to shut them off properly. Test your gas shut-off by turning it an eighth-turn (just so it’s diagonal to the pipe, NOT all the way perpendicular), and call the gas company if it’s rusted open or otherwise won’t turn. If you use propane, identify where the tank shut-off valves are and turn them a half-turn to ensure that they work properly. (This includes barbeque propane tanks!)
Month 4
  • Create your family plan. Determine where your meeting place will be and establish an out-of-state contact. Plan for all possibilities, such as the kids being at school, you being at work, your whole family being out shopping, etc.
Month 5
  • Review or learn basic fire suppression skills. Practice using your fire extinguisher (without pulling the pin) to familiarize yourself with its weight. Remember PASS – Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep.
  • Teach your kids to “stop, drop, and roll” if their clothes catch on fire.
Month 6
  • Review “drop, cover, and hold” procedures with your family, and identify places in your home where you can do just that. Practice “drop, cover, and hold” with your family.
Month 7
  • Identify hazards in your home. Secure your water heater, install safety latches on your cabinets and drawers, and brace your furniture to the wall with brackets or earthquake straps. Secure fragile items to shelves using earthquake putty. Don’t forget to secure your televisions and other heavy electronics and appliances too!
Month 8
  • Review your homeowner's or renter's insurance coverage, if you have it. If you don’t have insurance, consider purchasing some. Make sure all your information is up-to-date, including inventories. Even if you choose not to purchase coverage, walk through your home and make a list of all your family’s possessions, including makes/models, serial numbers, purchase dates (if known), approximate current values, etc. (Inventories should be updated at least once every six months to ensure all your possessions will be covered in the event of a claim.) If you have one available, use a video recording device to make a visual documentation of your inventory, and keep a copy in a safe place outside the home (such as a safe deposit box or a relative out of the area).
Month 9
  • Collect all your family’s important documents, such as birth certificates, social security cards, immunization records, immigration documents, etc., and place them in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box or a portable fire safe. Keep a copy in a safe area outside the home, such as an out-of-state relative (we suggest wherever you keep a copy of your home inventory for ease of remembering).
Month 10
  • Create an “Immediate Response Kit” for each member of your family. These kits are simple but contain critical items in the first moments after a disaster event. Include at a minimum: sturdy shoes or boots, work gloves (for protection from broken glass and other hazards), a flashlight with fresh batteries or glow sticks, and an “OK/HELP” card and tape to attach to your front door (to let response workers know if you need help or if they can go to the next home). Consider hard hats or helmets as well (good, strong bike helmets will work for kids) to protect from falling debris. Keep one of these kits next to or under each bed in the home, one per person, and teach your kids to use their kit right away if a disaster strikes.
Month 11
  • Make a plan for extended events, such as the weeks or even months after a severe earthquake. Decide what your family will do for shelter, food, and other basic supplies, and have a contingency plan in place in case those options aren’t available.
  • If you haven’t already, begin assembling disaster kits for each of your vehicles, as well as a personal kit for your workplace. These kits may not have all the same items (or may have different items) as your home kit, but should include at least one gallon of water per person per day, enough non-perishable food for 3-5 days, blankets, flashlights, and sturdy shoes. By having multiple kits, not only will you be prepared no matter where you are when disaster strikes, but the kits can be combined to create an extended survival kit that will last a week or more.
Month 12
  • Learn how to “shelter-in-place.” Terrorism, radiological accidents, and even severe smoke blown in from fires can create hazardous environments. Designate a room in your home that has minimal doors and windows and will fit everyone comfortably (a master bedroom with an attached bathroom is ideal). For instructions on “sheltering-in-place,” visit’s website.
For more tips and information, contact the City of Lancaster’s Public Safety Office at (661) 723-6063, or visit the following websites:

Ready America
State of Washington, Emergency Management Division (preparedness information for seniors, disabled, and others at-risk)
Are You Prepared?