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Each of you should make some preparation just in case a major earthquake, tornado or hurricane does strike your area. 
It is very important to not overreact following such a major disaster!

There have been dozens of harebrained suggestions from various well meaning groups put forward. We wish to offer you some simple, common sense emergency procedures and reasonable preparations which everyone living should make.


On the top of our list is at least one a legal size clip board with paper and pen or pencil (attached by a string). A red, permanent ink, felt tipped marking pen attached by a string is also necessary for your clipboard. (Carbon paper recommended) and a can of international orange spray paint! The spray paint is used to paint a large arrow on the side of the building/residence that points to the location of the clipboard so that rescuers can find it.

On the top sheet of paper create a form with headings such as:

  1. The Dwelling's Address: 523 Your Street
  2. Preliminary Search: Yes No Searched and Cleared: Yes No To be Searched: Yes No
  3. Owner's name: John Smith Address: 733 His Street Contact #: (just in case a phone is working someplace) 212-555-9112
  4. Principal Occupant's name: Your Name
  5. Total number of occupants in dwelling: People (and pets)

  6. The following is a list of residents at this address: (List of each person resident, your name first, at your location along with their ages)
  7. Name Age Relationship Present Location Condition

  8. John Q. Public 49 owner Local High School Shelter OK Mary Public 46 wife Municipal Hospital Broken leg (treated) Timmy Public 16 son unknown, was at swim class Unknown

  9. Condition of Utilities: Gas: ON OFF Oil: ON OFF Hydro: ON OFF

  10. Additional Notes and Instructions: (sample use follows) Timmy, we are all right. I am at the High School Shelter and Mom is at the hospital with a broken leg. She is doing well. Come to the school. Dad Aug., 12, 1993 - 10:32 a.m. - Building verified and cleared by VUHR Cliff Henry, VUHR Team etc.


The clipboard and form serve the following purposes:

  1. It provides any rescuer with pertinent information on the occupants, their condition and where about.
  2. It allows rescue teams to pass information to other rescuers so that the dwelling is not searched a second or third time thus wasting valuable search efforts.
  3. It provides information to friends and relatives who may have joined in the search for you.
  4. By using carbon paper it provides authorities with a removable record which may be taken to the Disaster Command Center and added to a database.
  5. Can you think of any more purposes this form would serve? 

The red marker will allow a rescuer to place a check mark on the paper to show the dwelling has been cleared.

Radios and Flashlights:

For one thing, you won't need a flashlight or radio inside a basic disaster (earthquake, tornado or hurricane) survival kit. One radio for 200 persons is plenty. A century ago there were zero radios. News will travel from person to person. Radios and a flashlights both need batteries, which run out quickly, have a short shelf life, etc. And don't forget, there probably won't be any stores open that can sell you more new batteries after a major disaster!

If you end up at the refugee center they will probably have an emergency power source such as a small portable generator. If not, why not just sit in the dark to talk in the evenings. If you feel that must have a light source we would recommend chemical light sticks. They are cheap, light weight, readily available and have a long shelf life. One half dozen six inch light sticks! Each will burn for 12 hours (actually, they provide light for a much longer period of time). At least one should be r ed! You will use the red stick if you are trapped or pinned inside and can see outside. Once you have activated the red light stick a rescuer will see that there is someone in need of assistance.

There's an excellent chance, after a major disaster, that martial law will have been declared and you won't be going out at night. In this eventuality most activities requiring light will be done during the day when the sun was out. You prepare for night ahead of time. Depending on how you look at it, and having a positive outlook is very important during such trying times, losing electricity for a few days could actually be a blessing in disguise.

Disaster or Quake Kits:

One of the kits and you should have at least one per household member, should be just inside the front door or near a window in your bedroom. A chemical light stick should be near your bed and readily accessible, not buried down inside your long term survival kit. A good location might be to place one or two between the box spring and mattress on each side of the bed.

A major disaster can happen anytime, day or night. So you have a 50% chance that a disaster hits it will happen during darkness. And if you sleep 8 hours a night then there is a 33.3% chance that you'll be sleeping. 66.7% chance that you'll be awake. How many hours a day are you at work or school? You should have one of our recommended disaster kits there as well. You probably won't be killed or maimed in a major disaster! Look at the statistics. It's kind of like flying. Some people are afraid of flying , but statistically speaking - flying is the safest way to travel. So let's make a reasonable level of general preparation, then we can go about our lives.

In any major disaster people may be killed immediately. But many more will die in the confusion of the aftermath possibly due to occurrences such as fires. Disorganization, lack of communication, no water, screaming people trapped in building rubble will all add to this confusion. People will rush to the large parks, where the authorities said they should go.

Disasters are horrible! People will die. Rumors start. Looting can begin with the breakdown of law enforcement. When regular authority breaks down people believe rumors according to their prejudices. Consequently ethnic people might be killed by insane mobs trying to stop the looting. International rescue teams have been accused of being looters in efforts to prevent their saving lives or to cover up government corruption and mistakes. In a major disaster, the world as you know it, will cease to exist and you must be prepared both mentally and with personal survival kits.

If you live or are in a big city when a major disaster, such as an earthquake, occurs try to get some personal identification like your passport, some money, clothes, etc., and walk out, if it appears possible to do so. A person can walk pretty far in one day with relatively level terrain, roads to follow, etc. No problem. At 4 miles/hour an uninjured person could walk a fair distance in a day or two.

There are several reasons to try to leave the quake area - and to help others do the same. In the Kobe quake we saw the almost total lack of personal initiative on the part of average Japanese citizens. Why should the locals need to be told what makes sense? Tourists driving in, blocking roads so that relief vehicles couldn't get through. Lack of coordination in food delivery. Little effort to search for trapped persons until a couple of days had passed... Unbelievable! A whistle on your pajamas? A pick ax and hydraulic jack would be more appropriate. What is the most reasonable level of preparation? That's our focus. We can't stop the quakes from happening. But we can respond quickly and help others to escape the danger. An important note is in order: the Japanese government wants everyone to go to the large city parks. But if law & order breaks down (followed by lack of sanitation), remember what has happened in history. -Incredibly, just following the Kobe Quake some Japanese news reports said that "foreigners" were looting. In fact, one story told that some foreigners were coming into the area to steal. That's just what "pre-judging" people need to hear! Actually I don't doubt the validity. But the consequences could be disastrous for us minority foreigners. Guilty until proven innocent.... This writer's advice is to make a few newfound friends and walk out to less congested areas, if possible.

The ARTI recommended Quake Kit is cheap, flexible and long lasting. Let the department stores sell their expensive wares. We're going down to the neighborhood shops for our kits. The main part of this kit should cost you a few dollars! That's all. For that amount of "insurance" you are reasonably prepared for most quake-related danger. But if a large cabinet crushes your leg or a chunk of concrete lands on your head then even the most expensive kit in the world wouldn't do you a bit of good, would it?

The essential items are:

  1. a dozen or so disposable dust masks - there will be a lot of dust and airborne bacteria from decaying bodies
  2. 1 roll of toilet paper,
  3. 2 candles,
  4. matches,
  5. 4 safety pins,
  6. a pen,
  7. a small knife,
  8. $20.00 (or more) in cash,
  9. 3-5 meters of strong string,
  10. spoon,
  11. plastic bowl with lid,
  12. 1 liter of bottled water and a water filtration straw,
  13. and 1 package of dry biscuits or crackers.
  14. Heavy winter clothes? Depends on your climate, but maybe a sweater and plastic poncho are a good ideas as well.

These items are put together, wrapped inside 2 T-shirts, then wrapped in a waterproof plastic bag or 4-5 plastic shopping bags. All of this is minimum. And except for the cash and T-shirts it should cost you very little to put this all together.

The idea is to be able to survive the first day or so without too much discomfort given the overall situation. You must make 2 kits. One for home and the other for your primary work or school location. Earthquake preparation kits should be kept: Kit #1 - in trunk of car; Kit #2 - in a plastic sealed garbage can in a hole in backyard filled with sand and covered by a couple of inches of sand on top. Statistically speaking, this would be pretty good preparation. A compact, durable kit which will last for several years.

Think about this - the San Francisco quake happened at 5 p.m. Most people weren't home. So their elaborate kits at home were buried or at least inaccessible. We remember seeing people returning home a few days later - to retrieve (among other things) their emergency kits. You just can't completely prepare for the Big One.

In an emergency situation you must be innovative. This is paramount! Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn once wrote an entire book (while in prison) on onion skins. What can you do with a whole roll of toilet paper? You could write on it, make temporary flags, clean a wound, wrap food for later, blow your nose, twist tightly when wet, then dry, to make a crude wick, etc. And if there's no water you can't flush the toilets or wash your hands. How will you keep clean? Add a large container of `pre ned towelettes' to your survival kit. Sealed, they keep for years. Believe me, there is nothing like wiping your face with one when you've been coated in dust and grime for hours or even days at a time.

This is important - a million people, with limited sanitation! In 3-4 days diseases will begin spreading. Keep as clean as possible.

There is a possibility of heavy smoke from fires. Tie one of the T-shirts around your mouth and nose. If possible, a wet T-shirt. Your 2 T-shirts double as towels or they could be torn into strips for either a tunicate (to stop the blood from a gaping wound) or a splint. With toppled buildings nearby wood for splints should be readily available.

A broken arm or dislocated shoulder? Use those safety pins (or even heavy staples, glue, etc.) to make one T-shirt into a temporary sling. Affix the hem to the neckline. Put the T-shirt on and slip the arm into the "sling" made by the material.

And you really should add a few more things. But at least have the water, biscuits and a few other things on hand. To make 2 kits the cost is negligible. And it's all useable, long lasting stuff. Your school/office based kit should have extra prescription medication, contact lens cleaner, sanitary napkins, etc. Imagine that you can't go home and no stores will be open for a few days.

Part of your kit might include a few cans of cola. It has a long shelf life and carbohydrates. Chocolate though won't last through one August. As we stated earlier you want nothing that needs batteries. But then a deck of cards or flask of whiskey would be useful. Whiskey is a pain killer, friend maker, and crude sterilizer. How about one of those paperback books that you've been planning to read someday. Do you smoke? Unless you plan to quit for a few tense days you may want to add a few packs to your k it.

Without a change of clothes and probably no razor you won't win any beauty contests, but then who wants to carry extra baggage either. Realistically ... you'll probably be aiding the injured in some relief center rather than just saving your own skin. You'll help with foraging, traffic control, caring for the injured, etc. Don't plan to be alone nor completely outside. But this depends largely on where you live.

For disaster planning bureaucrats in many countries think they have it down pat. A lot of wisdom goes into their decision making. But when the unexpected happens it seems that no one knows what to do unless they're told. If and when a tragedy does strike ... let's help our neighbors and show them how to make quick decisions - that save lives.



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