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When Things Get Shakey

In the Southland, we all have to make like the Boy Scouts and be prepared--for the Big One and the little ones. Here's what your earthquake kit should contain.


They're back.

Northridge earthquake aftershocks are making headlines again and so is the prospect of the Big One. And while scientists studying the area's ample network of nervous faults may differ in their scenarios, no one is arguing with Caltech seismologist Kate Hutton's recent comment that "the people of California need to be prepared at any time."

So now is a good time to take another look at your earthquake supply situation--has your bottled water really been sitting there for five years?--and update from experience.

"It is a pain to get prepared," says Jeff Edelstein of SOS Survival Products in Van Nuys. "People see all these lists and think about the time and money involved, but don't be overwhelmed. Just set some goals--water, food, lighting, safety items--and make a timetable. Then each week set a few things aside."


* A flashlight and fresh batteries should be handy in every room. Power-failure lights, plugged into outlets for constant recharging, will see you through the immediate crisis.

* Three- to four-day food supply per person.

* Two gallons of water per day per person.

* Tools such as crescent wrench to turn off gas and water (learn how to use beforehand), hammer, screwdrivers (flat and Phillips), shovel, ax, crowbar. Keep a garden hose for siphoning, and plastic tape and plastic sheeting to cover damaged windows.

* Portable (or solar) radio and batteries. (Portable TV and batteries, if you want more than audio contact.)

* Water purification tablets.

* Fire extinguisher (learn how to use it beforehand).

* Manual can opener.

* Keep cash on hand, because automated teller machines may not be working and merchants may not accept personal checks. Credit cards could also be useless if the electronic network is out of commission.

* Paper plates, cups and plastic utensils.

* Blankets.

* Comfortable clothes and shoes.

* Alternative cooking source, such as a barbecue grill or camp stove. Include matches and heavy-duty aluminum foil.

* First-aid kit, which should include prescription medications, antibiotic ointment, bandages, gauze pads and tape, pain reliever/aspirin, anti-diarrhea medicine, laxatives, anti-gas medicine, rubbing alcohol, cotton balls, scissors and tweezers.

* Toilet paper and tampons.

* Large trash bags.

* Resealable plastic bags for human waste.

* Thick-soled shoes and heavy gloves for cleaning debris.

* Newspapers (besides whiling away hours reading old articles, you can use them to clean up spills and plug holes).


* Keep gas tank full.

* Keep cellular phones, and extra batteries, charged.

* Cash and coins.

* First-aid kit, which should include antibiotic ointment, bandages, gauze pads and tape, rubbing alcohol, cotton balls, scissors and tweezers.

* Moist towelettes.

* Flashlight and batteries.

* Nonperishable foods.

* Manual can opener.

* 2 gallons of water in five-year packs or boxes.

* Extra prescription medicine and extra eyeglasses.

* Portable radio.

* Toilet bags.

* Utility knife.

* Flares.

* Blanket or sleeping bag.

* Fire extinguisher.

* Screwdriver and pliers.

* Local maps.

* Rugged clothes and comfortable shoes.

* Hat or visor.

* Whistle.

* Pen and paper.


* Extra clothes and comfortable shoes.

* Nonperishable foods.

* Manual can opener.

* Essential medication.

* Portable radio and spare batteries.

* Blanket or sleeping bag.

* Moist towelettes.

* Toilet paper and tampons.


Grocery stores may be closed for several days, so plan accordingly. Here are some guidelines.

* Choose foods that store well without refrigeration, such as canned meat, fish, soup, macaroni, beans, chili, vegetables, spaghetti, ravioli, fruit, juice, nuts, peanut butter, jelly, pudding and evaporated milk.

* Store staples such as crackers, cereal, rice cakes, snack bars, dried fruit, legumes and dried milk in plastic jars.

* Buy foods that are low in sodium. You don't want to deplete your water supply.

* Store food in a dark, cool area.

* Don't forget the fifth major food group: snacks. Chocolate can be soothing after a quake.

* Rotate foods once or twice a year to avoid spoilage.

* If you want to get specialized, dehydrated food and water packs with a five-year shelf life are available at specialty stores.

* If power is out, first eat food from the refrigerator. Next, freezer food and, lastly, nonperishables. (Frozen food lasts several days if the freezer door is kept closed.)

* Do not use canned foods that are bulging or leaking.

* Do not use food from open containers near broken glass or spilled household chemicals.

* Do not eat perishable foods that become warm. Bacteria grow rapidly without refrigeration and may cause food poisoning.

Water (Drinking)

Keeping water in your body is critical. Symptoms of mild dehydration include impatience, fatigue, emotional instability and apathy. Symptoms of severe dehydration include headache, sunken eyes and cheeks, difficulty breathing, weakness, mental confusion and rapid but weak pulse. Here's what you'll need.

* Two gallons of water per day per person.

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