I--along with a WHOLE LOT of other people--have been spending the last four days living out what it would be like for a 7.7 earthquake to strike the center of the United States.
Although, I have to admit: I had one of the cushy desk jobs.
Every year FEMA (that's the Federal Emergency Management Agency) stages a national-level disaster exercise of some type. This year, in observation of the 200th anniversary of the 1811 earthquake that struck along the New Madrid Fault, the National Level Earthquake (NLE) simulates a major quake in the Midwest.
After four days of working through the logistics of more than a million people without power (just in our state), no potable drinking water, natural gas leaks (and resulting fires), major bridge and roadway failures, and no telephone or cell service (not even 911!), I cannot emphasize how important it is for EVERYBODY to have a disaster plan at home.
How would you get along if you couldn't do the most basic things--like flip on a light or drink your tap water--for days, if not weeks?
There are a lot of info and tips on disaster preparedness online at: http://www.ready.gov/. Take a few minutes and check it out. This makes a good family project to put together a go kit.
I'm not talking anything fancy or exotic.
Look how simple this is:
(In full disclosure, our kit here at my house is in a Rubbermaid tub that we keep in the basement. This particular kit I have pictures of is a kit I recently took to an elementary school for an earthquake awareness day demonstration.)
Stock the kit with basic essentials to get you (and everyone in your family) through three days.
Some of the basics include batteries, a mini first aid kit, a foil-type thermal blanket just-in-case, glow sticks, a leatherman tool, and small hand- and foot-warming packets.
Don't forget to pack water and food that doesn't require cooking or a can opener (unless you pack the can opener!). These nutrition bars and water packets, which will last up to 5 years, are available online.
But you don't have to go fancy. I stock my home kit with peanut butter, crackers, canned tuna and granola bars. Just rotate them out once in a while, so they stay fresh.
Another piece of advice I learned the hard way: Beware of bottled water in plastic jugs--the plastic can give out after a while and leak! I did a regular check of my kit a while back and found everything floating in my storage tub (except the water-logged TP). So, I had to clean it up and start from scratch.
Don't forget to include supplies for your pets in your kit, too.
The rule of thumb is to stockpile, at a minimum, everything you'll need for 72 hours.
It's better to plan now, and not wait until it's too late!
In case you want to read a little more about the NLE 2011, click here.