Are You Prepared for the Next Big Earthquake?

Here in the Pacific Northwest there’s been a lot of recent talk about being overdue for a big earthquake, especially with the recent article in The New Yorker. Whether it will hit California, Oregon, or Washington, those of us in the PNW know what all the beautiful mountains in the Cascade and Coastal Ranges mean: volcanoes and earthquakes. The Pacific Northwest (this includes Oregon, Washington, and parts of Northern California and British Columbia) sits along the Cascadia Subduction Zone, an area between the Juan De Fuca and North America tectonic plates, both of which are known for earthquakes.

Earthquakes range in type and strength, but subduction zone earthquakes are the most powerful type of earthquake, with the ability to exceed magnitudes over 9.0. Massive and destructive, subduction earthqukes don’t happen very often – the last known massive earthquake supposedly occured in 1700, and scientists have pinpointed a recurrence rate of every 243 years (give or take a few years). Knowing that, the Pacific Northwest is overdue for a devastating earthquake, and millions of residents in California, Oregon, and Washington are not prepared for what may happen.

In order to prepare for the next natural disaster, start stocking up on basic supplies, and use these pointers as a starting point.

Create an Evacuation Kit

You don’t know where you’ll be when a big earthquake hits. Have an evacuation bag ready in your vehicle, and in your home, should you need to relocate to a safer area. The most important items to have in your evacuation kit:

  • Three days of nonperishable food per person/pet – boxed foods (cereal, crackers) and trail mix or protein bars are good and easy to transport
  • Three gallons of water per member in your group – water is extremely important!
  • A radio – get one that’s battery powered or hand cranked
  • Flashlight for each member and batteries to fit (have extra batteries too)
  • First aid kit with medications for all members of the group, and don’t forget over the counter medications
  • Tools, include a multi-function tool, knife, whistle, manual can opener, and waterproof matches
  • Copies of your most important personal documents, preferably laminated, and cash (small bills are the best in emergency situations)
  • Hygiene items, include any needed baby supplies, pet supplies, insect repellant, sunscreen, and feminine hygiene products
  • Clothing (have clothes for warm and cold climates) and rain gear
  • Duct-tape, emergency blankets, and maps of the area
  • Bleach (to purify water) and something to measure liquids (eye dropper, etc.)

Have Items Prepared in Your Home

While you may have put together an evacuation or emergency kit for your car or home, these are the items you should have readily available in your home at all times:

  • Sturdy shoes, long pants, work gloves, and clothes that will protect you from possible debris
  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguishers (you should already have this in your home if you’re a cautious home owner)
  • A radio – same as above, battery powered or hand cranked
  • Flashlight – LED is the best, but remember to have extra batteries
  • Multi-purpose tool, plus tools for turning off any utilities

Think About a Bug Out Bag

There’s no telling what kind of damage a massive earthquake could do to our homes in Oregon and Washington, and there’s no telling what desperate people will do when their entire lives and livelihood are taken away from them in a matter of moments. When the shit really hits the fan, have a Bug Out Bag ready to go. A Bug Out Bag is for when you’re forced to leave your home, either by your own will or by the will of another. The bag helps with temporary survival until a more concrete option presents itself. The most important contents of a Bug Out Bag:

  • Water, or something to store water in
  • Food, again non-perishable
  • Clothing for survival, which means clothing that matches the environment and time of year
  • Shelter, which includes a tent, ground tarp, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad (remember to have some kind of rain guard too)
  • First aid kit, which is put together by the owner of the Bug Out Bag and not a pre-made store bought version
  • Gear – you’ll need items that will give you shelter from rain, help you make a fire, aid you in cooking, provide light, and help you build a shelter (a small shovel, a knife, a small ax, etc.)
  • Weapon, generally in the form of a handgun. This is for your own personal protection and defense

No one wants to experience an earthquake, but nature does its own thing. Be ahead of the game and have these items prepared, because really, there’s no telling what’s to come.


Are you prepared for the next big earthquake? Do you think it will be as bad as they predict? Do you think it’s wise to be prepared?



Brittany Valli
Brittany Valli
Crafting stories from a young age, Brittany was destined to be a writer (well, she thinks so). When she's not working on various novels, short stories or screenplays, she can be found exploring Oregon's many landscapes with her husband, tasting some of the best wine, beer and food Oregon has to offer, relaxin' in a hammock, walking her dogs, or laughing at jokes only she thinks are funny. You can find more about Brittany here: (it's a work in progress)