The Pacific Northwest flies under the radar as natural disasters go. We get the occasional wind storm or mudslide, and forest fires are certainly a summertime regular, but tornadoes and hurricanes or weeks of sub-zero temps mostly stay away.

Which is partly why the recent article in The New Yorker entitled The Really Big One by Karen Schulz shook Oregon and Washington residents to their collective core.


An earthquake of absolutely epic proportions is lying in wait just off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

The Cascadia subduction zone, a fault line where the Juan de Fuca oceanic plate is slowly forcing its way under the North America tectonic plate, is part of the “ring of fire.” Lesser known than the famous San Andreas fault, the Cascadia subduction zone is becoming a household name on the west coast. When these dueling plates give way, and they will, the resulting earthquake could register an astounding 9.3. The tsunami that follows will destroy everything in its path.

NAVFAC Far East Seabees Repair Hachinohe Fuel Terminal
A fishing vessel lies deep in a Hachinohe wooded area after being swept inland by a tsunami. An 8.9-magnitude earthquake triggered this tsunami that impacted Japan’s eastern coastline causing serve damage and untold loss of life.

From the article: “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast,” says Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA’s Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.

Red Cross provides Food and Suppliesto Flood Victims.
Fernley, NV., January 12, 2008 — Red Cross personnel distribute food and cleanup supplies to flood victims in the parking lot of a local shopping center. FEMA and Red Cross are partners in this flood recovery effort. George Armstrong/FEMA

FEMA projects:

  • 13000 deaths
  • 27000 injuries
  • 1M displaced people needing shelter
  • 2.5 M people needing food and water

Survivors will face months if not years of rebuilding.

Planning for this sort of devastation is so overwhelming it seems almost pointless, and that might be one of the reasons most of us have neither an emergency kit nor an emergency plan.

September is National Preparedness Month and this is the third in a four part series of posts on Emergency Kits. Thus far we’ve talked about the Car Kit and the Under Bed Kit. This week we will focus on the Stay at Home Kit.

Honokaa, HI, October 24, 2006- After recent earthquakes moved this house two feet, The New Hope Christian Fellowship uses jacks to raise and relocate the displaced home. Adam DuBrowa/FEMA.

 The Stay at Home Kit

We must understand these THREE ESSENTIALS when building our Stay at Home Emergency Kits.

You’re On Your Own

When disaster hits, police, fire and medical go to the hardest hit, most highly populated areas. Folks in the suburbs and rural areas may not see emergency help for days. Be prepared to:

  • Dress your own wounds
  • Turn off your own gas and water (if necessary)
  • Repair your own residence
  • Share equipment with neighbors (generators, fire extinguishers, ladders) 
  • Care for children and elderly


It Could Last a Long Time

Utilities, city services, roads and bridges will be restored and repaired in due time, but be prepared to live without creature comforts for more than the standard 72 hours.

The following will serve you well:

  • Camping equipment 
  • Water purification systems
  • Solar powered devices
  • Dehydrated foods 
  • Non-local communication contact


Any Kit is Better than No Kit

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all this planning, but experts assure us any action is better than no action. Start by stashing emergency supplies in one central location, a little at a time. Eventually, you will have a well-stocked Stay at Home Kit. Click on the links below for more information about certain items



  • Large Sturdy Bin (wheels are a plus)
  • Large Trash Can with Lid (wheels area plus)
  • Assorted Bins for Smaller Items with Labels

First Aid

  • Advanced First Aid Kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Repellant
  • Prescription Medications
  • Anti-Diarrheal
  • Pain Relief/Fever Reducer
  • Antihistamine

Shelter & Warmth

  • Generator
  • Tent/Tarp
  • Extra Blankets/Sleeping Bags
  • Space Blankets
  • Stocking Hat
  • Warm Gloves
  • Warm Coat/Rain Coat
  • Complete Change of Clothes
  • Shoes & Socks
  • Warming Packets
  • Sunglasses

Hands/Feet/Head Protection

  • Sturdy Shoes
  • Work Gloves
  • Hard Hat


  • Bottled Water (1 gallon/person/day)
  • Water Filter System
  • Water Containment System
  • Bleach/Eyedropper
  • Hot Water Heater
  • Pool/Hot Tub Water (ok for bathing or flushing)


  • Non-perishable Dry Goods
  • Canned Goods
  • Dry Milk
  • Peanut Butter
  • Nuts/Bars
  • Instant Coffee/Tea
  • Powdered Energy Drinks
  • Emergency Supply of Food

Important Documents

  • ID Documents
  • Cash (small denominations)


  • All Purpose Tool Kit
  • Leatherman Tool/ Pocket
  • Knife/Utility Knife
  • Wrench (to turn off natural gas)
  • Duct Tape
  • Rope
  • Dust Masks
  • Goggles
  • Crowbar


  • Radio (solar, crank or battery)
  • Hard Line Phone
  • Mobile Phones
  • Whistles


  • Head-mounted Flashlights
  • Flashlights (solar, crank or battery)
  • Lanterns (solar, crank, battery or propane)
  • Candles (contained)
  • Lighter/Waterproof Matches
  • Glow Sticks


  • Generator
  • Batteries
  • Solar Chargers
  • Extension Cords

Fire Safety

  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Kitchen
  • Garage
  • Each Floor

Food Prep

  • Camping Stove & Fuel
  • BBQ Grill & Fuel or Charcoal
  • Cooking Pot(s)
  • Cooking Utensils
  • Can Opener
  • Knives
  • Corkscrew
  • Plastic Plates, Cups & Eating Utensils

Hygiene & Sanitation

  • Wet Wipes
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Antibacterial Dish Soap
  • Laundry Soap
  • Unscented Bleach
  • Sponge
  • Towels
  • Paper Towels
  • Garbage Bags

Toiletries/Personal Care

  • Glasses
  • Contact Case & Saline
  • Hearing Aid Batteries
  • Toilet Paper
  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste and Floss
  • Tissues
  • Cotton Balls & Swabs
  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Body Wash or Soap
  • Wash Cloths & Towels
  • Deodorant
  • Lotion
  • Razor & Shaving Cream
  • Nail File
  • Feminine Products

Baby & Children

  • Formula & Bottles
  • Baby Food
  • Kid Food/Snacks
  • Diapers & Wipes
  • Change of Clothes
  • Blanket(s)
  • Comfort Item
  • Crayons/Markers
  • Books/Activity Books

Pet (have your pet microchipped if possible)

  • Collar with Tags
  • Leash
  • Food & Treats
  • Kennel/Cage
  • Toy/Chew Toy
  • Playing Cards


  • Pen & Paper
  • Scissors
  • Prayer Items
  • Books & Puzzle Books
  • Toys & Games
  • Crafts & Projects

It’s impossible to prepare for every sort of disaster, but it IS possible to do something today.

Talk to your family.

Start making a plan.

Start building your kit.

Remember: doing something is better than doing nothing!

Come back next week for our final kit: the IDENTITY KIT

By the way, the following websites have loads of information about disaster preparedness:

The American Red Cross

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (a part of FEMA)

Survival Supply


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