The first week in May is National Emergency Preparedness Week, and I know many people are still procrastinating when it comes to creating an emergency plan. Since I live on the West Coast, I’m going to cover the basics of what you need to have on hand in the case of a large earthquake, and specifically, what you should pack in a “grab-and-go” bag. There are all sorts of thoughts and opinions on what needs to be included, so do your research and figure out what feels right for you.

Grab-and-Go Bag

There are some emergencies that may involve you having to leave your home. In this case you want to be prepared with a “grab-and-go” bag. The contents of grab-and-go bag need to be a bit different than what you keep in your home kit. This morning I decided to review the contents of my grab-and-go bag and sadly, they came up kind of lacking. Check out the photo (at right) and you’ll see what I mean.

From left to right I have:

  • My backpack (waterproof-ish),
  • 3 foil emergency blankets,
  • matches and a lighter,
  • a hand-crank flashlight,
  • an extra set of keys to my apartment,
  • a rain poncho,
  • extra underwear (in a tin!? I have no idea where I found these)
  • a small pack of bandages
  • liquid iodine (for wounds as well as purifying water),
  • a pocket knife/multi-tool,
  • a large bike light (battery dead),
  • lip balm,
  • a small bike light,
  • two pairs of socks,
  • a Red Cross, ‘Be Ready’ guidebook,
  • a needle and thread,
  • a bulldog clip and some rubber bands (you never know),
  • a half litre of bottled water (lightly crushed),
  • a burgundy pashmina (for warmth, can be used as a signal flag),
  • a set of plastic cutlery,
  • an orange, long-sleeved, tight-fitting shirt,
  • two easy-open containers of chili,
  • and a water purification kit.

Clearly, I’m missing some crucial items. For one thing, when I tried the lip balm, it felt more like a glue stick. Also, I don’t have enough water to last a day, and I haven’t included any money or identification. Here is what I’ve added/replaced in my kit to make it more complete:


My grab-and-go kit contents after adding a few of the missing items. We’ll see if it all fits back in the bag!

  • A 2 litre jug of drinking water,
  • a small first aid kit that contains Band-Aids, gauze, pain reliever (including a few T3s I had left over from a dental procedure), sterile wipes, eye drops, tweezers, scissors, super glue, antibiotic ointment, hand sanitizer, and sunscreen,
  • thick soled footwear,
  • a bit of cash,
  • a sample pack of my current medications,
  • a couple of protein bars and some other non-perishable, high protein snacks that are light and easy to carry,
  • toilet paper and/or wet wipes,
  • a whistle,
  • a warm hat,
  • a photocopy of my passport,
  • an extra pair of prescription glasses,
  • a pair of pants,
  • duct tape and garbage bags (It’s kind of amazing what you can do with these two items. You can make a rain coat or even a small shelter. You can even fashion waterproof footwear if necessary),
  • a candle,
  • a list of important contact phone numbers (both in the area and out of province)
  • new lip balm.

You will need to pack a backpack for each member of the household (including your pets) that contains all of the above. Also, make sure that you discuss your emergency plan with every member of the household. Designate an off-site meeting area in case you and your family are separated at the time of an emergency. If you have children, you may want to make it their school or daycare.

In the case of an earthquake, which may cause buildings to become unstable, you will want to have a meeting area that is outside and clear of trees, power lines and potential rubble. Choose an open park or baseball diamond near your home. Plan your route so that you can steer clear of bridges and elevated causeways. It’s good to have a printout of your planned route in your grab-and-go kit in case you are separated from your loved ones.

Many people have been injured leaving their building too soon after the initial thrust of an earthquake. Please take into account that there will most likely be aftershocks. Only leave your home if it has become unstable! Try to resist the urge to run to your child’s school and fetch them. Trust that their school has an emergency preparedness plan and that they are in good hands until it’s safe for you to get there. You are no good to them if you are injured or killed in your rush to retrieve them.

This week, In honour of Emergency Preparedness Week (May 5-11th) I encourage you to take an hour or so to review your emergency preparedness plan and make any edits you might need for you and your family. This is one of those ‘sooner is better’ kind of tasks that many people procrastinate on. But, you’ll most likely find that many of the items needed for your kit can already be found around your home. No excuses!