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Be prepared for an earthquake

Laura Willard is a law school grad who has successfully avoided using her education for eight years and counting. She's a wife and an adoptive mom to two kids. Motherhood is the best job she never knew she wanted so much until she had it...

Earthquake prep tips to keep you safe

Earthquakes don't just occur in California! Nobody on the East Coast anticipated the recent earthquake and fortunately, damage was minimal and life wasn't greatly disrupted. But what if a serious earthquake hit? Are you prepared? Check out our tips for preparing for an earthquake -- just in case.

Emergency checklist

After the August 2011 earthquake shook up the East Coast, many people were left wondering what would have happened if there had been serious damage. It turns out that earthquakes aren't just confined to the West Coast. And even those who live in the more common earthquake areas aren't necessarily prepared. Regardless of where you live, you should be ready for an earthquake.

Nobody is suggesting you panic and go crazy, but it's never a bad idea to have a plan and some supplies. Use these lists and tips to ensure that you're in the best position possible in the event of a serious earthquake.

Must have supplies

Tom T. Moore, speaker, frequent radio guest and author of The Gentle Way books, compiled an earthquake packing list. He includes the 10 items you must have now and another 10 you should work on gathering so you're prepared for an earthquake.

Items you need to gather immediately:

  1. Water: You should have one gallon per day per person, and at least a three-day supply per person.
  2. Tent: Moore says this is necessary regardless of whether you stay or evacuate.
  3. Plastic tubs: You need a place to store your emergency supplies.
  4. Dry food: Moore say you need a minimum of a three-day supply, and preferably a seven-day supply.
  5. Flashlights: And don't forget extra batteries.
  6. Documents/papers: Think of your important documents -- Moore suggests birth certificates, passports and financials.
  7. Toilet paper: Plenty!
  8. Toiletries: You need the basics like soap, but for more specifics, see Moore's list.
  9. Medicine: Moore also notes you need copies of your prescription.
  10. Pet food: Have two weeks of pet food and supplies, suggests Moore.

Items you need to add to your earthquake emergency kit:

Moore lists 10 more items that are nearly as important as the first 10. Among them is cash. After all, how would you get money out of an ATM if the power's out? Also, don't forget the can opener, wrench (to turn off your gas) and a radio. See his complete list for all the necessities.

After the quake

In the unfortunate event you find yourself in an earthquake, how you react is very important. "News footage of the [Washington] D.C. earthquake tells us that many people reacted incorrectly, including security personnel," says Paul Purcell, author of Disaster Prep 101 and a terrorism and natural-disaster preparedness specialist. "There are key things you should do before, during and after an earthquake above and beyond 'stop, drop and hold.' "

What are those things? Purcell notes two important items:

  1. Don't use candles if you lose power. "Ruptured gas lines are a distinct possibility," Purcell notes.
  2. Don't evacuate your building immediately. Purcell says that there are other steps you need to take first. Furthermore, there are secondary threats to consider.

Don't forget your digital life

What if you experienced an earthquake and your electronics were destroyed? Broken water pipes can wreak havoc on electronic items like your computers, and devices can be crushed. Assuming everyone in your family is OK, your next priority becomes putting your lives back together. In the old days (you know -- the '90s and early 2000s), the loss of your computer, memory cards from your camera and printed photos was devastating. Those items were irreplaceable.

However, it's 2011 now, and that means you can preserve your digital lives in advance of an earthquake. Consider cloud services such as SugarSync, a leading provider of "personal cloud" services that enable users to access, back up and share all of their data -- anytime, anywhere, and from any device.

Losing personal possession and potentially your home could be devastating, but you can at least have your priceless photos, videos and irreplaceable documents backed up.

As with health and life insurance, you hope you'll never need the supplies you gather and plans you make for an earthquake. However, without them, you could find yourself in a bad position if the worst happened. Heed the expert advice and prepare yourself for an earthquake.

Tell us

Do you have any supplies or plans to add to our earthquake preparation list? Share them in the comments below.

Read more on preparing for an emergency

Be prepared for emergencies this year
Prepare a family disaster plan
Would you survive a disaster?

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