When the big one hits, it pays to be prepared

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Everyone needs a little jolt now and then.

Twenty years ago (ack!), in the fall of 1989, there was a small earthquake in the middle of the night. My boyfriend and I were rattled enough to run out the next day and buy supplies: Water, first aid kit, transistor radio and flashlights. Smart move on our part: the 7.1 Loma Prieta quake hit three weeks later. And we were prepared. The radio in particular was handy, since the electricity was out for days.

Sunday night a 4.7 earthquake hit Los Angeles; not that big, but with an epicenter close enough to my house to shake things up pretty good and scare my kids (and me) witless.

And so I'm thinking it's time to run out and buy some earthquake supplies again. Just in case, you know.
In California, it's not a matter of if the Big One is going to hit, it's a matter of when. But no matter where you live, it's a good idea to have an emergency kit assembled and ready for when your version of "The Big One" hits.

Here's the very least of what you should have, along with a rough estimation of price.

Water -- enough for every person in your household (a normally active person drinks 2 quarts a day, but more in hot climates), to last for three days. Don't forget your pets. Add two quarts per person for food preparation and personal hygiene. Store gallons in plastic containers, and change out every six months.

Transistor radio -- Whether or not you still have Internet access or cable TV depends on the severity of the quake. The only way to get information might be the retro way: via transistor radio. I have one that you can hand-crank once the batteries run out. Here's one that can power up your cell phone as well! The best $25 you'll ever spend.

Flashlights or lanterns -- Boy you will be glad to have these on hand when the lights go out after a big one. Keep an array of flashlights around the house, as well as in your emergency kit (these are the ones your kids know not to touch under pain of death). Keep one near your bed, too. Flashlights can be had cheaply at any drug store, but I suggest buying a quality model at a hardware store for a bit more. (some models run as much as $150) They're sturdier and will last a lot longer...and frankly you'll just feel more secure with a big-ass flashlight than with a cheapy drug store model.

Battery-powered lanterns throw off a lot more light, and are infinitely safer in disaster situations than gas or kerosene lamps. Many hand-cranked radios also double as a flashlight. Don't forget to keep a stash of extra batteries, as well.

Although phone lines jam up after a quake, Twitter might still work, Just as people are now twittering about their airplane crashes, this most annoying trend may actually turn out to be helpful.

First Aid Kit -- You should keep one in the house and one in your car. These can run anywhere from $10 at your local drugstore to more than $50 and beyond, depending on what you have in them. The Red Cross recommends you have these items in your First Aid kit.

Extra food -- Can't hurt to have a few cans of something you can stand to eat cold put away for a shaky day. Granola and energy bars keep well in the pantry, too. Don't forget to stash a hand-held can opener. You can buy an extra few cans of fruit or vegetables (or Spam, if you're into that) every shopping trip and not add too much to your grocery bill. Don't forget your pets, either!

I like to keep extra blankets and sensible shoes in my car as well, just to be prepared. You never know when the next earthquake will hit. At least be ready for it.
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