I've lived in California nearly all my life, and I've never purchased an earthquake survival kit, nor have I done much else to prepare for the Big One.
Farhad Manjoo is a technology columnist for the New York Times and the author of True Enough. My lack of preparedness isn't unusual; one recent survey found that only 40 percent of my fellow Golden Staters have a family emergency plan. Getting all your gear in a single package may be more expensive than spending a day at Costco and a hardware store to assemble your own. Since flashlights, like pens and umbrellas, have a tendency to get lost, buy several; the Red Cross recommends that you keep a flashlight and a pair of sturdy shoes by each person's bedside. Most survival guides recommend that you keep a portable radio on hand to keep abreast of the news and emergency updates, but many all-in-one kits don't include this crucial device.
If you live in a sunny place and have a lot of gadgets you want to keep charged up, consider a solar charger.

If you've stored many of your most precious things digitally, it's a good idea to back that stuff up when you're planning for a disaster. When the massive quake hit Christchurch, New Zealand, last month my wife and I resolved, once more, to finally start preparing for the inevitable. The advantage is that it requires just a couple clicks, and you can do it right this instant (which is what you should do).
Fortunately, LED flashlights are small and cheap (this Neiko Super-Bright sells for $4 on Amazon).
One of the most popular is the EtA?n Microlink, which sells for $30, and runs on solar and hand-crank powera€”you can turn the crank to power the radio and a built-in flashlight, as well as to charge your phone (the USB port will plug into most phones).
You put this $30 solar charger in the sun to keep its internal battery charged; plug in your phone, iPod, or other USB device for a quick backup charge. FEMA recommends that you make your supplies portable; pack all your gear into a backpack so that you can escape with it in a hurry.

This way you won't have to scramble to save your photos, music, financial documents, and other things when you've got to leave. Every kid in earthquake-prone regions learns this in school, but these lessons tend to evaporate during a disaster.
But because you may not be home when disaster strikesa€”or your kit may not be accessible even if you are at homea€”it's a good idea to keep extra supplies in your car and at work. It's got enough suppliesa€”food bars, water, emergency blankets, first aid supplies, etc.a€”to sustain two people over three days. Bottled water is often stamped with a sell-by date, but these dates are mainly for stock-keeping purposes.

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