Be Prepared. No, Be More Prepared Than That.

Wondering how much can be written about earthquake kits? Well, that depends in part on how many earthquake kits you have. Continue on for the third of Mr. Sandwich’s disaster-preparedness posts.

Be Prepared is the motto of the Boy Scouts. Not that I was ever a Boy Scout, mind you. My parents were all for the general idea of scouting. I even remember going to an introductory Scout meeting at the Scout Hall on Glenwood Road, but when my parents found out how much money was involved, how much time was involved, and the level of parent participation that was expected, they just packed up and took me home. I believe my Dad’s response was “Hell, I can show you all that sh*t for free!” and he proceeded over the next few decades to drag me out into the wilderness on an involuntary basis, exposing me to the elements, wearing down the soles of many boots, subjecting me to hypothermia and altitude sickness and generally recreating half the scenes from Jeremiah Johnson–as well as once deliberately abandoning me in the parking lot of Fedco to test my mental fortitude and survival instincts. Here’s the kicker – No merit badges (unless you count scars) and no nifty neckerchiefs. Here’s the other kicker – in a bizarre, totally screwed-up way, it worked.

Robert Baden-Powell, founder of modern scouting was once asked “Be prepared for what?” to which he answered, “Why, any old thing.” The general idea was that the skills of scouting were supposed to impart to you a spectrum of knowledge and experience through which you could endure or succeed in any adverse situation. In many ways, that’s the driving force behind the Sandwich Family Earthquake Kits. Hopefully by envisioning all the possible negative outcomes of a natural disaster, we will be properly prepared to survive, endure and succeed.

In the previous posts I mentioned that my first disaster kit was housed in a big green Rubbermaid tub that got stashed in the closet and could be dragged outside in the case of seismic event. Even though Big Green was taken off the front lines with the arrival of the backpack earthquake kits, I couldn’t find any reason why I should decommission it entirely. It still held a bunch of stuff that was important, if not crucial.

Instead the Big Green Earthquake Kit went into the closet of the spare bedroom and was christened the ‘second line of defense’ against whatever calamity might happen to strike. The rationale is that whenever the shaking stops we grab ourselves, the first change of clothes and our backpack kits, and head out the door. If we make it to the front lawn in one piece and are able to gather our wits then there’s an immediate list of things to do.

First, we have to shut off the gas, water and electricity (although let’s face it, if the shaker’s big enough the power’s gonna shut itself off for us). The backpacks have all the ‘make it through the immediate future’ kinda gear we need, but good ole Big Green has a bunch of other useful stuff. (Note: ideally if we are all together when the shaking stops we can swing by the spare bedroom closet on the way out and grab that tub as we are making our initial exit. I however am making what I feel is a realistic assessment of our state of mind post-quake and am just guessing that our priority is going to be getting the hell outside as fast as possible, and the big green tub will be a ‘reconnoiter and retrieve’ kinda item after I muster the courage to go back into the house if it seems safe.)

So, once again, presuming we get this far, the big green Rubbermaid ‘Eathquake Kit Mk. 2’ contains:

  • 2 metal camp cooking grills
  • 3 glow sticks – (I know, by now some of you are saying ‘What’s with the glow sticks? Is the Post-Seismic Wasteland going to have a Rave on the first Saturday after the Big One?’ I dunno. Maybe. Keep your eyes peeled for an EVite I guess. Really what happens is that every once in a while Home Depot sells glow sticks in packs by the checkout aisle and I frequently seem to say to myself “Oh, I should probably get some more of these.” Draw your own conclusions.
  • Emergency Water Filter Juice Packs – At Costco last year they were selling these ‘water purification packs’ which are Gatorade type juice concentrate with a semi-permeable membrane bag. The idea is that you can drop these packets into any container of water no matter how polluted and dirty and osmosis will draw purer water across the membrane and leave you with delicious drinkable juice from your nasty water slurry. It seemed too nifty not to try.
  • Big Blue Tarp – One thousand and one destroyed household uses.
  • Coveralls – See previous post. I believe these fit Mrs. Sandwich.
  • Rubber Gloves – You know, for washing dishes without getting your fingers wrinkly
  • Feminine Hygiene Products – Just because the Big One hit doesn’t mean you don’t have regularly occurring things that need taking care of.
  • 10 Military Grade MRE’s – (Note: one of our very astute readers pointed out in the last post that while I had candles in our backpacks, I didn’t have matches or lighters. Sandwich Fail! To Astute Reader: Bravo and congrats on your attention to detail! I did not mention matches or lighter. I saw that comment and thought “That can’t be right! I know I’ve accounted for that!” and promptly went digging in my backpack to check. You will be relieved to hear that each military MRE (of which I have two in my pack) has a book of matches in it, presumably as a hold-over from when rations still had cigarettes. So Earthquake Kit Mk. 1 does in fact have firestarting materials inside. But seriously, congrats on that. It shows you are taking this eval seriously, and for that we thank you.)
  • 2 MRE entrees – I Test ate some MREs once just to see what I might be eating after civilization collapsed. I decided the Chili-Mac wasn’t half bad and I should probably get a couple more of those as a separate item.
  • 1 Quart Water
  • 1 Bottle Hydrogen Peroxide. Leave the cap off the bottle long enough and I think it turns back into water. So, bonus if you’re really thirsty but don’t have any cuts I guess.
  • 1 Multi tool – 1001 uses.
  • 2 MRE Brownies – Just because we’re living in a Post Seismic Wasteland doesn’t mean we have to live like savages. We still get dessert. Even if it is in dehydrated, powdered form.
  • 2 Pair leather work gloves – There’s gonna be lots of broken, pointy things.
  • 1 bag of nylon rope – Again, it always came in handy when we played D&D. We’ll think of something. Like using it to string a line under the blue tarp and make a canopy/pup tent. There! See! I thought of something.
  • 1 First Aid Kit – For Ouchies
  • One bag of bandages of varying shapes, sizes and lengths – For bigger Ouchies.
  • Batteries – for the radios, so we can hear what else is going on in the Post-Seismic Wasteland
  • Can Opener – Because if you’ve got a ton of canned food and no can opener there’s gonna be a *LOT* of hungry finger pointing going on.
  • Whistle – I was told this was a good thing to have, probably by a survival kit list I was given/downloaded. I think it’s for signaling without having to shout and go hoarse. Either that or the Post-Seismic Wasteland is going to hold Crossing Guard Elections and if I already have my own whistle then I have leg up on a new job.
  • Notepad – Presumably we’re going to be making lists of things we have, don’t have, need and don’t need. I think there’s a pencil floating around in there somewhere too. If not I’ll have to get one.
  • Crowbar – Cuz we’re gonna play a LARPer game of Clue after the shaking stops. Or maybe something will need to be pried open
  • .

Inside the Big Green Tub there’s another tub with more stuff. This kit is actually kinda like a Russian nesting doll. Anyway, in this one there’s:

  • Nylon Rope – OK I admit it. I played a lot of D&D when I was younger. It made an impression.
  • Tape – I think that’s for the trashbag-on-the-windows gas attack scenario. Even if it’s not, it still seems useful somehow.
  • Latex gloves – If someone else has some really bad Ouchies.
  • Toilet Paper – Because if the earthquake doesn’t scare the poop out of us, chances are that #2 Skidoo is gonna make its way out all in its own at some point.
  • Glow Sticks – OK! Alright! I’m planning a Post-Seismic Rave! Are you happy now? Geez, what a bunch of killjoys . . .
  • Camp Stakes – Something to hold down the tarp/tent
  • Aspirin/OTC drugs – For other Ouchies
  • More Band Aids/Bandages – Seriously though, if this quake ends up being big enough, there are going to be some cuts and abrasions.
  • 2 Space blankets – They look goofy as hell but they do actually work.
  • Candles – For mood lighting
  • Matches – For the candles
  • Another First Aid Kit – I just don’t want anyone walking around with an untreated Ouchie.
  • Toothbrush – Living in Post-Seismic Wasteland is no reason to neglect dental hygiene. The bad news: I only count one so far. Sweetheart, we’re gonna have to share…I hope that’s OK.
  • Tweezers – I envision this catastrophe generating a lot of splinters.
  • Kleenex – Mrs. Sandwich has horrible sinuses. Plus, more TP if necessary
  • EMT scissors. These are for cutting clothes, bandages, whatever. If you don’t have one of these just go buy one, they’re super useful.

OK, that’s all that’s in Big Green. Now I know by now some clearly astute and detail-oriented readers are going to ask questions about the lack of water in this particular kit, or a shelter more complex than a blue tarp, and frankly probably a whole bunch of other very valid questions.

All I can say to that is: There’s more. No, I’m serious, the Sandwich’s earthquake kit is the Energizer F-ing Bunny of Earthquake Kits. It just keeps going. But not in this post.

What’s In Your Wallet–Er, Earthquake Kits?

For why we have them, take a look at the first post in this series.

A little while ago Mrs. Sandwich posted about things she found in the closet, and the earthquake kits came up (along with a bunch of other jumbled stuff). She asked if I wanted to do a guest post describing the kits, and here we are, although in truth this is gonna take more than one post, but here goes:

Stashed under the bed I have a canvas tote bag, handed out free by some conference that took place on campus. In that, there are:

  • One pair running shoes
  • One pair socks
  • One pair underwear
  • One pair shorts
  • One T-shirt
  • Gloves
  • Flashlight

I figured that in the event of another dead-of-night earthquake I can grab that bag and at the very least have clothes and shoes to get me outside the house after the shaking has stopped.

The earthquake kits in the closet were put together starting at a point in my life when I was doing some regular backpacking. Since back-country backpacking involved carrying with you all the stuff you need to survive in the wild for a while, a loaded backpack in the closet seemed like the most reasonable vehicle to have all the necessities of life packed and ready to go post-temblor. I picked up a Lowe-Alpine Australis on clearance sale at REI, and it is stuffed with the following:

  • 1 Flashlight
  • 8 glow sticks (no batteries needed)
  • 1 pair Converse All-stars plus socks.
  • 2 soft arm slings (I got them when I hurt my hand a couple of years ago and they seemed like a good first aid thing to have on hand)
  • 2 flexible water bags. You know, those mylar canteen thingies with spouts on them
  • 4 candles
  • 1 Quart of water
  • 1 WW 2 Cattaraugus Commando Knife…why? Because I’m Brock Sampson, that’s why.
  • 1 bag of Lexan camping utensils
  • 1 CB radio
  • 1 transistor radio
  • 1 MSR water filter
  • Batteries
  • 1 mess kit
  • 1 bottle insect repellent
  • 1 bottle camp soap
  • 2 pair underwear
  • 1 pair black cargo pants
  • 1 fleece jacket
  • 1 trash bag
  • 1 rain poncho
  • 1 fast-drying camp towel
  • 1 pair coveralls…again, why? ‘Cuz I figured I may need to do some crawling around and mucking out of trashed spaces and the Post-Tectonic Wasteland is probably filled with nails and splinters and broken glass and God’s gift to Tetanus, so perhaps some coveralls would be in order.
  • 1 package of static nylon rope (It always seemed to come in handy when we were playing Dungeons and Dragons)
  • 1 Sierra Cup (also known as ‘Tiny Mess Kit.’ C’mon. Sing it with me now, “Hold me close I’m Tiny Mess Kiiiiiit!”)
  • 1 wrist brace
  • 1 BMX bike helmet (Again, the post-tectonic wasteland will probably have falling/toppling hazards for quite a while so a BMX hard shell helmet not only gives you post-earthquake cycling protection, but also serves as a decent hardhat)
  • 2 Military Grade MRE’s
  • 1 Gas Mask

I know, I know, most of you read that last item and were like “WTF? Gas Mask?” Please bear in mind that some of the items in this Earthquake/Emergency kit were included in the dizzy paranoia that was in the air immediately post 9/11. I was glued to the TV and Rumsfeld or somebody was on there talking about Anthrax and Bio-terror and getting duct tape and trashbags to seal ourselves in from dirty bomb fallout or Rycin or Mustard Gas or some damn thing and I was like “Screw this noise! I’m getting a gas mask! eBay here I come!” I was newly dating Mrs. Sandwich at the time, and we were at that point where she was asking me if it was too forward of her to leave a hair dryer with me rather than have to travel across the country with one in her luggage and my response was “I’m hope I’m not being too forward, but I bought you a gas mask.” I figured when Al-Qaida attacked we could don our gas masks and stare longingly through the little glass eyepieces at each other in my trash bagged and duct-taped apartment while we made Darth-Vader breath sounds at each other. If you close your eyes you can just feel the romance…

Anyway, so that’s why there’s a gas mask in the earthquake kit. And in Mrs. Sandwich’s too. Speaking of which…

When we were first married we lived in a crappy apartment in Palms (one of the less affluent neighborhoods in West L.A.) and I would go jogging in a 5 mile loop that circled some of the adjacent, more affluent places in West L.A. I basically went up Overland, across Pico, down Motor and back across Palms Blvd. Anyway, while jogging one day I ran past a house and saw that someone had crammed into their trash can a Lowe Alpine 70×15 Women’s internal-framed backpack along with a 4 man tent, and I was like “Score!!” Side note: some of the neighborhoods in West Los Angeles have a definition of ‘trash’ that most people on this planet would not even come close to recognizing. I mean, one time I was running down Motor and I saw someone had tossed out on the curb two fully functional looms. Looms! With thread and those little shuttle thingies and bobbins and whatnot and my first impulse was to call my sister who does costuming and Comic-Con and asked “Hey, do you or your fiends want to make your own cloth for Renn-Faire, because there’s two looms sitting out on the curb on Overland!” She didn’t. But still, two whole looms, just sitting there . . . looming.

Anyway, so I grab the backpack and tent, dragged those home, and after running them through the wash to get a rather insignificant amount of dog hair off it Mrs. Sandwich has her own earthquake kit. Its contents consist of:

  • 2 transistor radios
  • 1 signal mirror
  • Batteries
  • Water purification pills
  • Nail file (she’s got nail files all over the place, from the seat cushions of the couch to the top of the living-room bookshelf. In the Post-tectonic wasteland her nails will still be well looked after)
  • Spare pair of prescription glasses
  • Sewing Kit
  • Space blanket
  • 2 Nalgene bottles
  • 1 glow stick
  • 3 quarts of water
  • Wool socks
  • Wool gloves
  • Leather boots
  • 1 pair socks
  • 1 pair underwear
  • A list of emergency kit items (Note: Mrs.Sandwich is WAY more well-ordered and by-the-book about this whole thing than I am)
  • 2 shirts
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 1 sports bra
  • 1 BMX bike helmet (same as above)
  • Fleece blanket
  • Mess kit
  • Gas mask (Aaaawwwwwww! Wuv! Twu Wuv!)
  • Rain Poncho

Ok so that’s it. Theoretically if we make it through the initial P, S and T waves we will have enough supplies to get us up out of bed, outside onto the front lawn and away from power lines and safely hunkered down until the shaking stops. But see, that’s not all, because remember that Rubbermaid tub that was the first earthquake kit? That’s still around, and if we make it out of the house and I have enough time to swing by the spare bedroom, in THAT closet there’s the Rubbermaid tub which has a whole OTHER set of emergency supplies for me, Mrs. Sandwich and Baguette to…Oh Holy Poop! I forgot about our daughter! I gotta go!

…OK, I’m back. So now I went through Oma’s box of clothes she found at the thrift shops but are too big for Baguette and I have added them to Mrs. Sandwich’s earthquake kit. They are:
One oversized fleece sleeper. I figure I can cut the feet off it if need be and she has little baby fleecy overalls.

  • 3 pairs pants
  • 2 shirts
  • 1 Minnie Mouse fleece blanket
  • Pull-ups
  • Wipes

There. Now at least our daughter won’t have to wander the Post-Tectonic Wasteland in her Monkey Ballerina Jammy Jams. Oh damnit! I forgot about her shoes! I gotta go! More later!

Dr. Strangekit – Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying (a little) and Love the Big One (a little)

For those of you who asked about our earthquake kits, here is the first in a series of guest posts by Mr. Sandwich, our family’s Emergency Management Coordinator.

What I remember about that morning of January 17th was the sound of the cats running into the bedroom and fighting each other to get under the futon. I can’t specifically remember if the shaking came first, I just remember the rumble of not-so-gentle cats’ feet tear-assing into the bedroom from their living room perches, but by the time they were safely ensconced, the shaking was really going.

I remember the shutters slapping open and shut and I remember the water in the swimming pool sloshing over the edges and making little waves against the wall of my apartment. But what I remember most about that morning, even more than the pre-dawn darkness or how you could see the stars in the L.A. sky when all the power to the streetlights went out, was groping around for clothes in the dark. L.A. had just experienced its biggest earthquake in a generation and I couldn’t find my underwear.

As it turned out, I weathered the Northridge Quake with essentially no damage. There was the typical open-cupboards-kitchen disaster and some toppled bookshelves, but for the most part I didn’t suffer at all, certainly not like so many did. We had enough water to last through the ‘boil your tap water’ warning period, (hell, we had water pressure period) my apartment building wasn’t red or even yellow-tagged and like most buildings in Westwood, you could hardly tell anything had happened. Now, the Santa Monica Freeway had collapsed and Royce Hall at UCLA weebled and wobbled but didn’t QUITE fall down, but none of that touched me in any serious way.

Except that it scared the living bejeesus out of me.

Once the shaking settled down, I became focused on having an honest- to-God earthquake kit at the ready so I wouldn’t be caught with my pants down again, literally or figuratively. The kit began as a Rubbermaid tub with various items in it and has evolved over the years into a fairly extensive emergency kit ‘system’ with different levels of accessibility, extensiveness and portability. But no matter which form it takes, the ‘kit’ really serves as a security blanket, a threadbare attempt to soothe my ever-present anxiety.

For those of you who are not Southlandians, a little Earth Science background: The Pacific Tectonic Plate is sliding past the North American Plate at roughly the same speed that fingernails grow. They putter and hop and skip constantly in the form of relatively small earthquakes but every once in a while those two little geologic bosom buddies do a Texas two-step that shakes the snot right out of everything for a hundred mile radius in a little periodic temblor Angelenos like to refer to as ‘The Big One.’ The Big One is coming–not if, but when–everyone agrees on that.

Yet we all pretty much blithely go about our lives, the same way I guess Appalachian miners dig for coal with the impending threat of collapse and cave-in, or ancient sailors sailed the seas with the knowledge that a storm could appear without warning with enough force to erase any evidence they ever existed, and yet still they sailed on.

When the Big One comes it has the potential to be bigger than Northridge, Katrina, Superstorm Sandy and God knows what else combined and unlike hurricanes, there’s basically no forewarning. You’re just gonna hear cats fighting to get under your futon.

So, faced with the ever-present threat of ground shaki-ness I have adopted an attitude of somewhat obsessive preparedness to alleviate my fears. I do this with the same fervor of a sports fan who wears his lucky shirt while watching from the couch during playoffs, or has other bizarre ritual to guarantee local sports team success, all in the hopes that my diligence will forestall or somehow mitigate the movement of the earth’s crust. I guess the two behaviors have about an equal chance of success.

Wondering how those kits developed and what’s in them now? Tune in tomorrow, same Bat-time (well, maybe not), same Bat-channel.