Preparing for earthquakes

Reviewed by Jackie Kloosterboer

Updated September 11, 2023

It’s easy to think about all the things we should do to be ready for an earthquake—it’s another thing to actually do them. Here are a few simple things you can do today to be a bit more prepared for an earthquake (or any natural disaster).

A cracked road

Create a home earthquake kit

Create an earthquake kit. If this list is too daunting, commit to doing one of these things a week until you have it all together (Hint: start with the water and the food):

  • Water: Have enough for a minimum of three days. That’s 12 litres per person.

  • Food: Have enough for three days and choose non-perishable items that are easy to carry, nutritious and that you like to eat. Protein, energy bars, or other meal replacement type items are a great choice. Remember you may not have access to cooking supplies or a stove so choose items that are ready to eat or drink. If you have a gas BBQ, you can use that for cooking.

  • Medications: Again, have enough for three days. And, make a list of your prescription medications. If you have a pet, make sure you include some pet food and any pet medication you would need. Always talk to your doctor before storing any medication.

  • Important documents: Make copies of your driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, and insurance information. Keep them in a safe place away from home. It is also useful to include a spare set of keys for your home and vehicle, and some cash in small bills.

  • First aid supplies, sanitation and hygiene: Include items like household bleach, soap, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, towels, and face masks.

  • Tools and supplies: Include items like a utility knife, manual can opener, a flashlight, batteries, a battery-powered or wind-up radio, scissors, and duct tape.

  • Clothing and bedding: Ensure you have a change of clothes for each family member and blankets.

  • Portable chargers for your phone: These are readily available, and you can keep them charged and ready to go in the event of an emergency where you may not have access to power. It will give you peace of mind that you will be able to communicate with family or emergency personnel if necessary.

Create a mobile earthquake kit

Take a look at the supplies you have in your vehicle as well. In an earthquake or any other disaster, you may not be able to get home for a day or two. There are also a lot of great options available for pre-packaged emergency kits, you can check the Red Cross for some examples. It is recommended to have one in your home, your car and your office.

Develop your emergency plan with the family

Meeting spots

Once you’ve made your emergency kit, sit down with your family and come up with an emergency plan. Pick a meeting place for your family to regroup in case you have to evacuate. Pick a spot close to your home for sudden emergencies and one place outside of your neighbourhood in case you can’t all get home right away. Designate someone to pick up your children from school or daycare if you’re unable to.

If you work nearby, designate a meeting place with your family close to your work. If you’re unable to return home, you’ll still be able to meet up. During an emergency, phones may not be working. Having this meeting place pre-established will save a lot of frustration and worry.

Emergency contacts

Make a list of emergency contacts, including local contacts like the police and fire department. Make sure to add the name of a friend or family member outside your province that each of you can contact to let the rest of the family know you are alright. Remember, in a major disaster, cell phones should be reserved for emergencies.

Carry this list of numbers with you in your wallet, purse, or otherwise in a place that they’ll always be handy. If you can’t access your phone’s contacts, you might not be able to remember (or look up) important numbers.

Evacuation routes

Plan your evacuation route, including two or three different routes in case some roads are blocked.

You should also plan evacuation routes from your home to your designated meeting place. Have routes planned from each room in the home, and practice them. Practice makes perfect to help ensure that your family members will take the right action in a stressful situation.

Get earthquake insurance


You will also want to take a look and ensure your home insurance includes earthquake coverage.

At Square One, earthquake coverage is automatically included as an insured peril on some policies, with Guaranteed Replacement Cost for your home. Other home insurance providers will require you to add earthquake coverage. The cost of the coverage will be dependent on the level of risk associated with earthquakes in the area in which your home is located. Homes in BC would face a higher risk than homes in Ontario, for example.


In most cases you will see a significantly higher deductible listed for your earthquake coverage, listed separately from your standard policy deductible.

Usually, your earthquake deductible will be on a percentage basis. For example, if the cost to rebuild your home is estimated at $500,000, and you also have $250,000 in coverage for your personal property, a 5% deductible on the value of your property would be $37,500. This is done with the expectation that in the event of a serious earthquake, the damage would be quite extensive and increase both the cost for materials and labour to rebuild your home.

There can also be several options available for your earthquake deductible. Depending on the percentage of the loss you are willing to take on yourself, by choosing a higher deductible, you may see some savings on your insurance premium.

Single occurrence definition

You would also want to confirm with your insurance provider what is defined as a single occurrence when considering an earthquake, as there is always the possibility of aftershocks.

How Square One is different

At Square One, with respect to earthquakes specifically, one occurrence is defined as all earthquake shocks occurring within a period of 168 consecutive hours after the initial shock. It is also important to note that damage caused by tsunamis is generally excluded from your home insurance, even if the tsunami was caused by an earthquake.

Want to learn more? Visit our Home and Personal Safety resource centre to find more information about protecting your family and your home. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.

About the expert: Jackie Kloosterboer

Jackie Kloosterboer runs a speaking business called Survive It. As a disaster preparedness expert, Jackie facilitates upwards of 100 preparedness workshops annually to individuals and groups, working with them to prepare for whatever disaster comes their way. Jackie is the recipient of the Queens Jubilee Award and the Northwest Preparedness Society Award of Excellence, recognizing outstanding dedication to providing emergency support services and disaster preparedness education.


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