This photo from 2013 shows what was placed in the Bardsley family earthquake kit six years ago. (Jennifer Bardsley)

This photo from 2013 shows what was placed in the Bardsley family earthquake kit six years ago. (Jennifer Bardsley)

They’re prepared for ‘the Big One’ with back yard emergency kit

Recent earthquakes in Western Washington reminded this family of four to prepare for the worst.

The last time I stocked our earthquake kit for my family of four was in 2013. Since then, the earthquake barrel has accumulated spiderwebs in an abandoned corner of our back yard.

After multiple earthquakes rocked Western Washington this summer, I decided I better refresh our kit.

The question of whether or not to have an earthquake barrel to begin with has been something my husband and I have long debated. We have enough camping equipment and canned food in our garage to survive for several weeks. Plus there’s our hot water heater. But what would happen if our house collapsed, crushing our supplies?

When we lived in an apartment, we kept earthquake kits in the trunks of our cars. Having an earthquake kit outside of our dwelling seemed like a wise idea. Once we bought a house with a back yard, we bought a trash can with a water-tight lid. Now our earthquake kit was six years old and probably not much use to anyone.

Once I finally mustered up the determination to deal with the problem, I discovered that the barrel was too heavy for me to move — plus it had a patch of potatoes growing around it. I managed to slide the can over a few inches and found potatoes growing underneath the barrel, too! It was time to call for back-up. Once my teenage son joined me, we carried the kit up to the grass in a snap.

Opening the lid to the trash can was like unearthing a time capsule. The first thing I found was a raincoat I brought to college with me. Other spare clothes included a nursing shirt, pants my husband wore in the early 2000s, and knit caps that were too small for either kids.

The ragamuffin wardrobe was questionable, but the barrel contained good stuff, too. There were eight gallons of water, enough freeze-dried food to last three days, emergency blankets, a hand-crank radio, a candle and matches. I also found a painter’s plastic sheet that could have been used for a lot of different things.

Everything in the barrel was dry, but had a musty smell like a stinky basement. I washed the clothes five times so that I could reuse or donate them, and found new items that would fit my kids now, and in the next few years.

When I poured out the bottled water on my rose bushes, I hoped that the neighbors didn’t see me watering the yard with Evian. I cleaned out the can with soap and water and let it dry completely.

Over the next few days, I gathered new supplies for my barrel. I purchased a fresh box of freeze-dried food, eight new gallons of water and a first aid kit. I also added two LifeStraws that could purify water on the go. Then I called upon my son to drag the can back to its spot in the potatoes.

If “the big one” comes, we’ll be ready — but please don’t judge our outfits.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at

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