So - disaster strikes. You have no power, no water, no sewerage (or you HAVE water but it's unsafe). There are holes in your roof/floor/insert other crucial structure here. You may have no access to your workplace. What will you need?
Based on my experience, and the experience of people around me, of the last two weeks, here is:
Allie's Guide To Surviving Natural Disasters. With Particular Reference to Earthquakes.
A Guide to the things you really should start thinking about putting aside NOW. Because you never know when you may need them.
(Number One) [and I write it out fully because it is that important] Clean Water.
Even in Christchurch, where the emergency services are brilliantly organised, you want to have enough water to survive for a few days. If you don't particularly trust your government to get things sorted quickly, put aside enough water for a week or two. If you can afford to buy big plastic containers in which to store large amounts of water, great. If you can't, do what I did and simply clean out juice bottles when you've drunk all the juice, and start putting them aside with clean water in them. If you're really careful, put them in two different places, in case one secret cache gets buried under rubble.
(2) A source of light. With extra batteries. Obvious, but necessary. Candles are okay, but not particularly safe or easy to use.
(3) Hygiene items. These are very, very important, but most people do not think to put these things aside. Trust me, if you're living in a disaster zone, you really are not going to be able to just pop down to the shops for some tampons. Buy some now, put them aside!!
Hand sanitizer is also crucial. Unless you want to get gastroenteritis or similar nasties, that is.
Finally, if like me you really hate not washing your hair for several days in a row, I would really recommend buying a dry shampoo of any kind and putting it aside. It will make you feel MUCH better when there is no water available. Things are always much darker, much more depressing, when you have greasy hair.
(4) If you have any crucial medications, KEEP SPARES somewhere. I know a bunch of people who, as the quake hit, ran straight out of their offices, leaving incredibly important prescription drugs behind. It was the sensible thing to do, really, but no one would let them back in afterwards to retrieve them. If you're lucky, you'll be able to get to a pharmacy, but if you're not, you're in trouble.
(5) If you have babies or small toddlers: Nappies. Formula. Baby wipes (which, in an emergency, have the double use of cleaning baby and cleaning You).
(6) A tarpaulin and rope. This will cover holes left in your roof by falling chimneys, for example, and so will keep rain out. Or, it will provide shelter or ground cover when you have to sleep outside. (I'm serious. I know of people whose million dollar homes are rubble and they are now sleeping under a tarp in the back yard.) Or, it will provide a modest little screen to hide the hole in the ground you had to dig for unmentionable reasons. On that note, also make sure you have a spade.
For ideas, view this awesome website which chronicles Cantabrians' alternative loo arrangements over the last two weeks :)
(7) Food. I suppose this is rather obvious, and it looks like it should be higher up the list. We found, however, that we could survive fairly well on what we had in the shelves for a few days, at least. At some point, however, you are going to run out of these things, and so if you happen to be trapped at home without access to supermarkets or aid all of a sudden, canned or non-perishable food is a must.
(8) Cash. For fairly obvious reasons. Although if you have all of the above, you will be able to cope for a while without it.
On a less necessary but helpful note
You will be able to cope without these things, but they will also make life a lot easier:
(9) Camping gear like a small gas stove with refills, a chemical toilet, a solar shower and a tent. These four things will make you very happy in a disaster zone. Especially the chemical toilet. And even if your house is liveable and you don't need the tent, chances are one of your neighbours will.
(10) Things to do. Especially if you have kids. Colouring books and pencils, or books, or activities. It may seem silly, but you will feel SO MUCH BETTER if you have access to your iPod or something like that which can be used without having to plug it in.
You may feel slightly silly taking all these precautions. People may even mock you. Just do it anyway, and imagine the satisfaction when all your careful preparations come in handy! For example, I had the satisfaction in the first quake (September last year) in knowing that the very night before the quake, my flatmate had mocked me for putting aside clean water for emergencies. Suddenly, when the water was unsafe to drink and we had no electricity to boil it, she didn't think I was so crazy after all!
One more small note.
The first quake to hit Christchurch was not so serious, partially because it was at night, but the nocturnal aspect brought with it a few issues:
(1) Earthquakes tend to break things. For this reason, you should find shoes or slippers as quickly as possible. When you go stumbling about your house trying to assess the damage in the pitch black because the power is off, you really don't want to step on all the broken glass in bare feet.
(2) If you decide to run out of your house, try to remember - in the split second you are actually thinking - whether you have any clothes on. I know someone who dashed out of her house stark naked and only realised when she was already outside, along with all the neighbours. (I also heard about someone who was having a bikini wax when the February quake struck. Hmm. Apparently the beautician wouldn't let her run outside until she'd found her underwear.)