After a major earthquake, how will school staff take care of students and themselves? What if it's cold and rainy? What if parents/guardians are unable to pick up students before it gets dark? They'll need supplies.

Supplies in the Classroom

Schools are not required to have emergency supplies for evacuation or sheltering in place. However, Portland Public Schools has provided buckets and initial supplies for all classrooms. Teachers have been instructed to bring the buckets with them if there’s an emergency. Students should be empowered to grab the bucket as needed. They should know where it is and what's in it (as appropriate by grade).


At minimum, bags/buckets should contain:

  • A roster, including emergency contacts and info about students' special needs, marked confidential (medical issues, prescription medicines, dietary needs, etc.)
  • First Aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Gloves
  • Emergency blankets
  • Whistle
  • Dust masks
  • Tissue
  • Wet wipes
  • Goggles
  • Grease pencil
  • Protein bars
  • Garbage bags

Also consider adding:

  • School emergency procedures
  • Utility shut-off procedures
  • A radio
  • Additional calories
  • Maxi pads
  • Band-aids
  • Ziplock bags
  • 30 heavy-duty garbage bags
  • Small bottle of bleach with eye dropper (for water purification)
  • Duct tape
  • 2 gallons of water


It can be challenging to keep the supplies and student rosters/emergency contacts updated. Some schools organize a PTA work party every fall to go through the buckets and make sure everything is in working order, refresh expired supplies, and add updated rosters and emergency contact info.

Buckets hold a limited amount of supplies. Some supplies expire, and most PTAs don't have a budget for refreshing supplies. Some classrooms are too crowded to store them. While they may be useful during a lockdown, these buckets may be less useful during an earthquake. If teachers are struggling to get children out of the building, they may not be able to carry the buckets. They should be complemented with supplies stored outside of the building (see below).

Supplies outside the school

Students and staff may need to remain on school grounds for hours or days following an earthquake. They will need to stay out of the buildings until aftershocks have passed and the buildings have been inspected for safety. Parents, guardians, and emergency contacts may be delayed by impassable roads and bridges.


Supplies should cover basic survival priorities (in order): shelter, water, food. But medical, communication, and sanitation supplies are also essential.

  • Reunification supplies: student roster (with photos and special needs info), emergency contact information, staff roster (with photos), sign in/sign out sheets, signage.
  • School emergency procedures
  • Utility shutoff procedures
  • Campus and neighborhood maps with evacuation sites and reunification sites
  • Speaker or megaphone
  • Reflective vests or other means of identifying safety team members
  • Telephone numbers of local hospitals, pharmacies, fire stations, etc.
  • Walkie-talkies
  • Pens, pencils, or wax markers
  • Cell phone charger(s)
  • Whistles
  • Shelter (tarps, tents, etc.)
  • Water
  • Waterproof matches / lighter
  • Food / can opener
  • First aid supplies and instructions
  • Medical gloves
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Battery/crank/solar-powered radio
  • Emergency blankets
  • Emergency toilets (
  • Sanitary items (toilet paper, towelettes, sanitary napkins, etc.)
  • Work gloves
  • Masks
  • Multipurpose tool, wrench, pliers, knife


  • Location: There are a number of issues with putting shipping containers and other large storage containers on school grounds. It has to be far enough away from the building to be safe after an earthquake. It has to be far enough away from the property line (20 ft) to adhere to zoning codes. There can’t be a space behind it where children can hide during recess. They have to be able to mow around it. PPS is working on several pilot projects to test the feasibility of long-term storage, security, and maintenance. As an alternative, some schools have considered is storing supplies nearby, such as in the garages or sheds of nearby neighbors or at local businesses. Security and longevity may be an issue for these off-site locations as well, and they would require having a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in place.
  • Funding: The district is not required to provide supplies for sheltering outdoors, and they don’t have the budget to provide containers or contents. Most schools don’t either. It usually falls to the PTA to provide funding.
  • Equity: Not all schools/PTAs can come up with the money to fund this. If only affluent schools can afford to do it, it creates a serious equity issue. One proposed solution is to have the schools that are doing this work sponsor materials for a sister school.
  • Maintenance and Security: Supplies such as water, food, and batteries need to be maintained and/or replaced. Graffiti needs to be prevented and/or removed. Storage containers can be broken into. Schools need a long-term plan for dealing with these issues, as parent volunteers are not consistent over time.

Do this at home

Make sure you have an earthquake kit at home. Involving the whole family in preparedness helps make the idea of disasters less scary. Work together to pack some basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency (water, non-perishable food, flashlights, radio, First Aid kit, etc).

Water is hands-down the most important item in your kit, so focus on that first. Visit for info about water storage and treatment. For supply kit suggestions, check out the “Build a Kit” section of and the FEMA Emergency Kit Checklists. We recommend storing some of your supplies indoors and some outdoors, if possible.