Be Smart, Be Prepared! Planning an Emergency Backpack

Bonnie Magura (Portland Public Schools), CEETEP (Cascadia EarthScope Earthquake and Tsunami Education Program), and ANGLE Project


Participants learn what to do before, during, and after a potentially damaging earthquake. They brainstorm contents for an emergency supplies backpack and then present on their ideas. This version of the activity has an Alaska emphasis and the primary supporting resource is the booklet Are you prepared for the next big EARTHQUAKE in Alaska?. A version of the activity for the Pacific Northwest is also linked to below. The activity is adaptable to nearly anywhere.

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This activity can be done by learners from upper elementary to adult. In classrooms it can be done in elementary to college courses on geoscience or health/safety topics. It can also be done with adult community members interested in planning for and mitigating earthquake hazards for greater resilience.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Although not technically necessary, it helps if learners have some idea of the potential geohazards that their community could be affected by.

How the activity is situated in the course

This could be a culminating project in a unit on plate tectonics and earthquakes, in which learners move from just understanding the science to learning steps we can take to mitigate earthquake and tsunami risk. It can also be nearly a standalone exercise for adults after a short introduction to the geohazards in a given community.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Learners will be able to:

  • Brainstorm essential components of an emergency supply kit
  • Discuss earthquake and tsunami preparedness

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • Develop and present a poster or skit that highlights earthquake and tsunami safety

Other skills goals for this activity

  • Working in groups
  • Oral presentation

Description and Teaching Materials

See attached file for educator notes, NGSS alignment, links to supporting resources, and student exercise.
Be Smart, Be Prepared! Planning an Emergency Backpack Activity (Acrobat (PDF) 173kB May21 18)

The same activity but with a Pacific Northwest USA emphasis was done by the Cascadia EarthScope Earthquake and Tsunami Education Program (CEETEP)

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • It essential to teach about geohazard preparedness from a frame of empowerment. "Take these steps and you and your family will be safer" has been showing to be more effective at eliciting behavioral change than trying to scare people by the horribleness of potential disasters. They do need to understand what hazards exist but then discuss preparedness from the point of view of "what they can do" to be safer.
  • Although this activity is oriented towards earthquake preparedness in Alaska, a emergency supply kit is valuable no matter where you live. Other hazards such as tornados, hurricanes, wild fires, landslides, chemical spills, terrorist attack or any other event that could cause you to suddenly need to leave your home on short notice.


Formative assessment of learner understanding can be gathered from observation and discussions with individuals or groups. The learner presentation serves as the summative assessment for the activity. The instructor can develop a simple analytical rubric to assess the presentations. SERC's Assessment Tools webpages provide examples for oral and poster presentations. For an adult group outside of a formal course, the summative assessment may be done through large group discussion or presentations of action plans to the larger group or an outside community policy entity.

References and Resources