Thoughts on Emergency Preparedness after the Japanese Quake

Heather says:

Last week’s earthquake in Japan is a horrific reminder of why I try to convince you to be have at least some basic emergency preparations in your home.

Building codes saved lives during the quake and at first it looked like things were going to be fine.  Then we saw the footage of the tsunami, now we hear of radiation. We hear of people with nowhere to go, no food, and no water.

I’m not trying to be a fear monger. There are various states of preparedness and I don’t expect everyone to sit around and plan on getting through TEOTWAWKI. I don’t live on a compound and I certainly don’t live in fear waiting for the black helicopters. However I do know that having the ability to hunker down in your home for at least 72 hours or having the means to get to safer ground is invaluable.

Most of the time disasters are small, personal, and mostly an inconvenience. Perhaps the flu has made the rounds and no one is well enough to go to the store. Other times diasters are local, maybe your town was hit by an ice storm that knocked out the power for forty-eight hours. Both of these scenarios are played out in many homes and cities each year.

Every June I remind my fellow East Coasters to get ready for hurricane season.

 

Right now I’m asking you to do a few, reasonable things.

Put together an emergency pantry, including your medications.

You don’t want to be out adding to the confusion if you don’t have to. Think how nice it would be to never have to deal with the bread and milk lines at the grocery store ever again.

Try not to let your vehicle’s gas tank drop below 1/2 full.

The object is to stay out of lines if evacuation is ever necessary.

Keep an emergency kit in your car.

Let Japan be a lesson here. Not every disaster is polite enough to provide advance notice, earthquakes and chemical spills come to mind.

Plan a rally point.

What if your spouse is at work and you have to leave and the cellular networks are jammed? Do you know where you would go and how you would get there? What if the traffic was so bad that the main route was not an option, how else would you get there? Does that seem unlikely? It happens, especially when mandatory evacuations are ordered. If you know where your loved ones are headed, you may be spared many agonizing hours if there is no communication.

These basic plans can’t overcome every disaster, but for most they can help you stay out of harm’s way when confusion and anxiety are at their highest. These points are also not meant to be all-inclusive, they are simply a starting point.

Ready.gov also has some great tips and checklists.

This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about emergency preparedness here on Home Ec 101, back when no one was sure what was going to happen with H1N1 I wrote: Let’s Play Disaster Scenario.  I don’t play off the headlines hoping for Google traffic. My goal is to raise awareness and reduce anxiety. I bring up these conversations when I feel people may be more receptive to the idea that sometimes bad things happen and there are things you can do to lessen the impact. I don’t believe the world will end tomorrow, I’m fairly confident that 2012 will be just another year -maybe more like 1999 / 2000 with lots of hype.

What about you? How prepared are you?

 



12 Comments

  1. Paula @ Home Decor on March 17, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Here in the Houston area I always make sure I have all the emergency back up supplies ready when the season comes. Before Ike hit, I made sure I had everything here, like cash from the bank, filled up with gas, tape, batteries, important papers that I might need, etc. My son and others laughed at me for doing all of this, and I had told them that this time we are going to get hit. I'm taking my stuff in order. Well, guess who ended up coming to me for batteries, ice, lanterns, etc. I believe in being prepared, because you just don't know when mother nature comes to call.

  2. Rachel on March 15, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Joel and I picked a point just recently, having been convinced by a minor snowfall. As everyone tried to leave at once to beat the evening freeze, the campus turned into total gridlock. I know of people who took 2+ hours just to get out of a parking garage, and it took us nearly 3 hours to get the 3 miles from campus to home. We picked a spot off campus that I can easily walk to for any future emergencies (big or small).

  3. Amy at CreativeSpace on March 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    I was in elementary school when 3 Mile Island (Pennsylvania) had their reactor leak, and although ours was deemed "minimal" it was still scary. We were also completely unprepared and (we kids) didn't know at all what being exposed to radiation meant. I remember walking home from the bus stop with my jacket over my head to ward off the harmful "rays." We no longer live near a nuclear reactor but we're hit hard by hurricanes. The last big one had me separated from my family for a full 24 hours because of closed roads. I love your idea of keeping a hurricane ready pantry, and more importantly, a rally point. I also now carry the house keys of all my family members in the near vicinity so that I can gain refuge even if they're out of town.
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  4. @JayMonster on March 15, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    It is funny, the Japan disaster had an opposite affect on me. Oh, I am not stopping having my water and canned good for emergency plan, but Japan just really proved how "preparedness" can only protect you so much. I think the part about evac plans and knowing "meet up spots" which you mentioned are far more important and not the "after thought" most people think them to be. In a big disaster, having a plan to pull everyone back together is just as important (if not more so), than that can of tuna in basement.
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    • HeatherSolos on March 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      We're spoiled with technology, the world feels tiny when you have access to it in the palm of your hand.
      Cut off from that?
      It's a big, crowded world. I believe a rally point is imperative.

      I think I look at it a little differently. I think Japan illustrates the necessity of having more than one kind of plan in place. Depending on your proximity to the ocean and the nuclear power plants would dictate which plan you'd have to use.

      Of course, it's easy to sit here safe and sound. . .

  5. HeatherSolos on March 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    I'm C&Ping a comment that was deleted by accident while I was fixing an issue with the comment system earlier today:

    This is the comment Karen is responding to:

    Casey-

    Huh I was actually going to email you about an emergency pantry. I'm actually somehwat prepared right now because we had no hurricanes in Houston last year so I still have most of my canned food (the dry has been eaten for snacks but I will will start re-stocking soon in preparation of hurricane season.

    So the question is, normally I buy cans of soda. In the summer I try to buy large bottles (soda, juice, milk, etc.) I rinse out the bottles and then when there is a storm in the gulf, I fill them with water and that becomes the 'dog water' plus extra water for flushing toilets, bathing, etc if necessary. It does not get drunk by the people. So I was cleaning out my guest room/storage/hurricane supply closet and I found 5 bottles from last year. Should I dump it out and refill? Toss the bottles (recycling of course) and buy new? Leave it alone? Sterilize the bottle somehow?

    I also have several bottles of professionally bottled water, those I usually keep a few months and if not used I use them to fill the dogs dish/water plants and then I buy new. Is there a shelf life for bottled water?

  6. JanetLee on March 15, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Regarding hurricane evacuation, we all know how the jammed the roads leading inland can get. I usually can't evacuate due to my job, but a helpful hint: don't go inland, go north or south of where landfall is supposed to occur. There will be less traffic. (Not no traffic, less traffic.)

    And Lowcountry, we live on top of a very large fault line. So please do think about earthquakes.

    • HeatherSolos on March 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm

      I remember being told and I'm not sure how true this is, that the reason we so rarely have big quakes has to do with the moisture in the ground. Basically it reduces the friction and allows for slippage.

      Why does slippage sound like something from a Stephen King novel?

  7. Karen L on March 15, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I was inspired by the disaster in Japan to step up my preparedness a little, though I still have many things to do. I did buy a very large bag of powdered milk, for example. And it JUST occurred to me now that once baby number three comes along, I should have some formula on hand in case the babe and I are separated.

    In terms of families being separated, I’m very lucky that my workplace, my husband’s workplace, and my children’s school are all walking distance to our home. It makes our reunification plan much less complicated.

    One thing I’m always well prepared for is being caught in the car in winter. I once saw a movie based on the true story of a family on a winter road trip that went very, very wrong. It scared the hell out of me, so, my family and I carry enough stuff to last for days in the car (fuel-economy be damned.)

    A friend of mine linked on facebook to the San Francisco emergency preparedness website and it has lots of good information, like how much bleach to use in water in case drinking water becomes unavailable. http://72hours.org/
    @casey, That website says to keep commercially purchased unopened water containers until the factory-labelled expiry or for 12 months if there’s no label. Refill tap water stored in food-grade containers (like your pop bottles) every 6 months.

    • HeatherSolos on March 15, 2011 at 6:39 pm

      Karen, that's a great site, thank you for sharing it.

      • Karen L on March 15, 2011 at 7:42 pm

        Sure thing. The thing I really like is that you can print off a PDF of the whole thing. It includes an emergency contact list to include by the phone and in each “go bag.”

  8. casey on March 15, 2011 at 5:50 am

    Huh I was actually going to email you about an emergency pantry. I'm actually somehwat prepared right now because we had no hurricanes in Houston last year so I still have most of my canned food (the dry has been eaten for snacks but I will will start re-stocking soon in preparation of hurricane season.

    So the question is, normally I buy cans of soda. In the summer I try to buy large bottles (soda, juice, milk, etc.) I rinse out the bottles and then when there is a storm in the gulf, I fill them with water and that becomes the 'dog water' plus extra water for flushing toilets, bathing, etc if necessary. It does not get drunk by the people. So I was cleaning out my guest room/storage/hurricane supply closet and I found 5 bottles from last year. Should I dump it out and refill? Toss the bottles (recycling of course) and buy new? Leave it alone? Sterilize the bottle somehow?

    I also have several bottles of professionally bottled water, those I usually keep a few months and if not used I use them to fill the dogs dish/water plants and then I buy new. Is there a shelf life for bottled water?

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