Learning from the Japan Disaster

Global earthquake epicenters, 1963 1998

Image via Wikipedia

It just astonishes me…the power of nature.

Japan is a modern country.  Its people are fully aware of their seismically active region of the world and totally familiar with and prepared for the effects of earthquakes.  There are less developed, less hardened places on our planet where we would expect an event like this to be a catastrophe of epic proportions, with staggering amounts of damage and historic loss of life.  The fact that this earthquake managed to do all that in Japan is a bit sobering.

We hear about the possible effects that earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes and meteor impacts can have, and we think we can prepare for it.  But then things like this Japan earthquake, with its collateral effects on nuclear power stations and tsunamis taking lives many kilometers away from the epicenter, set a case study in front of us that forces us to rewrite all of the models. 

I think we should begin a discussion on the lessons learned from this.  Below are a couple of questions to start with.  Please respond with your opinion, either here in the discussion forums in LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter where I post links to this blog.

  • Would civilization survive a global event of these proportions?  Like a large oceanic meteor impact or a Class 8 Vulcanic eruption.
  • How can governments fully prepare for nature’s upheavals?  Is full preparation even possible?
  • Is it fair to blame government when a random catastrophe unravels life and infrastructure in such proportions, in spite of best effort preparations?

When the Japan Earthquake happened I was at work and my boss got a text message from his son serving in the U.S. Armed Forces in Japan and told me about it soon after it happened.  I immediately posted a link to a useful Tsunami Warning Map on a weather website that I use a lot, because I thought it might help folks.  Then I Tweeted the link to it with the trending #Japan hashtag attached.  Unfortunately I was in too much of a hurry and in the initial post I accidentally wrote “Weather.com” instead of “Weather.gov“, making the link useless until I noticed the problem and fixed it later that morning.  Lots of folks hit it anyway.

I like providing useful information here, so I have started work on an “Emergency Links” page that I will make available in the sidebar of this blog.  It should be finished in a couple of days and I’ll keep it up to date and test all the links properly.  The search engines will already have it spidered in case I’m asleep or otherwise unavailable when something happens and somebody needs important info fast.

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~ by Bill Housley on March 31, 2011.

One Response to “Learning from the Japan Disaster”

  1. Great post. Your surprise at what happened in Japan is baffling though. It can happen anywhere and will. It’s fine to be prepared to deal with disasters from the material side. The bigger problem is humans aren’t psychologically or spiritually prepared. We think government, God, or something big and magnanimous will always protect us. Then when they “fail”, we get angry and/or reflective (just like you and I are now). The old saying “you pays your money, you takes your chances” applies. Humanity needs to understand: Earth does not have reason. God is not protecting you. Government is merely people like you and me. It can’t protect us from everything or totally help us when disaster strikes. Voltaire’s Candide only learned to cultivate his own garden after surviving the great Lisbon quake of the 1600s. It’s a lesson the rest of us fail to learn at our peril.

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