What can we learn from the Earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand?

Area residents cannot help but think, upon hearing news of earthquakes elsewhere along the Pacific Rim, that it’s just a matter of time before something like that happens here. Recently, The Olympian ran an article entitled “Sooner or later, a massive quake will hit Pacific Northwest.” About 6 weeks ago, the Griffin Neighborhood Association undertook an effort to rework its disaster preparedness web page, in order to provide a concise set of information. Click here for that web page, which presents information both for families who just want to beef up their preparedness plans and for neighbors who want to work with other neighbors, to craft a more comprehensive approach to disaster planning.

Damage in Japan from earthquake and tsunami

What can we learn from the Earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand?

1. Be Prepared in advance-expect the worst. The level of damage they experienced was difficult to contemplate. Their quakes were a magnitude 7 and magnitude 9. History says we could experience a quake of up to magnitude 9. This fact alone means that all households should have an emergency stock of survival items. Stocks of clothing must include planning for all types of weather.

2. Given certain geological conditions, a tsunami is a potential threat with any earthquake. Often, they are more destructive than the originating earthquake. Note the newspaper headlines after the earthquake in Japan, Northwest and Japan have similar quake and tsunami vulnerabilities.

3. Even though both countries were recognized as well prepared, acute shortages of water, food and gasoline developed within 24 hours. Try to keep all vehicles as fully fueled as possible.

4. Don’t run out of buildings. The amount of rubble should make it clear that you don’t want to leave a building until the shaking and falling have subsided. Move to previously planned safe areas of the building. Become familiar with the angles of survival concept. Move away from windows.

5. Expect major infrastructure failure- roads may be blocked, underground  pipes  (water, septic, gas or propane) may be compromised.

Damage in Christchurch, New Zealand

6. Expect further damage from subsequent after-shocks. Put on safety equipment and, when it is safe, move to open areas. If possible move vehicles to open areas. They may be your temporary home.

7. Maintain an emergency supply of cash on hand.

8. Minimize the use of cell phones. In all likelihood, mobile networks will be compromised with overuse. More importantly, we saw for the first time trapped victims using their cell phones and other electronic devices to lead rescuers to them. Preserve the network for emergency purposes. Texting as a form of communication places the least burden on mobile networks.

9. When things have calmed down place a call to your out-of-area contact and brief them on your status. The Griffin Fire Department has a supply of out-of-area contact forms. We saw the anxiety of family members across the world waiting for news on the status of loved ones.

10. Support your neighbors, particularly those with special needs. There are existing programs and information referenced on this web site to help neighborhoods organize.

– Norm Johnson

Posted in Disaster Preparedness.