Nothing Like an Historic Earthquake and Nuclear Fallout Crisis to Kinda Put Things in Perspective

So much for our budget shortfalls, our deficits and our polarizing political prattle — our endlessly entertaining glimpses of Charlie Sheen’s daily mental train wreck. More than 10,000 people are likely dead in Japan as a result of Friday’s unfathomable 8.9 earthquake and subsequent catastrophic tsunami, and suddenly none of our little games of name-calling and ideological one-upsmanship seem to matter anymore.

Now our thoughts are taken up by hoping against hope that what’s shaping up as the worst crisis to befall Asia since WWII doesn’t result in nuclear fallout on an epic scale. Already, we’re left wondering how it might be possible to evacuate and resettle potentially millions of Japanese citizens in harm’s way. That’s not to even mention the monumental destruction of property wrought by this disaster, the thousands left homeless, the swath of death and suffering whose depth can’t yet even be calculated.

What if this were to happen to us? What if an 8.9 shaker slammed Southern California or some other part of the West Coast in a populous area? We’re getting a glimpse of it at Japan’s wrenching expense, but only a glimpse. Hardly anything close to a full measure. Because unlike the U.S., Japan had a far greater level of readiness in terms of its strict building codes and civil preparedness. We don’t come close to matching it. We are, instead, sitting ducks. Thus, a quake scenario of similar strength and magnitude could well mean deaths in the six figures, injuries in the millions, impassable roads, toxic leaks, the disappearance of food, water and gasoline, no electricity, limited or no cellphone and internet service. We’d become an every-man-for-himself nightmare of death, doom and destruction in a blink for an undetermined period of time. Possibly weeks.

So while we’ve all seen plenty of false alarms in the past in terms of the need to be prepared — the Y2K fiasco comes to mind — this should be a lesson that everyone need have enough food and water on hand for a family of four to survive for a week (since you either have that many people under your roof now or will need to help others). Also, boxes of batteries, first aid supplies, water purification tablets, flashlights and satellite radios, a couple of portable toilets, all of that. Because if something like this were to happen, and someday it will, those who are prepared will survive and those who aren’t, won’t. It’s really just that simple.

As we’ve been reminded again with stunning drama, we are but insignificant dots running in circles when Mother Nature decides to make her presence felt. Some shifting of the seismological plates and suddenly lives are rubbed out, homes washed away, buildings and cars tossed around like children’s toys — and a nation thrust into chaos.

We all need to heed the warning. Prep is key. You can’t count on an organized response from the nation, so you need to arm yourself with knowledge, supplies, and a battle plan. That isn’t paranoid or conspiratorial thinking. It’s simply the way to survive in a crisis when all of those around you may be losing their heads — or their lives.


  1. Robin says:

    I couldn’t have said it better, Ray.

    I was in Houston when Hurricane Ike hit in 2008. Houston is rarely affected by hurricanes, so people did not panic until the very last minute. Even though my brother was a 20-year veteran of the fire department, as well as a lead paramedic, it was a challenge for us, to say the least. PLEASE do not underestimate the value of food, water and a generator. In fact, the generator was key to us as Houston is still very hot in the month of September. By day, we switched the generator to the kitchen to have cooking appliances and power the fridge; by night, 10 of us slept in one cozy room with a small window-unit conditioner. If your house has central heat/air, buy a small window unit for a disaster. You won’t be sorry!

    Even with the preparation of SIX adults, we still had challenges. No bathing facilities makes people pretty cranky. We filled up bathtubs with water to be able to flush the toilet – also very important. We each needed a flashlight to be able to navigate to the bathroom at night. Stock up way ahead on batteries and keep them in the fridge to keep them fresh, for a few days before the disaster you won’t be able to find them. Also, try to get another battery for your cell phone – no electricity means no cell when the towers do finally recover. We also found it very handy to have plenty of containers of gas ahead of time. Lines for the gas stations were HOURS long after the hurricane. Even though we felt well prepared, we still had to fill up the several gas cans we had for the generators and vehicles. Speaking of vehicles, don’t forget that the roads will be littered with debris. Check your spare tires to make sure you have a good one on hand to handle any road debris you may encounter.

    Clean up on the property was enormous and overwhelming. We worked on it for a couple of days and then ended up hiring a clean-up crew to do the work.

    Above all, we found that it was very important to keep a positive attitude. Adults should not forget that the elderly, the children, and helpless pets are all looking to us to keep things safe, calm, and efficient. The night before the hurricane, we outfitted an inside closet – a large one – with pillows, blankets, headphones, Ipods, games, etc., so we could put the children in there to keep them as calm and terror-free as possible.

    It’s easy to become complacent when our foremost concern is generally getting to work, what to eat for dinner, and who sent us a text or email. Think ahead and you will be able to rest easy when you see people scrambling for last-minute supplies on the news.


    • Ray says:

      Robin: Thanks so much for your vety thorough, comprehensive and well-thought-out comment. It’s hugely appreciated. Gonna go out and pick up a generator at your suggestion tomorrow. Take care.

      • Robin says:

        If you do pick up a generator, either do some Internet research or ask the sales associate – one that actually knows about generators – about the generator’s capacity. I remember my brothers saying they wished they had picked up a a larger unit. If your budget will allow, the bigger the better. Generators are great even for blackouts, so the more power the better.

        Just a thought…

  2. Karen says:

    People losing their heads is what scares me. I can have all my supplies, but one gun in my face, and they’re gone. That’s another thing that separates us from the Japanese. We probably won’t cope well collectively.

  3. alex tran says:

    Things are so crazy. i hope everything will be ok again soon.

  4. mad says:

    wow. great posting. I live at the beach and that friday that we had a tsunami warning all these idiots were staring at the ocean just waiting for it. there were so many people it looked like spring break. Tell me people cant be that clueless.

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