We live in high technology, high speed, highly connected society. Food and products are delivered to the stores regularly in amounts just suitable to satisfy the demand until the next delivery. We can instantly communicate with anyone via a dozen methods most of which can be instantly accessed from our phone or other personal devices. News, information, and entertainment flows to us in an unending stream from a dozen radio stations, hundreds of TV channels, and millions of web sites, which again we can access from our phones. Power flows to our homes and businesses and all of our magic gadgets and toys work. Gas pumps work, and we are never more than a few miles from one. AAA, and tow truck companies will come and get us or change our flat tires within an hour or two after we call them. Fast food is served up in minutes at our demand, again delivered to the burger joint in amounts just sufficient to supply the demand until the next delivery. Machines wash our dishes, clothes, and cars. Clean water flows into our homes and dirty water flows out. Sinks, showers, and toilets work.
But what if that all suddenly went away? Every now and then, more often we like to think really, mother nature rises up to remind us of just how small and fragile we really are. Japan is the latest example of this.
In a matter of hours the most technologicly advanced nation on the planet has been reduced to pre stone age existence. One disaster begets another, and they compound each other, and they stack up in a complicated web of tragedies ranging from the truely massive to the deeply personal.
The earthquake started it. It damaged buildings, knocked out power, killed and injured people, destroyed infrastructure, broke water lines, and generally made a mess. Then the tusnami hit. Walls of water 2 and 3 stories high smashed into the Japanese coast washing away everything in their path. Buildings were destroyed, vehicles were tossed around like toys, streets and buildings were flooded, trees were knocked over, tons of dirt became mud and covered everything in some places, and lots and lots of people were killed. Many were washed out to see as the waters receeded. Their bodies will never be found. But not all of the water receeded. Many areas affected by the tsunami are still cut off, surrounded by water, or nearly impassable deep mud.
And then the nuclear problems started. Power was out and that stopped the cooling systems for a number of reactors. Radiation started leaking. An explosion caused by a hydrogen release ripped apart a reactor building. And then another. More radiation is leaking. Authorities have evacuated a 20KM area around the plants, and advised residents out to 30 KM to stay indoors, and make their earthquake and tsunami ravaged homes airtight. At least 190 people have tested positive for radiation.
Holy crap Batman, thats a lot of problems. That’s like one of those Murphy’s Law bad days where everything goes wrong, but on a regional scale with thousands of lives lost. But wait, there’s more.
Relief is a long time in coming. Power is out, and Temperatures in Japan have been freezing since the earthquake. People have no way to heat whatever shelter they can find. They have no water. Both the earthquake and the tsunami broke water pipes, and with power out the water and sewer plants aren’t running anyway. Water in the clean pipes is contaminated by flood and sewer water getting in through the breaks. There is no food. Whatever wasn’t washed away is buried rubble or mud or both. Anything not canned or in a secure container is contaminated anyway. Without power refrigeration isn’t working. Not that it matters with near freezing temperatures. Almost everyone lost all of their clothes, blankets, and everything else.
Emergency shelters exist, but they are in sad shape. They don’t have enough food, or water. They are overloaded with more people than they can serve. Fuel is hard to come by. Survivors in more fortunate areas get to stand in lines for a little bit of rice, a little bit of water, a little bit of gas. Survivors in less fortunate areas are on their own. In areas that were not hit by the tsunami power is being rationed, with rolling black outs for several hours each day.
Vehicles are mostly out of action. Those that weren’t washed away have little fuel to run on, and roads are broken and clogged with debris. Public tranpostation, a mainstay of Japanese life, is non functional.
Watch for outbreaks of disease. With contaminated water covering everything, the sewers flushed out into the streets, no clean water, and thousands upon thousands of dead it is only a matter of time until disease breaks out.
So, right, we can see that it’s a good idea to be prepared. Some food, and water, some extra clothes, a good quality adventure grade water filter, light, a way to make fire, an emergency radio, a small stock of your regular medications, some blankets, a first aid kit. Any or all of these would make the days and weeks following the tragedy a little less unpleasant.
Don’t get me wrong. Losing your family is terrible. losing your home is terrible. Losing everything you have is terrible. But following that up by shivering through long cold nights while hungry and thirsty doesn’t make things any better.
But how could you prepare? Your well stocked bunker would be under water, or full of water or mud, or buried under rubble, or burned down. If you had your emergency supplies at home they would be washed away or buried. How can you prepare for something like this?
No one is ever fully prepared for everything. But this is exaclty why everyone should have a basic emergency kit, in an emergency bag, ready to go and positioned so that it can be grabbed on your way out the door. This is exactly why everyone should have emergency supplies in their vehicles.
There are a number of survivors who got a few minutes of warning between the earthquake and tsunami. There a lot of survivors who got seconds of warning. It was enough time for them to run from their homes or jobs or shopping and get to high ground. It was enough for them to live. If they had a bag to grab on the run on the way out it would take the edge off the post major disaster problems.
Imagine what difference a few blankets, or bottles of water would make. If it’s in a backpack or bag you can grab it on the run. you don’t have to eb some tin foil hat survival nut. Just use a little common sense. These things can and do happen anywhere.