Practical tips in Preparation for Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters

With the unfolding of recent events following the devastating earthquake (2011 Tohoku Earthquake) in the north-east of Japan – a series of tsunamis as well as a major nuclear crisis – many have no doubt been hit with fear and perhaps a reminder of how unprepared they themselves are should a similar natural disaster happen close to where they live.

I have lived in Japan most of my life and have experienced earthquakes regularly – most of which were small and insignificant – so it’s easy to become desensitized to just how powerful and catastrophic these acts of God can be. But if there is a nation on the face of this planet that can recover from earthquakes and subsequent tsunamis, it’s Japan.

Tohoku Earthquake Map

Having not only experienced the most expensive natural disaster in the world prior to this latest one – the Great Hanshin Earthquake, costing over $100 billion in damages – but also being host to the most earthquakes per square kilometer of any country, Japan is in an unfortunate but unique position to demonstrate humbly to the rest of the world how a country can not only survive but recover fully from such a horrific blow.

* (The overall cost of this latest earthquake’s damages could very well exceed $300 billion, tripling the previous record-holder for most expensive natural disasters, the Great Hanshin Earthquake!)

My prayers go out to those who were affected by this recent earthquake, and continue to do what I can to assist and help in ways that I can. Friends and family have already arrived seeking temporary shelter from the radiation fallout, and we are all following the news closely for any signs of the situation worsening.

We are extremely grateful for generous aid given by various countries, including those in the form of volunteer personnel as well. We look at these selfless acts of international solidarity as proof that we as a global race, have what it takes to overcome such disasters.

I suppose the scariest thing about earthquakes is that it’s almost impossible to accurately foresee when and where they will hit. It can be assumed that a tsunami will hit coastal areas after a large earthquake occurs out at sea, but we have not yet discovered the means to make accurate predictions of locations and dates of the earthquakes themselves prior to them striking.

We have learned that a safe way to look at earthquakes in earthquake-prone areas (Pacific Ring of Fire for example) is not IF, but WHEN. So in light of this, one thing we can and should do is be prepared for them so that when they do come, we will be ready and know what to do. I have put together a list of tips that you may be able to benefit from in such emergencies.

And remember that the key in all preparation is foresight. There are certain cause and effect scenarios that will happen as surely as a government coverup in a nuclear meltdown (no pun intended), such as everyone hoarding food, fuel, and other necessities after such natural disasters strike, and mass evacuation as soon as the threat level rises on a nuclear crisis.

Mass Evacuation

Once this happens, it will be too late to prepare, and you will have been caught with your pants down, and in panic like many others. So consider these steps of preparation immediately, and begin knocking them off your list before it’s too late. Bear in mind that large-scale natural disasters have the ability to destroy power plants, fuel lines, and roads, so even if your home is undamaged, you might still be cut off from basic necessities as well as a viable escape route.

List of Things to do in Preparation for a Major Natural Disaster

*You might be thinking that many of these things are unnecessary as you already know or have them memorized, but you may be surprised just how blank your mind can get when in panic. This is also not a comprehensive list but a start. Add or subtract as needed.

  • Determine your quickest route of evacuation, whether it be by private vehicle or public transportation, in all 4 major directions. Have a list of all relatives and friends who can be called on for lodging.
  • Have knowledge of any nuclear power plant or facility within 300~500 kilometers of your home – so you will immediately know which direction to flee in a nuclear crisis.
  • Have bags packed and ready with essentials so you can simply grab them and run.
  • Having an extra tank or two of gasoline might be wisdom. Just be sure to keep it in a safe place as well as circulate it periodically. Stored gasoline should be used and replaced every month to ensure good, usable fuel when you need it most. Calculate how much you’ll need to travel to an appropriately distant location and store accordingly.
  • Buy and store items that you think you’ll need in an emergency situation. Think along the lines of power and water lines being cut and supermarkets and gas stands empty – batteries, radios, blankets, etc. (I cover more below.)
  • Installing a rain barrel might be a good idea as well. I haven’t considered this idea up until recently due to its inefficiency – how much you’ll save on your water bill in comparison to how much it’ll cost to install it – but I now realize that if the water mains get cut, it won’t be about the money anymore, but about survival! Rain water can be collected and used but having a large, suitable container can be the difference between a pot-full and a cubic meter. You don’t want to have a heavy rainfall only to collect a bucket-full – especially when you don’t know when it’ll rain next! (See my article Harvest your Own God-given Water for more information!)
  • Generators are handy, but rely on gasoline, which may be scarce. This is a hit or miss – and the electricity it produces may not be worth the fuel it consumes.
  • Candles, matches, kerosene lanterns, and flashlights are alternative light and heat sources, and should be stocked sufficiently. If in winter, heating your living quarters will become imperative, and having matches to start fires and light candles is necessary.
  • Having extra blankets and even clothing will be a life-saver when you don’t have the means to heat your home in winter months.
  • Battery operated radios will enable you to follow the news when your power gets cut.
  • Food that lasts without refrigeration and doesn’t need to be circulated so often such as canned, bottled, and dried is good. Store in a sealed container so animals don’t get at it, and circulate periodically.
  • Make sure you have a fire extinguisher or two handy, as fires often follow earthquakes due to ruptured power and gas lines.

Personal Defense and Safety

I don’t like to dwell on these aspects of preparation, but it would be irresponsible and dangerous to leave out the possibilities of looting, civil unrest, and various criminal activity during extended periods of such confusion. Everyone should be prepared to defend their homes and loved ones – or flee to safety – should the need arise, with any means they have at their disposal.

I would consider and even suggest procuring arms or weapons, or the closest equivalent that is legal in your country, for the purpose of defending your property and loved ones from those that would do you harm to get at what you have. This would of course have to be a personal decision as having firearms and such on your property can introduce other safety issues and even do more damage than good. (See Firearm Safety for more information.)

As I mentioned above, having a working fire extinguisher is important as fires accompany large earthquakes almost without exception. In fact, we have learned from past earthquakes such as the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, that fires can often cause more damage than the earthquakes themselves! – An estimated 90% of the total damage in San Francisco was caused by subsequent fires.

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