The disaster still unfolding in Japan is immensely sad. As a San Francisco native, I also find it deeply unsettling.
It’s easy to believe that the technological lessons learned from past earthquakes have prepared us for future disasters. Buildings are retrofitted, safety valves in gas lines installed, and furniture bolted down. We feel more secure. But as we’ve seen in Japan, our technological precautions are not always equal to the dangers we face.
To be sure, retrofitted buildings probably minimized the damage in places like Tokyo. But the miles upon miles of Japanese sea walls couldn’t stop the force of the tsunami from reaching coastal towns and numerous fail safes at the nuclear reactors couldn’t cope with the severity of the disaster.
However, things could have been much worse.
Drills and disaster preparedness seem to have done a lot of good. People got to safety because they knew what to do – that receding waters meant an imminent tsunami, that you had to get to high ground as fast as possible. Thousands of lives were probably saved because people were trained to make the correct split second decision.
Not to sound alarmist, but we should all take heed and make sure we know what to do in the event of an emergency. Many of us are transplants in new places with new sets of procedures. I remember when I lived in Eastern New Mexico and was exposed to my first tornado watch — I had absolutely no idea what that meant, much less what to do.
FEMA has a guide. I’m going to spend a moment looking at it.
Also, if you are seeking to donate money for Japanese relief efforts, the Red Cross is accepting donations. Since they are said to be one of the most trusted and transparent nonprofits, your money would be well spent, going to provide actual relief and essential services to quake and tsunami victims. You can go here or text “Red Cross” to 90999 to donate $10.
A catastrophe like this puts things in perspective. Moments before the earthquake, a couple in Sendai must have quarreled, a worker must have worried, and a young person must have made a to do list. The lives we lead are fragile. It’s hard to remember that in the struggles of day to day life, but we should try to not lose sight of the things that are truly important.
Over here at Pluck, our thoughts are with the people in northeastern Japan.