Whatever the case: Be prepared

So, this post has nothing to do with our technology, but as any IT Pro knows, you have to be prepared for just about anything.

If you're ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency.

From time to time, I offer other advice that will hopefully ring true, and I think that this is such a case.

Following the recent events in New Zealand and Japan, I thought to take steps to check on our own emergency preparations at home. I clearly remember living through the San Francisco earthquake in 1989, and more recently the extreme cold and windstorm of December 2006 that cut off power to our own neighbourhood for nearly two weeks. I was also happy to see a recent post (with some humour) from the CDC posted here (and supported at right) sharing a few tips about preparing for real emergencies in addition to educating people on just what is a zombie apocalypse.

Shortly after the Japan earthquake on March 11, 2011, a mutual friend’s daughter who lives in Tokyo sent this email to her family, summarizing her experience. I asked and they agreed to share this first-hand information about what she could have done to be better prepared. It really brings the experience closer to home, and should taken seriously by anyone who lives in areas where earthquakes are likely to happen. (Of interest is the following link: As the quake wasn’t over when the first shaking stopped, all recovery activities had to take place in an environment of powerful aftershocks.)

Dear Mum,

I had bottled water and batteries but I wish I had stocked way more. The stocks in the stores disappeared in a flash and even two weeks down the track the small batteries trickle in but the two bigger sizes are still scarcer than hen’s teeth even in Osaka which is way, way away from any "affected" area. I will be on the lookout for poly bags to fill with water. Outside, with radiation floating about buckets are no chop (and inside, water sloshes out when there is a decent aftershock). I use those plastic PET bottles and I have a big camp water tank but they take up so much space when not in use. Water, water, water – to drink, and to wash dishes, self

I wish I had had a hard hat for everyone. I got bonked on the head by falling decorations. I was glad of shoes as there was broken glass everywhere. I had cotton gardening gloves but I wish I had thought to buy sturdier working ones.

Had solar recharger and batteries to recharge the mobile phones without electricity. As it turned out in the initial few days, the mobile phone network was so jammed up you couldn’t use them anyway. 

I had candles but frankly felt they were dangerous with aftershocks continuing and possible gas leaks. Didn’t think of that. The tall thin ones were useless – better were the short very fat ones – I had citronella ones in small metal buckets that we used camping to deter bugs. Very stable – nice smell to boot.

I will have more cash tucked away the next time. Hard to get to the bank/worst hot areas banks not working anyway. This time we were okay but if we had been in a harder hit area I would have been caught short I suspect.

I was glad of the canned food for the dog. She normally eats raw meat but I couldn’t get any for days!

Entertainment like cards! Whiling away the time … more of a problem than I think anyone anticipated – especially for kids stuck in an evacuation center or in Tokyo during a blackout without TV etc. Kids terrified so a good distraction too.

You never know the timing. I would have been sunk if I was at work. Flat shoes in case you have to walk home – a long, long way! In Tokyo, many people hadn’t a clue HOW to get home on foot. Family needs to have a plan – where to meet, a strategy to establish contact – in case not at home or all together. I am thinking of having some chocolate and a small bottle of water in my handbag. One of the most difficult things for me was having to leave Aimee and the dog home alone when we were still having terrible aftershocks in order to get obaasan and Elissa from where they were. I will talking to the neighbors to see if we can cooperate if there is a next time.

Things the evacuated people in the worst hit areas want more of:

Sanitary napkins and disposable nappies

Little toothpastes and toothbrushes (it is apparently bearable not to have a bath but horrible not to be able to brush your teeth! I would never have thought of that.)

Shampoo that doesn’t require water.

Loo paper – runs out quick (unless you are happy with leaves) and old telephone books/ newspaper may not be available

Medicines – non-prescription (pain relief, diarrhea (sp??) and MORE IMPT A LIST OF NAMES OF PRESCRIBED MEDICINES. Apparently a lot of the oldies have no idea what they were taking and their supplies got washed away, causing a real headache not to mention dangerous situation with people having to go cold turkey. Antiseptic wipes – little water to wash hands properly and bugs like flu/norovirus are spreading like wildfire.

Key points:

Being able to keep warm, see (light) and eat (everyone craved a hot meal but all emergency meals were cold)

A bible – great reading (history/adventure/murder -mystery/poetry etc. all in one) plus GREAT comfort. 

Had rucksacks but not applicable this time. Even in Tohoku – few people had time to get their bag. For us in Tokyo a bit further away – all supplies in a readily-available place – together – not scattered about – that EVERYONE knows about! Photocopies of important documents – passbooks, passports, insurance held preferably at a different place!

Can’t think of anything else right now….


A recent article on the events unfolding in Japan in the Seattle Times included a disaster preparedness checklist (available here online that you can print out at home) that outlines the basis you may want to have on hand in case of an emergency. As noted in the article on a Seattle Childrens’ pediatrician blog, there’s good information that will help prepare you and your family for disasters and emergencies, with lists of what to have on hand in your home. Additional information is available from the King Country Red Cross site and from the City of Seattle’s Preparedness site.

Of course, this is all a lot of information to take in. There are likely some great community programmes to leverage in your own area. Look for them in your own neighborhoods or your local emergency management office.

And be prepared.

(This will be a good segway to my next email on the upcoming situation we expect to occur in Russia. But, if you’re a regular reader, you already know about this issue.)

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