Jewish Journal


March 16, 2011

Disaster in Japan: 3 Key Lessons


The scale and frequency of natural disasters has undoubtedly become far more severe in the last decade or so. And sooner rather than later, we are all likely to be severely impacted. So what can we learn from Japan’s recent and on-going catastrophe?

1. Be Fully Prepared. This may seem obvious, but so many of us, especially here in Southern California, are not ready for the next big one, whatever it may be - earthquake, tsunami, brush fire… Do we have supplies? A real plan? Have we spoken with our kids, elderly parents? Do we even know what we should do under various circumstances? Chances are, for many, if not most people the answer to these is “NO.” There are many sources on the web with all the specific steps for disaster preparedness. Here’s an excellent one: National Center for Disaster Preparedness

2. Be Part of the Solution. Educate yourself on how to survive. We may be so busy hoping that this sort of thing never happens to us, or in sticking our heads in the sand and avoiding thinking about this possibility at all, that we miss the opportunity to really be equipped for when the disaster does arrive at our own door. Now is the time to do research, get some training, brush up on our first aid or trauma skills, learn how social networks can be utilized for disaster response. Check out the FEMA Emergency Management training programs http://training.fema.gov/Programs/

3. Gaman – Pulling Together, Calm, Patience, Stoicism in the Face of Disaster. Gaman is a quality that we need to borrow from Japan. Watching the people there face these terrible circumstances, we can only admire and respect their orderliness, self control, perseverance and willingness to work together under the most painful and challenging circumstances. There is no looting or people-related chaos.  This is a quality that we could desperately use, even on normal days – thinking about the wellbeing of others, of our community as a whole, not just ourselves. Last night, Nick Kristoff of the NY Times, former Tokyo bureau chief, talked to Piers Morgan about Japanese culture and gaman Nick Kristoff on Piers Morgan

It’s not “if,” it’s “when” will disaster strike us. Challenging stuff to deal with, so let’s be as ready as we can.

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