Author Topic: Lessons Learned from Japan Quake/Tsunami/Nuke Crisis  (Read 3684 times)

Offline Guerre

  • Prepper
  • **
  • Posts: 28
  • Karma: 4
Lessons Learned from Japan Quake/Tsunami/Nuke Crisis
« on: March 17, 2011, 08:32:49 PM »
I'm sure everyone here has been watching the inane chatter on the 24x7 news channels, hoping to catch the occasional bit of information that might be useful to prepping.  This might be in the form of things you haven't previously considered or taken seriously enough, or (more likely) things that reinforce the basic teachings of prepper gurus like Jack.  I started to keep a list of my observations, which I share below.  I would very much love the more experienced preppers on this forum to add any of their own observations to this list.  These are in no particular order.

1. Early Crisis Information is Usually Incomplete or Utter Crap.    News people are caught off-guard like everyone else and nowadays there's likely a skeleton crew (or less) on-duty, and bureaucrats are even less informed in the early hours.  The early information from Japan downplayed the severity of the crisis by a factor of at least ten.  The larger a disaster, the longer it takes for the media to come to grips with its actual size and implications.  Therefore, if something is clearly a disaster, you need to multiply the danger by 10 or even a 100 over the early reports to account for the limited sample size of the media.
2. Spokesmen Lie.  Enough said.  I think TEPCO hired that PR guy from Sadam Hussein.
3. It's Your Own Damn Fault.  Look, if you live in a major earthquake area, 10 feet above sea level, a mile from the beach, down the road from a string of nuclear reactors, then to some extent you have decided that you are OK with the risk.  Especially if you ignored the evacuation alarms that were blaring for a long time before the tsunami hit.   Likewise, if you live in an urban jungle, or you have a condo on Newport Beach, you really need to think about your priorities.  (I understand it may be insensitive to raise this issue right now.  I love Japan, and at least one of my customers has died in this event.  It's horribly sad and that's why I think people need to think real clearly about what's happened, and make some life choices.)
4. Assurances of Safety are Worthless.  Nominally I'm very pro-nuke, pro-technology, but I also realize that the spineless weasels that run many companies cannot be trusted to keep their operations safe.  Don't put yourself in the position of letting your life be in their hands any more than is absolutely necessary.  The quake in Japan was completely foreseeable, yet not one, but at least FOUR reactors have had horrible system failures.  This tells me that in a much less severe event, there easily could have been a single major failure.  And what's up with leaving the spent fuel rods in the same building as the freakin' reactor?!  A friend works at San Onofre nuclear plant and he said that if they lost the water in the spent pool, that if you tried to run its length you would drop dead before getting to the end of it.
5. The Basics are the Most Important.  Assuming you didn't move away from the dangerous area and have to evacuate, clearly you can't trust the government to provide any of the basics of life, at least not in the first 3 to 5 days.  You need your own food, shelter, and water.  Five days is a long time to go without any of these.  Some of you live in very cold or very hot places, and you might need to be outdoors for a long time.  You might also need to stand in line hours for water, and carry it a mile to your shelter.  Do you have a rolling container?
6. Buy Now, Not Later.  Although we in the US likely have no worries about the radiation, I moseyed on over to ki4u.com to go ahead and order the NukeAlert, Survey meter, dosimeter, and KI tablets for my prepper kit in case there's a disaster at San Onofre, or a nuke attack on LA (I live 40 miles North West, on the fringe of the danger zone depending on wind direction).  I had been planning to place an order in December but didn't get around to it.  Well, naturally, ki4u.com is overloaded and not taking orders.  No hurry, but it reinforces the fact that even in a minor crisis, critical things like emergency equipment, first aid supplies, Coleman fuel, plywood etc etc disappear straight away.
7. Modern Comms are Useless.  Japan is the most wired country in the world, but almost every comms system was screwed for the first critical hours after the crisis started.  So at least to start with, you need to think about HAM, GMRS, and 640 on your AM dial.  Or even better, have pre-arranged plans for what to do.
8. Don't Let a Good Crisis go to Waste.  Hate to quote that jackass from Obama's administration, but he's right in this respect -- if you have a spouse that isn't onboard with prepping, have the conversation with them after they've watched a few hours of CNN.  My wife, for example, actually came to me and asked me to help her put together her G.O.O.D. bag, and asked me about basic prepping, and what she should do in a crisis if I'm away on business.  Normally, it's a topic that she is uncomfortable with.

Any others?

Offline LdMorgan

  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1400
  • Karma: 121
Re: Lessons Learned from Japan Quake/Tsunami/Nuke Crisis
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2011, 09:14:50 PM »
Well said, Guerre.

+1

The Fukushima Incident is a disaster of extraordinary magnitude. The only good thing that can come of it is the wake-up call to many people who simply have not come to grips with their actual vulnerability to various natural and man-made catastrophes.

Perhaps it will open their eyes and prompt them to make some preparations that didn't seem particularly vital a mere week ago.

People who live close to Yellowstone have probably made their peace with the fact that it's an active super-volcano that may explode on, before, or after any given Ides of March. People who live 900 miles away probably haven't given a second thought to how they would handle a three-foot ashfall on their roof in the middle of the night.

It's impossible to guard fully against every conceivable (and inconceivable) disaster,
but there are a few things that can help in almost any emergency, and those are the steps EVERYONE ought to take as a matter of course, starting with a BOB and a store of emergency food and water.

If Evolution is all about Survival of the Fittest, Prepping is Evolution in Action.


Offline Guerre

  • Prepper
  • **
  • Posts: 28
  • Karma: 4
Re: Lessons Learned from Japan Quake/Tsunami/Nuke Crisis
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2011, 12:10:31 AM »
After some searching on these forums, I found that many of my observations are far from original which to me means that my head is in the right place, but I don't want to pretend that I'm a genius for coming up with this list.  Anyway, some additional observations:

1a. Continuing Media Coverage will be Overblown BS.  No disaster is so foul that our enterprising media can't blow it completely the hell out of proportion, given a little time to work on it.  This is a corollary to observation 1 above -- while early information can be dangerously understated, by gosh, when the media sends its blow-dried hoards to cover a disaster it will find new and ever increasingly dire things to say.  Hat tip to Jack for pointing this out.   
9. Keep Some Supplies in Your Car. Obvious, I guess, but I haven't got around to this yet, partly because twice the valet parking people here in California have stolen my extensive first aid CERT backpack.  The next pack will be chained and locked.
10. You Don't Have to Own Your BOL. Personally I'm not going to buy a BOL until I can live there at least most of the time, which might be a few years away.  In the meantime, I'm investigating whether I can pre-position some gear at a a friend or relative's house that's near but not too near.  I notice that there are lots of people in shelters or living in shanties in Japan, which tells me that they didn't make preparations for a BOL somewhere inland.  My wife is somewhat high-strung and I'm a little twitchy myself, and I can't imagine there's anything nice about having no other option than a public shelter.  Bad enough to lose one's home.
11. Transportation is Difficult if SHTF. Even if you have a car with fuel, there's a good chance that roads will initially be impassable due to debris or congestion.  Bicycles, horses, etc are a better bet.  Do you have one?  Can you fix flats caused by debris?  Are you in shape?  Of course a few days into the event some roads may be open, so having a car with fuel might be an advantage if you really need to go somewhere.
12. Learn How to Use SMS. A couple of years ago we had a little earthquake, and instantly the cellphone lines were jammed and internet communications were unusable, for about two hours.  Text messages went through, eventually, but I found out something interesting -- sometimes a text would be lost, and sometimes they would arrive out of order.  Consider the implications -- often we give one word answers in a text message, but the person on the other side may not know what question you are answering.  In a crisis, switch to more fulsome language -- instead of saying "yes" say "yes I will meet you at home".  Me and my wife started numbering our texts - I started with 101 and she started with 501, and prefixed each message with a consecutive number, so I could say "104 We plan to kill the cats and eat them." and then she could answer "503 Disagree your 104, eat your boss instead.", and then I would say "105 agree your 503".  If you don't come up with some kind of similar protocol, you will never know when you have dropped a message.
13. Practice What You Preach.  I'm still in partial or complete violation of many of my observations, plus many tips from Jack and others.  I've started to accelerate my preps over the pace I began a few months ago.  Reading this forum helps keep me motivated!

Offline sdcharger

  • Survivalist Mentor
  • *****
  • Posts: 709
  • Karma: 13
Re: Lessons Learned from Japan Quake/Tsunami/Nuke Crisis
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2011, 02:15:17 AM »
No government, no matter how well intentioned or advanced, can help you.  You must help yourself and your neighbors/family.  Local, state, and federal governments barely function on a good day.  Don't be naive and believe they can help you in a crisis.

Offline robrit13

  • Prepper
  • **
  • Posts: 14
  • Karma: 1
Re: Lessons Learned from Japan Quake/Tsunami/Nuke Crisis
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2011, 07:33:38 AM »
In my brief, but direct experience with national media during 9/11, I can tell you that they get their hands on a piece of a story; however true it may be, then elaborate on it with assumptions and pieces from someone elses stories.  Just to get ahead of another news agency. It was the one thing that I had to see first hand to believe. 

Information is power, and the Japanese govt seems to be keeping a tight grasp on what is reality and what is not.  With such a lack of power in the area of the nuke facilities, no one is really able to refute the canned information because they have no means to broadcast any alternative.

Great post Guerre.

Offline Dainty

  • Darth Dainty, Bunny Snuggler
  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1293
  • Karma: 72
  • Making it work!
Re: Lessons Learned from Japan Quake/Tsunami/Nuke Crisis
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2011, 09:57:45 AM »
I learned that worst case scenario does happen. Sometimes.

I learned that it is not irrational to consider how one disaster could tip off another and still another, and to plan accordingly.

I learned that having back-ups, and back-ups to your back-ups, plus last ditch emergency options is still no guarantee that the system will not fail (referring to the reactors). A whole lot of redundancy really doesn't mean you're paranoid of disaster, it just means you're being smart by preparing for the possibility that there could be a lot of surprises.

I learned that being forearmed with a basic understanding of the disaster results in reduced stress. Since I was already familiar with nuclear radiation, gamma vs. alpha and beta, the time window within which fallout is most dangerous, and KI, I did not need to play catch-up and research all those things to determine my level of risk. Instead of being worried about radiation, I calmly decided on the best course of action for if there was somehow an absolute worst case scenario with the reactors that managed to get enough radioactive material over to the U.S. west coast to be of some concern, which basically just included staying indoors for a bit to avoid contamination and ingestion, and covering the gardens with plastic beforehand. For me, the knowledge that the most severe worst case imaginable for my area would still be "doable" on a personal level was the best tool I had for this disaster, and allowed me to follow the story without too much concern.

Offline Stein

  • Dedicated Contributor
  • ******
  • Posts: 1862
  • Karma: 66
Re: Lessons Learned from Japan Quake/Tsunami/Nuke Crisis
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2011, 08:27:24 PM »
Well, I probably have a somewhat unique perspective.  I was in the air over Japan during the quake, landing in Asia to hear the news.  My wife and family are in the Pacific NW, not the best situation.  I am on a business trip and have been tied up from 8:30 am until about 9 pm with only about 15 minutes during the day to check e-mails or make calls - which is the middle of the night in the US.  

My first fears were for my family as a result of:

1.  Massive meltdown releasing radiation which would end up falling on our house.
2.  Resulting unrest in the US due to 1, or as a result of panic in preparation of 1.
3.  Social problems expanding to other countries I may be in or traveling through.

Here are my observations and lessons so far, our family education continues.

1.  Knowledge really is power - don't rely on CNN.  I found a site, stratfor.com that had news hours or even days before mainstream.  I have an ongoing customer service issue, so I can't give a 100% thumbs up but that is another discussion.  If anyone has suggestions on other sources, I would love to make a list of services/websites/etc to have on a thumb drive.

I quickly knew more than 99.9% of the population by simply having a laptop and Blackberry and the desire to use them.  Having communications stuff on hand, extra batteries and chargers as well as knowing where to look and when is easy to do and is probably the #1 lesson.  Without knowledge you are guessing and following the crowd - at best.

2. Take risks - act first.  If you have seen the movie Ronin, you may remember the line "if there is any doubt there is no doubt."  The intelligence I gathered in the initial hours pointed to a large problem at the nuke plants.  The first step was to talk to my wife about their potential evacuation.  We were able to make a list of things we (they) had and what would be needed as well as evacuation routes and when to pull the trigger.  She was able to buy everything we needed with the exception of iodine pills.  She could have picked them up, but we somehow forgot until mid-week when they were sold out everywhere.  Had we prepared a list ahead of time, we could have beat the crowds by days.  Better yet, we should have had them already but I didn't see how we would need them - I only considered US issues.  They didn't sell out until a local news story from a mainstream news feed.

I saw videos of empty stores in Japan literally hours after the event.  We bought stuff in the US before 99.9% of the US realized there could have been a problem.  This isn't bragging, we should have had it on hand.  No plan is perfect though and there are always things to do.

When local news runs a story, it is far too late.  The iodine pills are a classic example - you can't get them for any price now.  Fortunately that is the extent of the run, but it was the one thing we missed.

Basically, I learned you need to act before it makes sense to act.  If you have it already or have a well thought out list you are better off as the mind isn't efficient when under stress - things are forgotten.  What is the risk, what is the cost?  High risk and low cost = act even if the probability is very low.

Had this been 10 years ago with no international cell phones, I would have been extremely limited and it would have sucked beyond belief.  Same goes for problems in this country where the phones would quickly be shut off.

Essentially, you need to act when it doesn't make sense and you will very likely be looked at as strange to your neighbors.  You will be wrong 95% of the time, or more, but it is the time when you are right that counts.  Be prepared to be wrong and hope you are.

We had cash on hand and in savings for emergencies and were able to buy a bunch of stuff we will use anyway which means great protection and virtually no cost (use the stuff anyway).  Acting early gives you time to do other things later or move earlier.  Having cash on hand means we didn't need to go to the bank.  Multiply this and you save crucial minutes, hours or even days.

3.  Have a plan.  We didn't have an evac plan, but something is better than nothing so get going.  Likewise you could find your plan is woefully inadequate or plain wrong.  I quickly educated myself on nuke reactors and determined that the family would evacuate if 1)  a major release occurred or was likely to occur (as opposed to the local release we have seen so far) or 2)  Social unrest was happening in the NW as observed by others evacuating, stores out of food, lines at gas stations or the slightest report of anything like this or 3)  If our gut said go.  The advantage we had was the timezone change, I could watch all night their time and was sleeping during their day.  We had near 24 hour coverage and I was prepared to send the text at any time.

Also, my wife pre-loaded some items in the trunk (minimum equipment) as well as staged the bulky items in the garage.  In 5 minutes she could be fully loaded and on the road.  The car was never lower than 3/4 tank and minimum stuff was in the trunk so she could evac anywhere/anytime.  We also had the hastily made written plan.  Luckily we had probably 80% of the bare necessities for an evac on hand - the big challenge was coming up with a list and finding the stuff.

When you have nothing planned, or even if you have planned, small and smart actions early on lead to a huge impact on what the outcome of the situation is.

4.  Don't trust the government.  I quickly figured out that you can't evacuate Japan - where would the millions go?  Likewise, they can't even evacuate major population centers like Tokyo.  Thus, the bigger risk to the government of Japan is panic which unfortunately means suppressing bad news.  I don't think the US is different, I heard calming news saying there was no threat of radiation in the US before anybody knew the extent of the damage.  This isn't a tinfoil hat moment, just acknowledgment that what is best for my family is not the best thing for society in general.  The government, best case, is caring for the entire country - I am most worried about four people.  This means my actions are often 180 degrees from the desired action of the population.

Most governments are oriented to keep the public calm and clean up the mess afterward.  FEMA has never prevented a single person from being hurt by not being part of the tragedy.

5.  You are crazy.  If you do the above, you will be perceived as irrational, illogical, afraid, uninformed, confused and crazy.  Likewise, you will think the exact same thing about those who don't act.  Only one of you will be right - decide for yourself.  I actually have a co-worker flying through Japan today.  Crazy.

6. Others are crazy.  Find them.  It is surprisingly easy to find others of like mind.  There is power, safety, options and peace of mind in numbers.  Imagine the difference between my wife heading out alone vs going with a second family!  HUGE.  Through a couple casual conversations, she found a friend who was going through the same thought process - people I wouldn't have guessed.  They had their rv fueled and loaded with supplies and made plans to pick up our family on the way out.  Now, we had another set of eyes watching as well as the increased capability two extra adults bring.  We now have an rv, more equipment, more adults and defensive capabilities at our disposal we couldn't have had any other way.

This happened by accident, but I cannot overstate how important this is.  Make a habit of asking everyone you interact with "what do you think about...." and you will quickly figure out what kind of crazy they are.  You probably will be surprised.  Do this constantly.  They were shocked to find out we were getting ready and we were shocked to find out they were.

We plan on using this to build a list of people who think like we do.  So easy to do and so important.

7.  Learn from the event. Many, many lessons were learned at little to no cost so far.  The biggest lesson is that being prepared could be free.  If you have items stored you will use, it doesn't really cost anything.  The buying spree my wife went on would have seemed expensive 10 days ago, but seems trivial now.  A few hundred to a thousand bucks invested wisely makes a HUGE difference to what you are prepared to deal with.

This post is part of the process of documenting my feelings, thoughts and actions to learn from.  I saved the handwritten page of nuke plant notes to remind me of how I felt when I was writing that.  Human nature wants to force us back to complacency.  "We freaked out and did things that weren't necessary.  The others were right."  should be "We acted quickly and protected our family.  We knew we were likely to be wrong and were prepared to pay the tiny cost in return for huge amounts of security and risk reduction."

Document what went right, what went wrong and what you would have done differently.  Do this in the heat of the action so you don't forget or downplay things after the event.  Small things have big consequences sometimes.  I am working on our new and improved evac plan today and will have a robust plan in place within a week.

The best news is that my wife is now 100% on board and I am 125%.  My wife didn't know about iodine pills.  I thought they were one of those things I would never, ever need.  Perspective changes.  Having the "you may need to evac the kids from radiation, you need to be ready to get to Montana as quickly as possible - be ready to leave everything we have, including family or friends that won't go" - I had this conversation with my wife who was 6,500 miles away which gave an incredible perspective I couldn't have had any other way.  I could have thought about this happening, but that is so much different than experiencing it.  Use that, learn from it.


Offline Guerre

  • Prepper
  • **
  • Posts: 28
  • Karma: 4
Re: Lessons Learned from Japan Quake/Tsunami/Nuke Crisis
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2011, 09:00:59 PM »
[...condensed...]
This post is part of the process of documenting my feelings, thoughts and actions to learn from.  I saved the handwritten page of nuke plant notes to remind me of how I felt when I was writing that.  

Which brings up something worth repeating -- we all have become used to googling anything we need to know.  Unfortunately, in any major disaster in your area, odds are that you won't be able to get to google or Wikipedia.  So any researching you need to do, such as finding out where the nuclear plants are, needs to either happen as part of your advanced preps, or needs to be an offline source you've downloaded in advance.   Print hardcopies or make handwritten notes (such as marking hazards such as nuclear plants on your paper maps, and also marking good stuff like hospitals, fire stations, etc).

In a related issue, most of the useful apps on smartphones can't be relied on, either, because they need the 3G network to be functional.  Your maps app probably downloads tiles from a remote server in real time, giving your the illusion that it has the maps stored internally (though some are truly offline-capable and it's worth downloading one of these).  Apps that appear to receive TV, radio, or emergency band frequencies are actually just using a streaming audio feed provided by a (usually) volunteer hacker's computer somewhere on the internet, and in a crisis this will go down faster than Lindsay Lohan.   I'm willing to assume that in anything other than an extreme TEOTWAWKI scenario that the GPS signal itself will work, but keeping a paper map around protects you against all sorts of problems including flat batteries, grid down, cellular down, EMP, or even the very real prospect of a bandit relieving you of your shiny iPad.

What made me think of this is on Jack's podcast the other day he mentioned an app that lets you listen in to police and fire radios.  This is very likely to become unavailable in a disaster, so don't count on it.  The app doesn't magically convert your phone into a scanner -- it's just another internet service subject to outages.


Offline Guerre

  • Prepper
  • **
  • Posts: 28
  • Karma: 4
Re: Lessons Learned from Japan Quake/Tsunami/Nuke Crisis
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2011, 02:33:17 PM »
Came across one other thing -- this is a very useful infographic that puts the various levels of radiation doses in perspective:  http://xkcd.com/radiation/

This is the most informative chart of its type I've seen, and this from what's nominally a humor website.

Offline joejoe

  • Prepper
  • **
  • Posts: 60
  • Karma: 3
Re: Lessons Learned from Japan Quake/Tsunami/Nuke Crisis
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2011, 03:11:32 PM »
That was an interesting link, have some karma   :D

A few things ive learned from the japan incident:

1. You really need cash, plastics no good when the powers down.
2. Move quick and avoid holds ups.
3. I need a bug out fuel store.(even enough for a tank or two)
4. Comms (again). From a previous minor incident ive learned that the comms WILL go down, either due to overcapacity or failure. Im already working on this.
5. Don't trust the goverment (like I ever did  ;))
6. Why didnt I ever think of planning for a nuclear leak, its probably one of the main reasons for leaving the area, its not like the zombies are coming  ;)
7. I learned a lot about nuclear in a very short time, in fact you can make part of your house radiation proof (not direct gamma) just by using some plastic sheets, gaffer tape and some good air filters (hepa) and a blower to keep a positive pressure.

Offline Rand McNally

  • Prepper
  • **
  • Posts: 55
  • Karma: 9
Re: Lessons Learned from Japan Quake/Tsunami/Nuke Crisis
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2011, 05:49:22 PM »
I have kind of a strange take away the current problems in Japan. The importance of culture.  Why is Japan not becoming unglued; why are there no food riots; why are there no murders in the evacuation centers. Culture.

So there are two ways I think this information is relevant to us.  For those of us in Canada or the US we get a lot of scope to pick were we live.  Picking a community with the right kind of culture can be important.  The second ting is that culture is not just thrust upon us, we get to influence it back.  Within my family, circle of friends, and in my immediate community I can help influence the culture.  I am involved in the my community in a number of different ways and from time to time try and us those roles to put little ideas in peoples minds. 

A group I work with had a fund raiser for Japan. Most the people working on the project live no more than a few streets away from me.  I used the opportunity to ask a few people about what we could do locally if there was a disaster. I think couple people may have walked away thinking they need to be able to help themselves first so they can help others.


Offline sdcharger

  • Survivalist Mentor
  • *****
  • Posts: 709
  • Karma: 13
Re: Lessons Learned from Japan Quake/Tsunami/Nuke Crisis
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2011, 12:47:08 AM »
I have kind of a strange take away the current problems in Japan. The importance of culture.

Nice observation +1 ;)


One the one hand yes, it is good.  Japanese people are holding it together and being very resilient.

On the other hand in the business and government side of things, the culture hampers the flow of useful information to the public.  Not as much as in a more authoritarian type government found in most countries but more so than other free type cultures perhaps.

Ultimately, I see the Japanese culture as a strong positive for overcoming the obstacles of this disaster.

Thox Spuddy

  • Guest
Re: Lessons Learned from Japan Quake/Tsunami/Nuke Crisis
« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2011, 04:04:48 PM »
Since this (nuclear) crises in Japan I've been amazed at how many survival related podcasts go on about how we shouldn't panic and pooh-poohed the idea of stocking up on potassium iodine or other measures to prevent radiation exposure. (major exception, and to my knowledge the only is Jim Puplava http://www.financialsense.com/)

Huh? Isn't preparing for a disaster is all about taking appropriate measures? Of course you should stock up and prepare for possible radiation exposure!! Prepping is panicking?

That sort of Mr. Rogers approach to survival preparedness is stretching normalcy bias to the point that it threatens ones' existence.