As Neil DeGrasse Tyson, PhD, points out in his many videos, the earth is NOT your friend. Dropped down naked in almost any spot on earth you will survive less than 48 hours. Accept that as a fact and then proceed to make sure you are never without the tools needed to survive.
In Japan, we see a nearly perfect storm of events (earthquake, tsunami, cold weather, rolling black outs, and atomic plant breakdowns) that is turning into a killer; not just of people but also of national economies.
The basic natural cause of this disaster is that the earth’s crust is divided into tremendous plates that move in various directions based on the magma currents deep in the earth’s core. Since these plates move in random directions they collide with, scrape by and spread apart from each other. Each type of boundary has its own unique geography and disaster potential. In the Atlantic, the crusts are spreading, thus the volcanoes in Iceland and the mid-Atlantic ridge. Along the western coasts of Mexico and southern California the plates are sliding next to each other, thus the many smaller to medium quakes with small or no tsunamis. On the western side of the Pacific and in an arch from northern California through Oregon, Washington, Canada and Alaska one plate is sliding under (subduction) another; this is the Cascadia fault.
These subduction zones create the most dangerous quakes in terms of tsunami generation. These quakes, called mega-thrust quakes result in massive movements of the earth (in Indonesia a thrust fault 600 miles long unzipped) with the size of the tsunami determined by the length of the fault and the magnitude of the quake. Japan was a large quake but only a small area was involved. The Cascadia fault is about the same size and shape as the Indonesian fault but it has not had any seismic activity for over a hundred years. When it lets go (as it must) it will be a huge quake over a long distance creating an event with massive tsunamis through out the Pacific.
The problem for Japan is that they designed for a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. Since the magnitude scale is logarithmic an 8 is 10 times worse than a 7 and a 9 is 100 times worse than a 7. This quake was 50 times stronger that was planned for. In spite of that, it wasn’t the quake that did the worst damage, it was the tsunami. Being prepared would not have helped many as their homes and all they had just washed away. Entire trains running along the coast are still missing. The problems with the atomic reactors revolve around damage to the cooling systems (not the reactor systems). While the reactors survived intact despite being under designed, their cooling systems were not up to the same standards.
It was assumed that if any single reactor had problems, rapid repairs could be made before major issues came up. The quake and tsunami proved that a false assumption. Another problem is that all reactor users store spent fuel rods in large pools of cooling water. Since these are not the active fuel rods they are not in containment building like the reactors. When the cooling goes away, the water begins to boil off these “spent” rods which are still very hot in terms of both temperature and radioactivity. Eventually these rods uncover, heat up and cause additional explosions without a containment vessel to hold in the radioactive particles. This appears to have now happened on at least one site. Japan is on the verge of an economic disaster to go with the physical disaster already playing out.
The US is not likely to see a Japan style disaster on any of the east coasts. The east coasts are susceptible to earthquakes and hurricanes. There are rare events that could cause a tsunami along the east coast (Volcano eruption in the Canary Islands causing a land slide there triggering a tsunami) but unlikely to be as large as Indonesia’s tsunami. The west coasts are more vulnerable. There are also possible disasters from volcanic events that could be devastating. In a disaster scenario one of the problems is always to ensure your survival preparations will survive. If you live in an earthquake zone your preparations do you no good if your house collapses and burns with your supplies inside. In a tsunami zone, what you have on you is what you have; nothing more. Running for their lives, the Japanese had no time to pack needed supplies. The Japanese are a different culture than us, more ordered and trusting of their rulers. That trust is already eroding and the entire country is beginning to panic. When a culture like theirs starts to panic and horde food, it is in a very dangerous place.
What may well be happening in Japan now is a slow speed, global SHTF event, right in front of our eyes but unrecognized. Japan is the second largest trading partner for the US, for China and for most of the EU. The world economy is going to take a pounding from this event. This does not bode well for economies that were already struggling to recover in difficult times. Already companies around the world are feeling a pinch due to their global supply chain relying on Japan to produce a certain type of product or resource. Japan has stopped much of its manufacturing and exporting. Financial houses are selling foreign (US) investments to have money for the rebuilding efforts. Prices will go higher based on uncertainty and fear. Even if we are spared another geological disaster, an economic one seems almost inevitable. Already crimes like gasoline theft are becoming more common and the locking gas cap does not help as the gas tank is simply punctured. As more jobs go away people will become more desperate and society more frayed. A very uneasy time that we should take as a warning to make sure all of our preparations are as up to speed as we can get them.
Here are some of the “lessons learned” that we have observed from the Japanese crisis. It is worth noting that Japan is a homogeneous society with almost 99% of the population of Japanese descent. Their culture is also based on honor and dignity which is why we have not seen wide spread riots and looting. This makes some of the lessons learned difficult to translate over to North America because we (@ SurvivalCache) believe the fabric of our society would unravel much quicker if the same type of disaster struck a major region of the United States.
This is the Achilles heel of a lot of people’s bug out and bug in plans. They have done all this planning for a natural or man made disaster, only to find out when the disaster strikes that their vehicle’s fuel tank is on empty or they have no way to heat their home. We have seen reports of mile long lines at Japanese gas stations, stretching for many city blocks. Think about your gas and fuel plan today! Think about a fuel stabilizer today! Gasoline goes bad over time so you need to buy a fuel stabilizer and rotate your stored gas every 8 to 12 months. It is an easy process to plan for but so many people do not do it. Also plan to heat your home with an alternative source of fuel. Propane heaters and wood burning stoves come to mind (if you have access to wood).
72 Hour Kit
Needs to be with you at all times. In the back of your car or stored at your work if you commute by train or bus. Note: This is not your Bug Out Bag, this is a simple 72 kit that could sustain you for a few days. Your Bug Out Bag should be able to sustain you for at least a week if not for perpetual survival. Many Japanese people are left to beg and fend for themselves because they were not able to grab enough supplies before they left their homes. The Earthquake hit at about 6:00 am local time and was followed by massive tsunami waves. When the sirens go off, one of those packs should be on your back (72 hour kit or Bug Out Bag) as you walk out the door. The Japanese people are probably the most prepared on earth. They live with the threat of massive earthquakes and tsunamis everyday. To see a nation of prepared people get overwhelmed by this event has been eye opening experience.
Bug Out Bag
Most people keep their bags at their home. If you don’t have one, consider this your wake up call. Japan is a 1st world country with all of the modern conveniences of the United States and maybe more. It happened in the United States with Hurricane Katrina and it will happen here again, it is not a matter of “If” only a matter of “When”. The reports of the Japanese Government not reaching some of the affected areas for 3 to 4 days should concern everyone. The best Bug Out Bag plan is one that is completely self contained and does not rely on help from Governments or other people for assistance. Water, Food, Shelter, Fire, Clothing, Protection, Barter – you must cover all of these to ensure that you and your loved ones are ready for anything (click here to see our survival store).
Reports that Japanese people have had to go without food for 2 to 3 days is shocking in a 1st world country (watch video of Japan Bug Out). This is another example of why you cannot simply rely on the government for your family’s safety. It took the Japanese Government days to reach affected areas of the tsunami and Japan is a relatively small country compared to the United States. Shelf stable food should be kept in a number of places. Your home, Bug Out Bag, 72 Hour Car Kit, and even work. Next time you are at the grocery store pick up a few extra cans of food or some rice and store it in a separate location from the food you regularly consume. It may come in handy down the road.
Reports from Japan of people not having fresh water for 2 to 3 days have been followed up by new scares of the tap water being contaminated with radiation, this is another eye opener. Having a good water plan is vital to your families survivability in a crisis. There are a lot of products we have come across SuperTanker, WaterBob, Berkey Water Filters, and a personal favorite Aquamira Water Heater Adapter and the Frontier Pro Water Filter (they work together to turn your water heater into a stored tank of drinkable water). These products can assist you with your crisis planning. Note: that “water” can not be radioactive unless the Tritium form of hydrogen is present (the H3 isotote – very rare on earth and of no concern here). It is the natural minerals dissolved it the water that is radioactive and makes what is commonly called ‘radioactive water’. Adequate filtering will give good drinking water if you know how to do it.
I have heard this time and time again, “I don’t ever plan to ever bug out, I have all of my preps right here in my home. Why should I leave?” Everyone should look to Japan as an example, you need to have a back up portable shelter (tent, tarp, camper, etc). There may come a time, for whatever reason, that your home becomes unlivable, meaning that if you stay in your home you will die. Now is the time to start planning for this contingency.
Mass Evacuation Planning
The Japanese Government has asked people within 20 miles of the nuclear reactors to stay at home and seal their homes. The US Government has told its citizens to move out past 50 miles from the reactors. When I heard this I was thinking that if I was in Japan, I would be going much further than 50 miles from those reactors and that is exactly what happened. People decided to bug out with many foreign nationals leaving the country all together. The Japanese Government lost credibility much the same way the US Government lost credibility during Hurricane Katrina. Get a good detailed map of your area and learn the back roads, old highway systems, rail road lines, high power line paths, etc. We also recommend getting a topographical map of your area from the USGS. Use the terrain mapping of these maps or even Google Earth to find areas that will be impassible during bad weather or likely choke points to cause severe traffic issues. Remember, in a mass evacuation the sheep will flock to the interstate system, as it will seem like the fastest way out of dodge. With high guard rails and limited exits your car could become trapped on the interstate. Focus on the “The Road Not Taken” and it will make all the difference.
Another lesson from Japan is to review your EDC (Everyday Carry), this disaster struck so quick that many people did not have a chance to grab their 72 Hour Kit or Bug Out Bag. Their homes were literally washed away in an instant. What they had on their person at the time of the tsunami are the only survival tools they would have for days. There are many forums out there where you can get good ideas for your Everyday Carry, here are some basics (knife, watch, parachord wrist band, mobile phone, flashlight, pistol, spare mag, fire starter)
Please share other lessons you learned below.
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