File 4 " Be Prepared Learn From Japan"
Day 1 Earth Quake strikes.
"The shaking came out of nowhere. Usually we get a little buzzing feeling, maybe some rumbling off in the distance, before something worth concern bubbles up. Not this time. Almost instantly, my 3rd-floor apartment was shaking immensely. I was already sitting down in a safe area, so I had nothing to do but ride it out. Literally.
The floors were bucking, the doors and windows were rattling loudly, light fixtures were swinging without restraint, and all my various knick-knacks and household items were finding their way to the floor. The shaking usually subsides after about 10-15 seconds, but this one just kept getting bigger and bigger!! I was beginning to panic, wondering if the building itself was going to hold up structurally. Haruhi-sama knows I had run out of things on my desk and shelves to watch fall.
When the initial blow finally ended in what felt like 2 minutes later, I was able to finally stand and check things out. (ugh, even now this place is shaking like Hell's fury!! But at least I know aftershocks are never as bad as the Big Daddy.) My apartment was in a total shambles. My living room looked like a tornado came through (luckily nothing was actually broken), and my kitchen was no better. The refrigerator danced its way out from the wall probably about 20 inches, and the poor toaster oven that had been set atop was now on the floor…"
In the world of EMS we are not taught very well how to deal with a once in a life time mass emergency such as natural disasters let alone a trio of them happening all at once. We are thought to call for additional resources the moment we think we need them. Sadly in a mass natural disaster they may not be available or even none existent.
So often in EMS we are use to having things a certain way as most like a fine bottle of Gin. A natural disaster can mess that all up in a lot of unexpected ways. What if we don't have a hospital to go to or a large part of our needed resources are damaged or knocked out or even nonexistent.
I know most governments and EMS organizations have disaster plans. But any plan is only as good as the people implementing it. In EMS we very rarely practice emergency preparedness and train for the worst case scenario. Emergency preparedness is very rarely talked about since it's something we don't think about. The most common kind of emergencies we get at my service is snow related and we have gotten use to that. But the events in Japan have me thinking how I can better prepare myself for the unexpected mass emergency or natural disaster.
"Day Two, 24 hours later and supplies are running short.
It's been a full 24 hours since the initial earthquake. It`s 7:22pm now as I'm writing this. My internet had been on long enough this morning to let friends and family know I was alive at that time, but as I'm learning now, Im far from out in the clear.
The big concern right now are the two Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants. A reactor at the First plant in Okuma-machi had exploded this afternoon at 3:36pm. I can't understand Japanese, so I'm just basing this on what I can piece together, but it looks like the immediate area within 10kms has upgraded to forced evacuation while the area within 20kms is now on recommended-evacuation. Apparently I'm in the 20km radius since my village was mentioned in the listing, though Japanese news totally fails and did not provide an actual map or, at least one with a scale and landmarks. A plain blue and green map with two red circles tells me NOTHING!!!!
I got an offer from a friend in a nearby city to stay with her, but now my phone is out and I have no idea where she actually lives. Figures. Gas is out, too, meaning I have no hot water to bathe and no range to heat up food. Figures (again!!), I lucked out at the grocery store, being able to actually complete my shopping list despite the mad rush, but now I have no way to actually COOK the food I fought for.
Ah well, at least my neighbor came by with some fried rice to get me through the evening. I'm counting on her to pound down my door should the radioactive poop hit the fan. I'm really glad now that I gassed up my car on Thursday night. Though the prices only went up slightly, the lines at every station I passed were ridiculous. Convenience stores were hit just as hard."
In times of mass natural disaster I have found it takes a lot of personal preparedness both mental and physical. They say you never know how you are going to act in any given situation until it happens. While this is true a lot of the time this is where emergency prep and training can help. Mass disasters and emergencies have a way of bringing out the UN expected in people both good and bad. As EMS professionals we have to prepare for them and even overcome our own fears and doubts.
"Day Three EVACUATED to Shirakawa!
I've evacuated my village, per order of the government, pending what will happen with the three out-of-control reactors. One has already exploded, though it seems like the radiation leakage has been minimal. I had to drive over 2.5 hours through mountainside roads in the dark, fighting a maze of road closures. My friend was nice to let me stay with her and her family. Not sure how long I'll be here... don't want to take advantage of their hospitality, though at the same time, I may not have any choices if the evacuation order lasts into the new week."
I feel no matter what you do in EMS you should have a personal emergency prep plan. This is a basic idea that goes back to the notions and skills I learned as a Boy Scout. The Boy Scott Motto is "Be Prepared" it's a simple concept but applies very well to EMS. As an EMT and serving in the military I have always known I have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I have three bags packed and ready to go in my home should a disaster strike. All of this will come in handy should I have to leave my home for an extended period or if there are disruptions in food, water or power should a disaster or emergency situation strike. I also have basic evacuations plans for myself and family with three designated evacuation places should I have to leave my home town.
Emergency Prep Bags.
1-Food and Water Bag
8 Each MREs
12 Ramen Noodles
12 power bars
2 gallons of water
2-Medical Bag Deluxe
Basic BLS bag with extra ice packs, trauma supplies, rope, crowbar, flashlight and hammer.
Basic clothing for 4 days. Soap and wash supplies for 2 weeks along with a blue tarp, working gloves and extra shoes.
After a disaster or when you're in a stressful and uncertain situation such as a military situation or a natural disaster, your whole world changes in an instant and so fast it makes you head spin. People have been known to lose tract of time and even whole days. Your whole body and personality feels like it's under attack mentally and physically as is my friend goes on to say. The Japanese people have a very calm manor to them with very little panic or mass civil unrest as seen here in the USA after a natural disaster. They have been very calm and orderly even in the face of extreme hardship in the face of a once in a life time disaster.
"Day Four Time has seem to of stopped
I don't even know what day it is anymore. Time has stopped for me. I go to bed at weird times, I wake up at weird times, I don't have my school schedule to let me know what day it is anymore. The aftershocks keep harrassing me, making sure I never get back to normal. Helicoptors and fire engines continue to flock around everywhere I look.
I am still in Shirakawa. We have electricity and internet and gas, but still no water. Now that the nuclear disaster has escalated, we're not allowed to go outside anymore. In fact, we can't use anything that would circulate air from outside into the house, meaning we can't even use our air-con heater for the rest of the week. When I packed, I only thought I'd be gone for 2 days, 3 days max, so I didn't bring enough clothes or snacks. I did bring my laptop and my external hard-drive, but now I'm worried about my apartment being ruined by the radiation."
I have always been savvy about being prepared for the unexpected from my time as a boy scout and the military. I feel in EMS this is a place where we can improve. We are thought to think on our feet as EMTs we don't always have the resources need to deal with situations every day. I feel the events happening in Japan right now should serve as a red flag to our leaders and serve as catalyst and ensure we are prepared for the unexpected. Please take some time and ask your supervisors and leaders in you EMS service what plans are in place should an unexpected mass emergency happen.
As for my friend Jeff who is living the mass trio of disasters he is doing well. As expected there are food and fuel shortages and very long lines for daily necessities. Japan and the United States hold a very close bond and no one should have to go through a trio of mass disasters.
"Seven days later and shortages are abundant
Still no sign of Godzilla yet, but the radiation scare continues. Each day, the Japanese government assures us that the levels in the air around the Tohoku area are safe, while the international media is frantically screaming that everyone who only so much has ever seen a photo of Japan is going to die. I'm not sure who to believe. The Japanese are famous for brushing away big concerns, while the Western media is renowned for blowing things out of proportion for the sake higher ratings. I would just like some honest data without the bureaucratic/capitalistic BS. I know the rest of the world has pretty much moved on from this tragedy, but for me, it's a continuing problem."
You can read all of Jeff's firsthand account here- Jeff's Japan Blog
In closing the world will never forget the heroic men of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, that are doing their best to control the damaged nuclear reactors. The world owes them a debt of gratitude they are protecting the world from the horror of a catastrophic melt down and toxic radiation release.
Please I implore all of you to donate to the Red Cross and support the people of Japan in their time of need. To our fellow brethren in the Japanese emergency service working untold hours and enduring UN imaginable situations and hardships you have the support of this blogger.
Till next time please keep the feedback coming.