Four Lessons on Emergency Preparedness in Cities

The twin tremor-induced disasters in Christchurch and Sendai, taken in contrast to hurricane Katrina and other disasters, provide at least four lessons for cities and urban residents.

First, in a real city-wide disaster, however much preparation is done, it won’t be enough.  People will still die, others will struggle to find food, water and shelter, and many will get sick or injured either from the quake or the effects of it.  There was no way for Sendai to be ready for a 9.0 quake and a 30′ (10 metre) tsunami minutes later.  But…

Second, it will be far worse if a city and its residents are unprepared.  Look at New Orleans during and after Katrina–and that disaster could be seen coming for days and yet neither the city nor the country were ready to rescue, feed, clothe and house people in the days and weeks that followed.  Or look at Port-au-Prince and other cities in Haiti where sheer poverty of the nation, the city and most people prevented much in the way of adequate preparedness.

Contrast this to Christchurch where local and national emergency crews were on the scene right away.  Still…

Three, everyone in any city–earthquake zone or not–needs to be ready to look after themselves and their family for at least 72 hours (3 days) if not a full week.  As well documented in Christchurch, the city’s water system, sewage system and electrical network were severely damaged.  Neither clean water nor electricity was available for many people for days.  And just being ready yourself isn’t really good enough…

Four, as the Japanese have been brilliant at, you need to be ready to help others too, and the city has to have supplies stockpiled in places people can reach it.  In Sendai incredible stories have emerged of how people pooled and shared the clean water and food that they had.  Because the Japanese are prepared for earthquakes, many places likely had decent amounts of supplies stockpiled.

After a disaster it is probably easy to share something you have enough of.  I worry what might happen in North American cities if many residents are not ready and have nothing to eat, drink or use as shelter in the hours and days following.  Will the disaster bring out the best in people as happened in Japan, or show an ugly side as happened in New Orleans with looting and violence.

Seems that being prepared–as cities and as people–might make all the difference.

What else can we learn from these disasters? Do you feel your city is ready? are you?

One comment

  1. Andrea Coutu says:

    I don’t think Vancouver is ready whatsoever. Seismic upgrading still needs to be carried out at 3/4 schools in the district. I have an earthquake kit at home and extra water on hand. But I should really have something in the car. I worry about not being able to get over a bridge to my kids too, if I’m out and about.

jordan 12 cherry jordan 12 cherry jordan 12 cherry jordan 12 flu game jordan 12 flu game jordan 12 flu game jordan 12 french jordan 12 french jordan 12 french jordan 12 gym jordan 12 gym jordan 12 gym jordan 12 ovo jordan 12 ovo jordan 12 ovo jordan 12 unc jordan 12 unc jordan 12 unc jordan 12 wings jordan 12 wings jordan 12 wings