Last week’s earthquake in Japan was a sobering reminder for many Japanese they must always be prepared for a visitation from the sea. But thanks to a sophisticated early warning system and painful memories of the tragic March 11, 2011 quake, residents knew what to do this time– stop everything and get to higher ground.
It’s unfortunate we often learn best from bad times. Losses from the 2011 quake and tsunami were estimated at $210 billion with 19,000 people killed and 325,000 still displaced. Thankfully most of us will never experience a tsunami, especially one of that magnitude. But every life has it’s catastrophes, like the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, weather-related event, or other. So what can we learn from Japan’s tsunami to help us better deal with catastrophes in our own lives?
Key learning from Japan’s tsunami:
- Unanticipated: A quake of this size was unheard of.
- Unprepared: They prepared for the earthquake but not for the accompanying tsunami. While they have high building standards resulting in less loss of life
from building collapse they never anticipated such a large surge of water.
- Underestimated: Early warnings underestimated the size of the quake and tsunami because the quake unexpectedly increased in strength over time.
- Poorly communicated: Many coastal communities didn’t receive any tsunami warning because of power outages resulting from the earthquake.
Is preparation possible?
To prevent such catastrophic losses, some scientists have suggested measures like improved early warning systems and dikes in the sea. But could they really prepare for a wall of water reaching 133 feet high and traveling at the speed of a commercial airliner? The capital investment would be staggering. And the last similar event occurred 1200 years ago! So the question remains how should we prepare for life’s unexpected events. Build bigger walls, stronger structures, more complex communication systems?
How to prepare for the unexpected
In the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus tells a story about a wealthy man whose crops were plentiful so he built larger barns to store his wealth and live off his success for years. What he failed to realize was he would unexpectedly die shortly after completing them. So his preparation was for nothing.
In another parable, Jesus talks about a shrewd servant that was fired. To gain the favor of many of his master’s clients he called them and reduced their debts. When his master heard what he had done, he praised his resourcefulness. The parable goes on to say the lesson to be learned is: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.
Andrew Carnegie, arguably one of the richest men to ever live, said, “No man becomes rich unless he enriches others.”
I’m convinced it’s impossible to anticipate every catastrophe in life. I’m not saying insurance or savings are unwise investments but we should be balanced. My philosophy:
- Spend some.
- Save some.
- Give as much as you can…not just money but time and effort.
It’s foolish to think that we can stop a natural disaster. What we have got to do is live with them and minimize the consequences when they happen and minimize, also, the recovery time.– Costas Synolakis, Coastal Engineer, USC
When you give you are preparing for life’s catastrophes. The person you help today may help you tomorrow. So what are you doing to prepare for your next life catastrophe? Why not help someone else succeed today?