I teach in an international school in Tokyo. At 2:45 p.m. on Mar. 10, 2011 we had an earthquake and evacuation drill. At 2:46 p.m. on Mar. 11, we had the 8.9 earthquake. Because we had just "rehearsed" the same thing the day before, all 470 students and all staff knew exactly what to do and there was no panic. Most of the time we feel "ho hum, not another drill interrupting my class," but yesterday proved to us that they are very important.
We evacuated to the playground where we waited for parents to pick up their students. Many students live on train lines which were not running. Cell phones and land lines were not working, but we discovered we could use the Internet and Skype. Make sure your children know how to contact you in an emergency! Think through what you would do if you were at work and they were at school. Designate a neighbor or friend to take care of your child if you are unable to get there, and let the school know who it is.
Those who could not return home because of the trains, stayed in the houses of those of us who live near enough to walk. I was scrambling to find an extra toothbrush, but otherwise we had no trouble housing people. Simple living aside, it might be a good idea to keep a few extra toothbrushes around.
Kindness was seen in all directions, from the moment we evacuated to the playground: Children comforted each other; High school students prayed together in huddles; The librarian sat on the ground and read a book to a group of kindergartners and first graders; Staff members and visiting parents who just happened to be there sat near enough to the building to get Wi-Fi on their computers and helped children contact parents.
I think the clincher for me was when the parents of a first grader, who stayed at our neighbor's, picked him up. The mother said, "I had two strangers in my home last night, because we nearly got stuck on the subway together. We were just going to get on the train when the earthquake happened. I couldn't help but invite them to sleep at our house."
This is not a thrifty tip, but it is on my heart today - practice for disaster, be prepared, and most of all, practice kindness every day and it will stay with you in a disaster.
Source: my experience during and after the earthquake
By Denise from Tokyo, Japan
Editor's Note: This is a stock photo, not from the recent damage in Japan.
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Since you never know when an emergency is going to happen, I stay stocked up and prepared year round. I have a specific cabinet set up with canned foods, cereals, powdered milk, water, pet foods and other necessities.
I live in southeastern NC and although we don't get the full force of hurricanes like you do in FL, we do get the damaging winds, rains, and tornadoes spun off from the storms. So keeping disaster bins is important here too.
Are you prepared for an emergency? Be prepared for almost every emergency with lots of canned food items. You should also store water and a hand can opener with the food. Make sure you have meats that are canned as they give you energy.
Ever since my kids were small, we have designated my mother, who lives in another state, as the family emergency contact. All school forms had her name and phone number in the emergency contact section, as did any of the wallet emergency cards we all carried.
What everyone recommends is 3 days worth of everything such as WATER; drinking water and water for cleaning yourself up. In a case where we know it's going to hit, have everyone take showers or bathe and be clean. Fill tub up with water.
Add a few "booklights" to your emergency kits. Mine came in very handy during the recent blackout. I just clipped it to the front of my shirt and as it is adjustable I just pointed it where I wanted it and had a hands free flashlight!
With the storm bearing down on the Eastern seaboard, I thought I'd share some things I learned while living on the Gulf Coast.
Growing up, even though our family was low income, my mother always made sure she had extra food for storms, power outage, etc. When we would hear the bread and milk rush, when snow was mentioned, she would always say, "Do people wait until their cupboards are bare before going to the grocery store?"
When dangerous weather strikes, be prepared in advance by having a couple of very easy things in place beforehand.
This is an excellent suggestion that was printed recently in our local paper as a tip for power failures during storms: make freezer packs by placing water filled water jugs, plastic pop bottles, or gallon ice cream containers in the deep freeze.
Know what you have before a disaster strikes by putting down on paper everything you have with serial numbers, make, and manufacturer. You can also take pictures of your items so they can be referred to if something should happen.
Many of us are wondering if there's something we can do to better protect our homes from devastating storms. The first step is to listen to authorities and evacuate dangerous areas before the storms arrive. Homes can be replaced; families cannot.
Save some dry wood cut into small pieces in old recycled jars. Pat down to pack it or carefully pack it from the top, using a hammer to further break pieces so more will fit. You could also place small bits of paper to ensure your fire will start.
Tips for organizing emergency numbers.
Here's a great .pdf file with information about emergency preparedness, preparing your house, surviving during and after an emergency and a check list of things you will need. It is from the Seattle Times.
Last year, at least 65 people died from generator-related CO poisoning. Many of the deaths occurred after winter storms knocked out power.