EDITORIAL: Tragic quake reminds us to be prepared

As the scope of last week’s catastrophe in Japan continues to unfold, we should pause to reflect upon two things – the tragic loss of life, and our own level of preparedness for such a natural disaster.

The 8.9-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami may have occurred thousands of kilometres away, but its disastrous effects have been felt on the Semiahmoo Peninsula.

South Surrey’s Akiko Sugawara, for instance, watched in horror last week as her hometown of Sendai – where she and her two children had visited earlier this month – was nearly destroyed by the tsunami. Though her parents were unharmed in the disaster, they – like millions of others in the hardest-hit areas in Japan’s northeast – will be dealing with the damage for decades to come.

There are serious lessons to be learned from this most recent crisis, especially here on the B.C. coast, where experts have long been warning it’s not a matter of if – but when – a major earthquake will hit this area.

For days following the Japanese disaster, people were searching for water and food. Clearly, thousands of households – including those that escaped damage – were simply not prepared to handle such an emergency with the most basic supplies and plans.

Are we? The answer is, for the majority, no.

The ramifications of a major quake will be the same here as they are in Japan. Stores will be damaged, and those that aren’t will be sold out of essential supplies in hours. Transportation will be severely interrupted. Telephone service and the Internet are likely to be down.

Which begs the questions… do you have a survival kit in your home, with all family members familiar with its contents? Do you have a complete first aid kit, and sufficient knowledge to deal with basic trauma?

Do you know how to turn off the gas in your home? Do you have alternate shelter in case your home is uninhabitable?

Do you have a family plan as to what to do if a quake hits while you’re separated?

Do you at least have enough water to last three days, for your entire family? Do you have enough food on hand to last that long, or longer?

For those of us who have answered no to any of the questions above, the images of devastation in Japan should serve as a wake-up call.

It is time to be prepared.

– Peace Arch News