On Saturday, April 16, 2016 Kumamoto Japan, on the southern island of Kyushu was rocked by a 7.0 Richter Scale earthquake. There were hundreds of frighteningly strong aftershocks and tens of thousands left homeless. It’s a familiar story in Japan, and once again the question of disaster preparedness by individuals and government became a talking point as the human suffering quickly overwhelmed government preparations there. Many victims were cut off from their caches of emergency supplies still in their homes that were rendered too dangerous to enter.
While many people’s disaster preparation features a portable emergency kit, like a backpack, or a suitcase on rollers filled with necessities, my family’s preparations for a major disaster in Tokyo feature the fortification of the apartment against the hardship of consumer shortages in the wake of post-disaster panic. We recall the toilet paper shortage during the oil panic of the mid-1970s, and troublesome shortages - especially of liquids, tissues and batteries - following the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
My apartment is my fortress, my cave-hoard, but I am not unique in this.
We keep a one-year supply of daily items: toilet paper; tissues; toothpaste and dental floss; body soap; shampoo; detergent; bleach; garbage bags; gum tape; and batteries of various sizes. In addition, we keep a ten-week supply of potable water; rice; and various instant noodles. Furthermore, we meticulously ensure that every household item powered by a battery is constantly at full-power. We faithfully keep phone and computer batteries at full charge. We keep no fuel in the house, but we have a supply of candles, lighters and matches, tools and first aid kit with bandages and gauze. There is more than one powerful flashlight in the house in the event of electric blackout. We also keep an assortment of rope, bungee cord, ground sheets, a small infantryman’s shovel (for latrine-digging, or grave-digging) and blankets. We have digital and paper copies of all important documents: passports, bank books, credit cards, P.I.N. numbers, User Names and Passwords of anything that requires them. Our fortress apartment is a tight, cluttered tower.
Naturally, all of these supplies occupy considerable space. Have you ever seen a one-year supply of toilet paper? It really stacks up. Maintaining the cache requires constant shopping as the supply needs replenishing. That is easily done at nearby 100-yen shops, drug stores and convenience stores. If the building is still standing after a great disaster we hope to be well provided and ready for the ensuing zombie apocalypse.
One of my fears regarding earthquake disaster in Japan is being caught alive and injured in a collapsed building. I would rather not be crushed to death. I don’t fancy a violent death. But if it’s fated to be violent I’d rather it wasn’t that. I don’t want to be shredded alive in a tree shredder, nor drowned in raw sewage, nor eaten alive by some animal.