Preparing for a Natural Disaster

This past summer, I traveled to Japan with the TOMODACHI-MUFG International Exchange Program, which aims to deepen the understanding between the United States and Japan and to educate the next generation about disaster preparedness and relief. On the trip, we visited several regions affected by the 2011 Great East Earthquake and Tsunami, such as Sendai and Minamisanriku.

I learned about the language, culture, traditions, and people of Japan, but I also learned about how important it is to be prepared for a natural disaster. We visited museums, historic sites, city centers and spoke with survivors of the disasters, and again and again their message was simple: be prepared.

I have lived in Santa Monica for my whole life, and I have known that our city lays right along several fault lines and the coast, which is reportedly long overdue for a major earthquake. And yet when I returned, having learned about the tragedies a natural disaster can cause, I was surprised at the lack of preparedness of so many people in my community, and their cavalier attitudes when I suggested they get prepared. Although the events of the 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan may seem like a distant, unlikely occurrence, the statistics of similar events happening in L.A. — and the consequences of not being prepared — are too high to be ignored.

So here is a brief list of essential steps in ensuring your preparedness:

-Make a meeting spot with your family (easy to access, open, clear of buildings, etc.) It is important to know where you are going to meet ahead of time, as communication is often very difficult and limited in a time of crisis.

-Get a survival kit together (full of supplies such as food, water, space blankets, portable toilets, cash, shoes, flashlights, etc.) Your kit should include items that would help in the case of numerous natural disasters, for fires, tsunamis, etc. often follow major earthquakes. Although it’s important to keep your kit small and portable, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so when in doubt pack the extra items that might be useful.

-Run practice drills for various disasters so that when the time comes, you can remain calm and collected. This step is often overlooked, but is essential! Our natural instinct is to panic when put in stressful or new situations, and even more so in life-threatening ones, so the more practice you get, the better off you’ll be.

Although this is not a comprehensive list, it will start you in the right direction–which we could all use.

Abbie Grossman is a student at Santa Monica High School

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