That might sound counterintuitive — wasn't it the earthquake that was the disaster? Well, not really. The fact that the earth shakes, or a tsunami washes ashore, or a wildfire scorches the landscape, or a hurricane rakes the shoreline — pick any natural event you like, none of them, in and of itself, is a disaster.
Were these events to take place in total isolation from human beings, nobody would even notice. The only factor that changes an earthquake (or any other event) into a disaster is the impact it has on a population.
So, back to the lead sentence — when the earth stopped shaking, then the disaster began. It was the presence of a human population in the area of the quake that was deadly. And those who didn't die or get injured in the few moments the earth actually shook … they were the ones for whom the disaster was just beginning.
The report out of China, after the moderate 5.6 quake that killed nearly 100 people and injured nearly 1000, is that almost all of the 110,000 residents of the town nearest the epicenter were forced out of their homes into evacuation camps that were severely undersupplied with emergency shelters. One official is quoted as saying, "They are living in the open air now. We are in dire need of tents and quilts. We only received 2,200 tents. Many people have no quilts and are not living in tents."
Keep in mind that this was a fairly mild earthquake. In 2008, a quake with a magnitude of 7.9 left 90,000 dead or missing. This recent temblor was minor by comparison. And yet, it left tens of thousands of people homeless and without the basic necessities of food, water, clothing, and a place to sleep.
It doesn't take much to disrupt the normal rhythm of life. And this event should serve as a wake-up call for all of us to take care of our own personal survival preparation.
- Have a suitable tent to use as an emergency shelter, in the event our primary shelter is damaged beyond livability.
- Have a secure place to go when it's time to evacuate.
- Have a safe water supply stored away for use if the normal supply is disrupted.
- Have an emergency supply of foods that require little to no preparation, and deliver high levels of nutrients and calories.
- Have a personal medical aid kit that you can grab quickly and take with you if you have to run. In the kit, have a supply of fresh prescription medications for any personal needs, a backup pair of eyeglasses (if needed), hearing aid, etc.
- Figure out alternative forms of transportation, in case you can't simply hop in the car and drive away.
- Work out a family survival plan, in case you're separated when the big event happens.