I haven’t written anything about the Japanese earthquake so far. It seems almost mean-spirited to try to and find things they did wrong. The biggest lesson, really, is this: Sometimes it just doesn’t matter what you do.
I’m sure there were people who were prepared. They may have had a significant reserve of staples and emergency gear. But the quake hit in the mid-afternoon, when many of them were away from home. The tsunami followed the earthquake so quickly that unless they had emergency supplies with them (a car kit, perhaps), they wouldn’t have much chance of getting to them.
Afterward, even assuming their homes were still intact, much of what they had would likely have been ruined, washed away, or contaminated. Most of them would just be thankful to be alive–entire towns weren’t even that lucky.
No, the Japanese who would benefit most from home storage and emergency preparation would be those outside the tsunami zone and in other parts of Japan. With rolling blackouts and severe shortages, there will be many caught without adequate reserves. It may be weeks or months before their lives return to normal.
One emergency preparation step that cannot be emphasized enough, however, is having a communication and meet-up plan should families be separated or cut off. With the quake coming when it did, I’m sure quite a few families were forced to evacuate without knowing where all their members were.
With communications so severely interrupted it would be quite some time before families would be able to contact each other. Having a set meeting point would become vital. Having set family members outside the area they would all know to contact as soon as they could would help get connect families more quickly.
There will be many lessons to learn from the Sendai quake. The biggest is probably this: plan for the worst–and then imagine worse, and plan for that.