It would have been impossible to imagine the tragedy that has occurred in Japan, but now I don't have to. I can watch the images on television and I have seen the instant devastation. I have reflected on the "what if" scenarios for my own survival and the way I exist and I've drawn some conclusions about what would happen if I faced the same situation. I am sure, given recent events, that many of you have played this out in your minds.
On reflection, I realized that I depend on so many things, things that seem so simple and so accessible every day. I calculated that if I was faced with the same atrocity that I would run out of fresh water in about 24 hours and that I would run out of food in about a week. I would be left to fight for or trade anything I could for fresh water very quickly.
I tried to count the number of tools I use daily that don't need power to operate and I couldn't come up with one. Everything I own, I have to plug in to get it to work. Oh yes, and it is nuclear power, a source of energy that we now demonize because of the damage to that plant in Japan, that helps me power everything. If that source of energy was shut down here I couldn't use my cellphone and I couldn't use my computer. My food would perish in my fridge due to the lack of electricity. I don't stock much because my grocery store is a 24-hour store and is virtually next door. I rely on tap water for my drinking water and therefore I don't store much water in my house.
If I had to relocate, where would I go? Maybe I would drive to join my family far away. I expect I would be relatively safe there, although I am not sure I would have enough gas in my tank to get there. I have no certainty that I would not end up in a refuge shelter, sleeping on the floor of some large arena, grateful for the shelter and hospitality of a large nonprofit organization.
END OF THE SAFE ZONE?
I observed the Indonesian tsunami a few years ago and have of course been following the wars in the Middle East, the mud slides in Central America and the devastation caused by Chile's earthquake, but this event has caused me to shudder in the space of what I perceived to be my safe zone. Maybe it was the images I saw on television.
Maybe it was the suddenness of the cataclysm, but it seems to be increasing in severity with each passing day. Is Mother Nature taking revenge on us, I wonder? Is this some higher form of complex messaging trying to tell us something? Perhaps this event is so impactful for me because despite all of their planning and risk preparedness, the Japanese could simply not protect themselves against the unstoppable.
What message does that send to those who feel risk management can make a difference? How do you re-inspire a nation to be risk conscious when you just survived or witnessed what we all witnessed from the comfort of our own couch?
As horrible and impossible as the present circumstances appear, Japan will prevail because there is one risk control that never fails, the strength of human spirit. And Japan has demonstrated time and time again that it has that resiliency in bunches.
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques.
May 1, 2011
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