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Successes and Failures of Preparedness

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  • Successes and Failures of Preparedness

    One Year Later, Impact of ?Great Tohoku? Quake Still Being Felt
    Released: 3/2/2012 10:40 AM EST
    Source: Cornell University

    Larry Brown is a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
    ... He says:

    ?The year following the March 11, 2011 Great Tohoku earthquake has allowed the lessons of that event to become clearer. Japan?s response was a mixed bag of both underappreciated success as well as clear failures. On the positive side, many aspects of Japan?s world leading disaster preparedness systems actually did work, with timely warnings issued both to mitigate the impact of the earthquake waves and tsunami waves. Many lives were saved due to the existence of these systems.

    ?Certainly our improved knowledge of the geophysics of these phenomena and improved skills in disaster engineering over the past decades were helpful in making resilient buildings that reduced the level of destruction, especially from the earthquake. However the limitations of these systems was also revealed. For example, the advanced earthquake warning systems, set to trigger by the first waves of the event, proved insufficient to provide a timely estimate of the magnitude of this event. Secondly, designing on the basis of the known historical record is clearly limited by the quality of that record.

    ?One takes little comfort that these lessons may have been learned too late to help thousands of Japanese families. However, lessons were learned that will save lives and trillions of dollars of damage in the future if we find the will to act on them.?

    ?Lastly, Tohoku was a clear reminder that when disaster of this magnitude occurs, we are all victims to some degree. The interconnectedness of our economies, communications and transit networks has become a central fact of our modern world. We all stand to gain by learning these lessons, just as we all stand to lose by ignoring or postponing action to improve our ability to absorb such hits in an increasingly populated and fragile world.?