Update! I’ve learned that all the problems with the site today and yesterday are not entirely my fault. It turns out my webhost just cannot control its servers or (allegedly) its bowel movements. Still, I am sorry for any hassle you have getting to the site today. And I doubly thank you for visiting.
Cats, Pajamas, Chicas and Chicos; apologies for this late post. It was scheduled for yesterday, but did not happen because your girl Juice is awesome at scheduling with wordpress…
Hopefully you haven’t had your fill of stories marking the year anniversary of the 9.0Mw Megathrust Earthquake and resulting Tsunami that utterly destroyed parts of northeastern Japan and incapacitated the entire country.
There are a zillion things I could talk about to mark this anniversary, so many facts and circumstances, lessons to be learned, educational opportunities for our own earthquake and disaster preparedness, but today I think I want to talk about why being prepared for a major earthquake (and resulting disasters) is so important – from a looting perspective.
When I think about a quake and tsunami with the magnitude of Sendai happening in Southern California, one of the first things I consider is the insane amounts of looting and complete chaotic lack of control that are likely to arise almost immediately after the ground stops shaking.
It’s one of the reasons I think that if you live in SoCal you really need to take earthquake preparation seriously. If you need basic supplies, you are not gonna find them easily and if you have to go looting, its going to be incredibly dangerous. Not to mention a decidedly unstylish means of obtaining basic necessities.
In other words, the stylish prepper will do everything in advance to prepare. The stylish prepper will utterly avoid having to loot, much like the Japanese during the aftermath of Sendai.
Much has been made of the decided lack of civil unrest following the Sendai quake/tsunami. It is oft argued that one of the reasons the aftermath of the Sendai disaster was not worse is because people – all people- cooperated, and maintained order, worked with the authorities.
On the very day of the disaster, displaced Japanese people chose to line up at groceries, waiting their turn, rather than smash and grab. This society and almost all individuals held and directed their focus to community.
Hells Bells, Members of the Yakuza, Japan’s organized crime syndicate, helped the police enforce order. All three major crime groups—the Yamaguchi-gumi, the Sumiyoshi-kai, and the Inagawa-kai— “compiled squads to patrol the streets of their turf and keep an eye out to make sure looting and robbery [didn't] occur,” writes Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan as reported in Slate.
Adelstein and Slate report that the Sumiyoshi-kai crime syndicate shipped over 40 tons of humanitarian aid supplies to the worst stricken areas. Their syndicate leader announced in the press that they would open their Tokyo offices as shelters for displaced people.
Can you even imagine the Grape Street Crips, 18th Street or the MS-13 patrolling streets arm in arm with the police, preventing the looting of businesses and homes? Bloods pooling funds to buy and deliver humanitarian supplies to the worst affected areas? As much as I’d like to wish it could happen, it’s hard to envision. This is not an entirely judgmental aspersion as much as it is an observation of our culture as a whole.
Many academics and news outlets attribute the lack of disorder and misconduct in Japan after Sendai to a significantly structured culture that believes in a strong authority and rewards honesty, but I would like to add that I also believe the Japanese people did not react badly and did not engage in pandemic looting and civil unrest because they believed in and had faith that their government would provide for them.
This would never happen in LA. Oh don’t get so smug East of the Mississippi-ers- We have seen both good (9/11) and bad (Katrina, 9/11) in terms of a typical American response to catastrophe. In all of America, and particularly in areas of rampant poverty, the distrust of our government is so overwhelming that people naturally, immediately and often react by taking care of self and “self” first.
It hard to argue that a culture of distrust is not a significant cause of looting during times of disaster. And it’s not just the poor or under represented. Hells bells, why do you think we even have doomsday preppers? Because unlike the Japanese, the typical American is likely to tell you they would not expect our government to take care of them in a major natural disaster.
I think it’s unfortunate but safe to say that Americans are more likely to steal from and harm each other stealing than to rely on our government to provide in a major disaster. Again, I’m not casting aspersions here, just stating the obvious.
The thing is, even I truly don’t know how well or badly our government agencies would handle something of this magnitude. We are also an enormous country, and when a disaster of the magnitude of Sendai happens here, there will likely be many more people affected, much more devastation.
And I will say that it’s my impression that most of the influential agencies: FEMA, the USGS, SF’s Be Prepared, LAFD, (even LA Juice) etc… strongly promote, preach a gospel even, of “prepare yourself and prepare yourself early”. And in doing so, they (we) perhaps send a subtle sign that you, me many are likely to be on our own after a major catastrophe.
So when another major American natural disaster arises, I believe it will be not only ignorant, but beyond dangerous to factor looting into your disaster preparation plan. Especially if you live in an urban area.
Besides being unethical, illegal and decidedly unstylish, people who have to resort to looting put themselves in harm’s way. Hells bells, just take a moment to recall last years “Black Friday”- Someone got maced by another customer at a Little Rock Walmart over a Belgian waffle maker, and in the San Fernando Valley, customers pepper-sprayed each other over an Xbox.
For your own personal safety, you cannot consider looting a viable option for earthquake prep in the US. You really need to just assume that all looting will happen pretty much instantaneously, possibly concurrently with the Big One, and to wade into such a mess is to risk your health or even life.
Not only do you risk injury from other panicked (and some opportunistic) people, but even worse you risk being a target for people waiting to loot from the looters. Take a moment, how would it feel to be held up at gunpoint for a case of bottled water just as you are trying to survive the worst catastrophe you are likely to ever see in your life?
Bearing this in mind, I encourage and ask you to honor the one year Anniversary of one of the worst urban natural disasters to occur in our lifetime to go add something to your EQ Kit, or even just start one. You can even just begin by reading this post.