Even though the damage from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami is only beginning to be cleaned up, people should take time to prepare for future disasters. It is unknown when another large quake will hit Japan, but the continued aftershocks are insistent reminders to get ready in sensible and reasonable ways for that possibility.

Scientific research and specialist opinion is inconclusive. Earthquakes can release pressure on fault lines, reducing the chances of a quake in one region, but can also shift pressure to other tectonic plates, thus increasing seismic activity elsewhere.

Though most scientists agree that another quake of the same magnitude is unlikely, even a smaller quake close to Tokyo’s nearly 40 million people could have devastating effects.

Preparation, not panic, is the right response. Basic information on what to include in a survival kit can be easily found, but people must have those kits ready to go. The panic buying seen in some areas of the country (and as far away as China and California) is counterproductive, but stocking up on a few essentials makes good sense.

Corporations that sell food and water need to set up emergency supply routes. Local governments must work together with convenience stores, supermarkets and fresh produce sellers to ensure they will continue to function.

Those going to work need to ensure they have backup lines of contact and communication with family and friends. Cell-phone companies must be sure that their systems will not be overwhelmed again. Being able to call for help or check on people is extremely important in times of crisis.

Alternative housing and transportation should be ascertained in advance, including where to stay and how to walk home. All places of work need to establish backup accommodation and temporary supplies for their employees.

Though the scale of the disaster overwhelmed everyone, failures in warning systems and evacuation procedures were evident in some areas of Tohoku. The government needs to rectify these problems immediately by rechecking procedures, supplies and evacuation areas. In Tohoku, sensible preparations and careful planning lessened the damage and saved lives.

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