How to Be "Red Cross Ready": Lessons Learned From the Japan Disaster

The American Red Cross has been hosting or participating in various disaster drills around Ventura County, California, during the past several months. The goal: to test individual and organizational preparedness and response during staged real disasters. Most recently, in early June, the American Red Cross gathered 50 business, civic and government leaders from Ventura County to revisit lessons learned from the Japan disaster.

“The disaster in Japan was an event beyond assumptions,” said Japan Consul General Jinichi Ihara in a recent article by Jim McGee, CEO of the American Red Cross, Ventura County. “Despite our preparations we were not prepared for a multipart disaster of this scope and scale.”

Ihara urged Ventura County leaders to evaluate all potential scenarios and to be “Red Cross Ready” for large-scale events, including earthquakes, wildfires, tsunamis, and terrorist attacks.

In his presentation to community leaders, Ihara revealed that experts did not believe the fault lines in and around Japan were capable of producing an earthquake above 8.0 in magnitude — the earthquake that hit was 9.1. Experts also believed that waves from a tsunami would never reach above 5.7 meters in height, building the Fukushima nuclear power plant based on those assumptions. But the tsunami that results from the devastating earthquake crested at 18 meters — more than 60 feet. In the end, the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant meltdown killed more than 23,000 people in Japan and destroyed more than 200 square miles of coastal land.

Ihara also stated that good planning and effective building codes saved many lives — out of the 23,000 people who perished during the Japan disasters, 726 people died from the earthquake alone, a smaller-than-expected number given the size of the earthquake.

In order to help communities become Red-Cross ready, the Red Cross is partnering with business leaders in disaster preparedness and planning. Organizations currently participating include Farmers Insurance, Amgen, the Ventura County Fire Department, and the Ventura County Office of Emergency Services.

For more information about how the Red Cross is helping organizations get ready for disaster, visit: