March 12, 2011    /    by

Helping Japan Recover - Governments Join Emergency Effort

As Japan strives to recovers from the devastating earthquake and tsunamis, global governments are sending aid in a variety of forms.

As Japan strives to recovers from the devastating earthquake and tsunami, global governments are sending aid in a variety of forms. From emergency relief personnel, food, water and equipment to technical assistance in search & rescue operations and reestablishing critical infrastructure, the needs are great. But what are governments and individuals doing now? How are we helping both individually and corporately?

Actions Already Taken

Yahoo news reported this quote US President Barack Obama:

"(First Lady) Michelle (Obama) and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis.

The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial. The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakable."

The President offered US military relief assistance to the Japanese people. After ensuring that their own equipment and personnel were safe, the Navy is sending in teams to assist in the relief efforts.

Emergency relief organizations are mobilizing support teams now, and any efforts to travel to the affected areas should be through globally recognized disaster relief teams. Many state and local governments assist in these teams through US and international mutual aid agreements.

However, the effects of this natural disaster in Japan were also felt world-wide yesterday. Tsunami warnings and advisories were issued in Hawaii and up and down the West Coast. Local officials were sending out alerts and reacting to the latest news and conditions. Rescue efforts occurred in many US States.  However, California and Oregon sustained most of the tsunami damage on US soil.

Here’s a quote from one local official:

“While the impact of this incident in Japan is catastrophic, the impact here is minimal,” said Schaefer in the message. “None-the-less this serves as an excellent reminder to be prepared for the large scale earthquake that may some day strike California.”

How to Give

If you want to make personal donations, Global Post made a plea to give money, not stuff. Here’s why:

“… If you’re considering doing your part, that’s great. But, experts say, whatever you do, don’t donate anything but money. Under no circumstances should you mail care packages, toys, food or clothes. Don’t even think about sending drugs. The response to prior disasters shows that regardless of your intentions, you will only be making matters worse.

That’s what happened in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami. The disaster was followed by an unprecedented outpouring of global generosity. This dramatically facilitated the grisly chore of cleaning up the tens of thousands of bodies left under the tropical sun, and it funded a reconstruction effort that, while far from perfect, provided roofs over the heads of many.

But aid workers joked that the real tsunami was followed by another tsunami — of misguided goodwill…”

But what is the best way to give? Government Computer Newsrecommends the Red Cross and a few other traditional aid organizations:

“… The Red Cross has a donation line set up via text message that enables $10 donations to the organization by texting REDCROSS to 90999. The Red Cross has teamed up with mobile donation provider mGive to provide this service. UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders and AmeriCares also collect donations for relief efforts….”

Technological Role in Responding to Disasters:

New tools are being used in the recovery effort. Google’s People Finder as Twitter (and local variants) are helping to locate loved ones in Japan. The Web is now helping in a variety new ways during emergencies. Here are a few examples:

“Global web giant Google's person finder service had notched up over 45,000 records of people leaving messages seeking information on friends and family, or providing information about people in the disaster zone, by 1130 GMT.

The site was updating, in English and Japanese, by the hundred every few minutes.

A random search for the common Japanese surname "Sato" brought up hundreds of results, many of them for people living in Sendai -- the city that faced the brunt of the thunderous body of rolling water…”

But Watch Out for Scams

The Internet is full of pictures, videos and stories related to the 8.9-magnitude quake, which unleashed a 10-meter tsunami that washed away homes and tossed cars and boats. However, global disasters often lead to global scams and email phishing attempts taking people to fraudulent websites. Numerous scams have already been reported, and Security Week warned of a massive increase in new scams in coming weeks.

These scams are expected to be delivered via social networks such as Facebook and other popular websites, emails and other channels.  Don’t trust web links in unsolicited emails asking you to give. It is best to type in the URL (Web address) yourself and go to a reputable organization.

Prepare by Training

This tragic situation underlines the need for federal, state and local emergency response teams to be prepared. Events on the other side of the world are the same events that affect us in the USA. Governments must always be prepared to respond, regardless of financial condition or other priorities. Together, we are making a positive difference, and technology and communication support is an important element in our emergency response.

Update on March 13

The LA Times is reporting that: Aftershocks, infrastructure damage hamper relief efforts. The scale of the devastation is immense, and numerous countries and relief organizations are sending in support. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those impacted by this disaster.