Japan Catastrophe Should Prompt U.S. to Re-Examine Technology, Policies

The United States’ complex government system makes responding to large-scale disasters arduous.

by / March 16, 2011
An aerial view of the damage in Sendai, Japan, from the magnitude 8.9 earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy. U.S. Navy

Every large-scale disaster can cause a re-examination of laws, policies and procedures. The catastrophe in Japan is no exception. The United States’ complex system of state and local government makes responding to large-scale disasters problematic. Therefore, it is appropriate that governments at all levels re-examine how they intend to respond to a catastrophic disaster like the one that Japan is experiencing.

The following are technology issues that need to be addressed in the United States.

Earthquake detection and warning systems — like Japan’s that worked effectively during its latest quake — are still just on the drawing boards in California. The Cascadia Subduction Zone that runs from British Columbia to off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California is a perfect candidate for such a warning system. Because of its extreme length there could be minutes of warning for portions of the quake zone.

The existing tsunami warning system is not currently effective for a quake that is this close to the coast. Having an earthquake detection and warning system tied into the existing tsunami siren warning system would provide a dramatic improvement in warning capabilities and give people a head start on escaping any tsunami generated by a subduction zone quake.

Go to Emergency Management's website to read about additional U.S. policies that should be re-examined.

Eric Holdeman

Disaster Zone by Eric Holdeman is dedicated to sharing information about the world of emergency management and homeland security.