Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Part 2. The mess and the (un)prepared bag

When my husband and I walked home from my lab (it`s only 15 minutes away by foot), I was stunned with what I saw outside the campus. The traffic lights not working due to the blackout, the sirens from ambulances and patrol cars screaming loudly, the road congested with cars and buses, snow falling heavily, and people crossing the road and rushing to and from every directions… It was somewhat chaotic. And it never happened before. 
I held his arm very tightly throughout our way home while thinking hard what to do next. He told me that we had to stay in the evacuation site that night and some people were already there. Two reasons for us to evacuate: first, although our apartment building is fine, it was almost impossible to stay inside because the quake has turned our rooms into a big mess, and second, the aftershock quakes keeps coming (in fact, until today) and we knew it was much safer to stay together with many people in the evacuation site. Most of designated evacuation sites in Japan are school`s gymnasium and so was ours. We were very lucky that we have an evacuation site very near to our apartment and the building is new so the construction seems stronger than our building.
We finally got home and carefully entered the room. With our shoes on. This too never happened before. This is how it looked like in our rooms that day.
Broken pieces of glassware welcomed us on the entrance corridor (thus our shoes on). As I don`t have enough space in my kitchen, I placed some of our bowls and plates on a shelf near the entrance. Now I learned not to do it again. Ever.
In the kitchen, my oven fell off from top of my fridge. My heart sank looking at my dearly oven which was a wedding gift from my husband.

And this is in another room. 

And our TV faced down on the floor. It`s a very old big heavy TV, really heavy.

But we didn`t want to stay any longer in the room. So I quickly grabbed my emergency bag, get a blanket, and packed some of his clothes. About the bag, I have prepared it in my room since the Sumatera`s tsunami in 2004 and my arrival in Japan where earthquakes are part of the casualties. I followed the survival manuals provided by the university, city hall, and international center and made some adjustment.  Thing is, just months ago, because the drinking water and food inside the bag were either already or getting expired, I ate, drank, or threw them out. And I kept delaying to replace with new ones. So my emergency bag was a food-and-waterless bag. But I just brought it anyway, it was much better than nothing at all.
Another regret here was my husband didn`t have an emergency bag. He has never thought he would need it. Anyway, he quickly grabbed his important documents while I searched what food we had left in the kitchen. What I found? A bag of oatmeal and sugar. No, no complaint at all. These were still food and we needed them. And he happened to have one bottle of water and one bottle of Pocari Sweat in his bag. Good, now we had food and water.
By the way, I just renewed some items for the bag recently and placed them on the floor so you can see them. Things on the floor are: corn flakes, biscuits, drinking water (there are more inside the bag), sanitary napkins, wet tissues (with alcohol for disinfectant), first aid kit and medicine box, toothbrush, soaps, plastic cup, flashlight, spare batteries, candles, matches, and portable radio. 

For the medicines, I keep them without the packages (boxes take too much space) but I wrote down what medicine it is, usage instruction, and expiry dates. I also keep the instruction sheets.

In the bag I have copies of important documents (passport, ID card, health insurance card, list of phone numbers of families and friends) kept in a waterproof folder, clothes, socks, and underwears, map, stationery, face mask, tissue papers, extra glasses (I`m practically blind without them), and plastic bags. The phone numbers can be useful when we don`t have our handphones with us or they`re out of power.

When you`re done preparing the bag, keep it in a place where it`s easy to get them when you`re in hurry. It depends on the house interior, but I put our bags (now he has his too) at the entrance corridor. Also, keeping a flashlight near your bed can be useful too if the quake hits at night and the the electricity is off.
I know I may sound like a paranoid (now I start to think I am), but if I`m given a chance to prepare myself, I certainly will.
Here I have a survival guidance (English-Japanese) provided by Tokyo government and so far I found this is the best one among all guidance I `ve found before. Although this guidance is intended  for people who reside in Tokyo, hope this can be a useful source for you too. For the emergency supplies preparation, go to page 80. Everyone has their own necessities, so you might want to make some adjustment with the list.
Let me know at: if you have trouble with opening the file and I`ll send the file to you. 


  1. Arudhi...My heart goes out to you! I really hope that everything there would get better soon. Stay safe both of you...!

  2. when i was in sendai, i only had a helmet, a pair of boots and a flashlight in my emergency box in my oshiire. nothing else. i guess i have to be better prepared anywhere in case something happens. thanks for this.
    btw, cleaning up must have been taihen :(

  3. oh my gosh..
    this is terrible,
    just seeing the pictures alone made my heart ache for anyone who suffered in japan.
    im glad that you managed to atleast be safe with your husband, and i hope you will find the strength, support & luck to re-create a BETTER life.
    lets hope this never happens again.

    please, stay safe.

  4. Thanks for sharing the story again...stay safe, our prayers and thoughts are with you <3 <3

  5. To all: thanks again! hope you all can get something out of our stories here and have a better preparation

    Iis: cleaning up was quite taihen but we did it little by little everyday since we were still in the evacuation site, so it was half cleaned up when we got back home