Lessons in Civility in the Aftermath of a Disaster
Between the Internet, TV, my Droid, and the water cooler outside my door, my office at CSAC is a hub of news information coming and going. All of us are keeping tabs on what is happening at the Capitol, but the images and stories out of Japan continually capture our attention and empathy.
What is so striking to me is the sense of civic duty that the Japanese have demonstrated as the crisis rolls on and food and shelter remain inadequate. A recent news report showed a man — a volunteer — directing traffic on a road ravaged by the tsunami waters. He commented that he would like to check on family members he has not seen since the earthquake, but directing traffic was his assignment and it was his duty to help others for the greater good. Japan is considered to be the most prepared nation when it comes to disasters, and although the Japanese culture is noted for its order and honor, it’s during times like these you truly see how the forging of preparation and mindset can help citizens through the panic.
My email inbox is peppered with news alerts regarding the disaster, but not all are from news agencies. Many are notifications from several California county emergency operation centers that went on alert within minutes of the earthquake. I’ve worked in both county and State emergency operation centers, so I can imagine the discussions of how much is too much, or to little, information behind the calm, reasoned statements that urge citizens to remain off beaches, or provided facts to address the worries of radiation reaching our shores. California is also prepared for disasters, and it is our counties that are our first line of information and assistance when one occurs. I took comfort at the speed with which counties were addressing issues and rumors, knowing that information is something we desperately need when worried, and technology has set us up to expect it in an instant.
When it comes to emergency response, the first cry usually heard is, “where is our government to help us?” They are there, staff in every one of the 58 counties, training and preparing for a time they hope never comes; but judging by the current newsfeed from CNN, and California history, it will come someday.
May California never experience anything on the magnitude of Japan. However, may we take from this tragedy lessons in civic diligence and order from the Japanese. If you haven’t already, please consider supporting one of the many relief agencies assisting with the disaster. And then take a moment and check out your counties’ emergency services. Sign up for alerts, program numbers in your phone, review your own evacuation plan with your family, store food and water. We are all going to have to work together, citizen and government, to respond when a disaster strikes, and hopefully we can do so with the fortitude shown by the people of Japan.
Erin Treadwell is CSAC's Communication Coordinator. She can be reached at etreadwell(at)counties.org.