NEWS | May 8, 2019

U.S. Army Garrison Japan Talks Importance of Emergency Kits

By Wendy Brown U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs

CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- Members of the Camp Zama community need to carefully assemble their emergency kits, and the reason why boils down to three main words: earthquakes, volcanoes and typhoons.

Japan has had more than 1,000 earthquakes of 5.0 or greater on the Richter scale over the past decade; there are three active volcanoes within 50 miles of Camp Zama; and last year a typhoon knocked down dozens of trees and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in roof damage at Camp Zama, said Will Luna, installation emergency manager, as he talked about emergency kits here May 1.

"It happens and it's going to continue to happen," Luna said. "So it's important for us to make sure that we're prepared, because when that disaster strikes, we won't be able to go (back to) react."

Luna, who works for U.S. Army Garrison Japan, spoke at garrison headquarters at the request of the Zama Community Spouses Association. Debra Goyne, the association's vice president, said the organization put together the talk in an effort to educate the community and planned a second event May 3.

"It's important because I think of that moment if something happens and you're not prepared; I've seen it happen," Goyne said. "You just want to be ready. My philosophy when my kids were little and growing up was that if you're prepared for emergencies with them, they didn't happen."

Luna focused on home, office and vehicle kits and "Go" bags as he talked to about 30 people. He emphasized that while there are essentials for each type of emergency kit, people need to take their individual situations into account when putting them together.

While the information below includes highlights from Luna's talk, members of the community can learn more at the Community Information Exchange from 4 to 5:30 p.m. May 10 at the Camp Zama Community Club, and can also pick up the latest copy of the garrison's Disaster Preparedness Handbook at the event.

Home kits

When it comes to home kits, "(Home is) where you spend most of your time," Luna said. "It's where the most members of your family are; it only makes sense that (this kit) would be the biggest."

Home emergency kits should include nonperishable food, pet food and water for seven to 10 days, Luna said. The guidance for water is one gallon per person per day, and because bottled water does go bad, it is important to have a rotation system based on expiration dates.

It is also necessary to consider what kind of food will go into the kit, Luna said.

"What kind of food should you have? We said nonperishable. What does that mean? Cans, right? What about spaghetti? Good idea? Not really because you have to use water," Luna said. "You have to be able to boil the water, so not only are you exponentially increasing the amount of water you have to use, you have to figure out how to heat it up. So think about that."

When it comes to canned foods, think about whether it has water in it, Luna said.

"Soups are so great as emergency kit items because they already have water, so you are both feeding yourself and hydrating yourself," Luna said. "Also, think about how uncool it's going to be to eat lima beans for seven days straight."

And don't forget to have a manual can opener, Luna added.

Other items to have on hand at home include personal water filtration systems; extra batteries in correct sizes; flashlights; local maps; a brightly colored plastic poncho; a deck of cards and other ways to pass the time and reduce stress; a battery-operated or hand-crank radio; and a first-aid kit that reflects your level of medical training.

Small denominations of U.S. and Japanese money are also important, Luna said.

"How much does a bottle of water cost if you only have $100 bills? One hundred dollars," Luna said. "They don't make change in disasters."

In addition, the most important part of a first-aid kit during a disaster is wound disinfection, Luna said.

"If you get a cut and you don't clean it and you're in an austere environment where you're not able to go home and take a hot shower like you normally would, it can become infected and become a serious issue, so you need to stop it earlier," Luna said.

In the event of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear event, it is important to keep plastic sheeting and duct tape on hand, Luna said.

The plastic sheeting should be four millimeters in thickness, Luna said, but if all you have on hand is trash bags when disaster strikes, they are better than nothing.

Vehicle kits

When it comes to vehicle kits, Luna asked members of the audience to think about all the bridges, narrow expressways and lack of off ramps in Japan.

"If a large-scale regional disaster were to occur when you were in a car, say 20 to 25 kilometers away from your house, you would be in a little bit of trouble, right? Especially if you didn't have anything," Luna said.

In addition to food and water, people should keep items such as a first aid kit; warning triangles; your family emergency plan; flares; rope; tarps; flashlights; comfortable shoes; rain gear; a compass; and basic toiletry items, Luna said.

Office kits

At the office, people should have food and water on hand, but the quantity does not have to last for days, Luna said.

"For the office you're not going to have seven days' worth of water," Luna said. "You'd have a whole wall worth of water. You're trying to type emails, you're like, 'Let me move my water out of the way,' right? That's not going to work."

It is also important to keep comfortable shoes on hand in case there's a need to walk, Luna said, as well as a battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a flashlight.

Also, coordinate with coworkers and others in your office area, Luna said.

"Get an office plan together," Luna said. "Have an office emergency kit so we can consolidate supplies and have sufficient supplies."

"Go" bags

"Your 'Go' bag is a component of your home kit, not a duplication of your home kit, and that's really important for people to understand," Luna said.

The idea is to have items in a bag that you can grab and go that will sustain you for three days, Luna said.

Although a Go bag should have some water in it, it is not practical for it to contain enough water for three days, so it is a good idea to include a personal water filtration system, Luna said.

The bag should contain some food; a first aid kit; comfortable shoes; a battery-powered radio; weather-appropriate clothing; a flashlight; your emergency family plan; and the USAG Japan Disaster Preparedness Handbook, Luna said.

It can also be helpful for each child in a household to have their own Go bag, Luna said.

"What I like to do, especially for people who have children, is have that child be responsible for their Go bag," Luna said. "It probably doesn't have everything they need in it, but it gives them a little responsibility, so they have a little toy, they have their pair of shoes, or something like that. Now they're part of the process. It's less scary because they are taking part in it. It breeds a little resilience and responsibility in them and helps take a little weight off your shoulders."

General advice

It is essential to remember that in a disaster, people cannot rely on cell phones, Luna said.

"Even if you have the ability to use them, they're going to die pretty fast, especially if you don't have the ability to charge them again," Luna said. "They're great, but make sure you have a non-digital way of doing the things you need to do."

Keep a battery-powered or hand-crank radio on hand and tune into AM 810, Armed Forces Network, Luna said.

Luna said he couldn't overemphasize the importance of having a written emergency plan.

"Where are you going to meet? Does your child know? Does your spouse know? Do you know? Are you all going to go to the same place? Are you all going to do the merry-go-round, where you're going to their spot, they're going to your spot and hopefully cross each other on the way and hopefully cross each other on the way?" Luna asked.

In addition, people need to prepare to take care of their pets at all times, Luna said, so it is necessary to have food and water for them as well.

It is a federal offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to abandon a pet on a military installation, Luna said, and the government will only evacuate cats and dogs--and only two per family--so those who have more pets or pets of different species need to make alternative arrangements.

Most of all, however, it is critical for everyone to put thought into their emergency kits, Luna said.

"It's very serious that you take this seriously, because this kind of stuff can save your life and will ensure that we as first responders and first receivers are able to focus on the people whose lives are in danger while you are self-sufficient and being resilient, and that just helps everybody," Luna said.