Living In A Cardboard House

A Family Trying to Get On With  Life, In A Temporary Cardboard Home In A Fukushima Evacuation Center

Today marks the one month anniversary of the Fukushima Japan Earthquake. 

At 9.0 it was one of the fiercest, most destructive quakes of modern times.   As time goes on, the images and feelings about the quake will fade, but only for those who didn’t experience it.  For the people of Japan the reality of that destruction, that DISRUPTION of their lives, is not only crystal clear, it’s ongoing as those families who were hardest hit by the quake, struggle to get back to their daily lives.

Thousands of families are taking refuge in evacuation centers like this one — cardboard walls now cordon off their private living space.  The question is, do the people who have now been in this center for a month, have any way of returning to their normal lives?

Although some cities were devastated beyond recognition in the original quake, or multiple aftershocks, most were not.   Which means that the families now living within the cardboard walls could probably have gotten out of the city they’re currently in, and on to a different location, within that month.  They could have gone to stay with friends or relatives in other cities, where they could have been reunited with the vital documents and information they needed, so they could begin to get in touch with insurance professionals or put the kids in a new temporary school.  They could have located their online stash of family photos and keepsakes to make their temporary home, or new life a little more comfortable and cozy.

They could have done all of that if they had only had one thing.  A Get Back To Life Plan.

Believe me we know how that feels.  For us, the day we realized how important that little plan was, was on a day that began like any other.

I was a stay at home mom, and had just finished a load of laundry, before getting ready to start dinner.  As I opened the cabinet to reach for a dish, the house shuttered.  It felt like something had hit the roof — hard.  A moment later there was an enormous roar, followed by a shock wave.  The kitchen chairs flew across the room and everything was cascading off the countertop .  I ran to the living room window and pulled back the curtains.  All I could see was orange – everything was orange.  I closed the curtains and opened them again thinking I had to be imagining this.  But I wasn’t. 

As I stared out the window I realized that the orange was actually a ball of fire surrounding what remained of a 737, lying broken, smoke billowing, just across the street and two houses away from where I stood.  The houses under the airplane were nothing more than rubble.  I immediately searched the distance for my daughter Laura’s school just two blocks away.  From what I could see beyond the smoke, it looked okay.  Adrenaline took over.  We’d need clothes – at least one night and one day’s worth for Laura, my husband and my mother who lived with us.  We’d need cash – whatever we had in the house, ID, pictures — at least a few, credit card…  By this time I was running from room to room dumping everything I needed on the couch.  There was a knock at the door.  “We’re evacuating the neighborhood”, said a fireman in full gear.  “Take everything you need for the next two or three days.”  

“You have ten minutes.”

If an airplane crash, Japan sized earthquake, terrorist attack or medical emergency struck right now, would you be ready?

Where is your spouse, your children, the other people you love?  What if they were injured?  Would a doctor know what to do to save their lives, with their specific healthcare needs in mind?  Would the hospital know to call you?

What about your vital documents?  Could you find your bank account number, your homeowner’s policy and your birth certificate, if you suddenly had five minutes to evacuate?

Most people can’t.  As human beings as much as we realize should be prepared, we’re just not hard-wired to be disaster-oriented.  If that’s all we thought about, we’d never make it through the day – at least not without living under the bed.   The good news is, being prepared doesn’t mean we have to be disaster- oriented.  Just the opposite!  It means that by taking an hour or two to prepare now, we can relax knowing that if a disaster or medical emergency ever strikes, we’ll:

Know what to do

Know what to take

Know where everything is

Know that we’ve done everything possible not just to survive, but to thrive

And isn’t that the point?  Having lived through a neighborhood plane crash, a tornado and a few medical emergencies, we can definitely tell you, that it is! The last few years, more than any other, our nation and our world have faced more than its share of natural and man-made disasters.  The only good thing about that is, we can use the lessons learned during Hurricane Katrina or floods, tornadoes, the Tsunami or even the London Bombings, to make sure our own families are prepared.

And make sure that if you ever have only five minutes, you can grab what you need and go.

Our family survived the plane crash that day.  Those across the street, did not.  We were and continue to be very blessed.  But those ten minutes to grab whatever I could, were some of the most stressful, most difficult I’ve ever experienced.

That’s why we made sure that Get Your Stuff Together comes with a Get Back To Life Plan.

So while you’re here, check out Get Your Stuff Together where you’ll find even more tips, action plans and resources.

Get Your Stuff Together is 230+ pages of simple steps your family can take right now, to make the people things you love safe and secure.  Each section highlights a different area, from backing up family photos, music, history and vital documents, to contacts, data, videos, home inventory and breakables, plus all the plans you need to keep your home and family safe from life’s little speed bumps.  Like Superstorm Sandy  $24.99. Click here to read more.

We’ve all seen images of Japan as her citizens struggle to get their lives back.   Let’s use those images to remind ourselves of one VERY important thing.  

People with a plan don’t usually have to live in a Cardboard House.


Janet Greenwald 


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