March 18, 2011: An aerial view of Akita, Japan. Many of the towns and villages in northeastern Japan were destroyed by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami.

I was around 10,000 miles from home when the Japanese earthquake took place. Early one morning the instructor at the Chinese cooking school I was enrolled in mentioned she had heard there had been a 9.0-magnitude earthquake in Northern Japan. My first thought was what kind of damage was the resulting tsunami going to do along our own coast? I had friends living in coastal areas that I knew would have very little chance of escape if they were hit with a wave of any size. Much to my relief, the destruction on the West Coast amounted to only a few million dollars and one death, rather than billions of yen and thousands of deaths our neighbors on the other side of the Pacific suffered.

All of which has reignited a topic here in the Northwest that many of us would rather not think about, our own inevitable BIG ONE. Our last 9.0-sized quake took place at 9:00 p.m. on January 26, 1700. We know this precisely because, unlike the recent earthquake, the tsunami from that one did sweep across the Pacific and cause widespread death and destruction in Japan. Geologists say, on an average, ours happen every 300 to 600 years—and it has been 400 now. Of course, the problem with these numbers is that you don’t know if the next one is going to happen two seconds, two decades or two centuries from now. Certainly, no one is willing to ban new construction in low-lying coastal areas based on that information alone.

Which brings us to the inescapable fact that when the BIG ONE happens, hundreds of thousands of Americans are not going to be prepared for what follows. The standard answer has long been a “72-hour survival kit,” or what some like to call their “bug-out bag.” I have one packed too, but the destruction in Japan has made me reconsider how well prepared that really makes any of us. For starters, will that bag be buried under the rubble of our home rather than readily accessible for use? Maybe it is time to assemble more than a single kit, as in one for the house, the barn, each of our vehicles and yet another just stashed in a water-tight container away from all of those.

Then there is the fact 72 hours seems totally inadequate when you look at how long the Japanese have been suffering through their own disaster. I’m really not sure how you can plan for adequate food and water during events of this size, but it will be critical to be able to take advantage of any resources that present themselves. I want a good survival knife, an axe, a means of starting a fire, pots to cook and boil water in, tarps to build shelters from and adequate clothing for whatever weather may present itself. I’m also focusing on the fact that the last BIG ONE was in January, not a time of the year I really want to find my family without shelter. Until it happens, it is not too late to prepare, but a minute after that might as well be an eternity. Tactical Knives will continue to help you find all those essential cutting tools and give you tips on the other items that will be critical to your survival. Let’s just hope none of us ever need to put that knowledge to use.

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March 18, 2011: An aerial view of Akita, Japan. Many of the towns and…