Over and over this past weekend, we’ve heard how the Japanese are the most prepared people on the planet in terms of understanding and responding to emergencies such as this weeks earthquake and tsunami. Of course, no amount of preparation could have prepared them for the kind of devastation they saw from their rooftops and hilltops where those who were lucky enough escaped to during the first few minutes when sirens were going off.
While the loss of human life will no doubt be staggering, the reality appears to be that many lives were saved because of the preparation and rehearsals that businesses, schools and other institutions engaged in during readiness drills.
In the week’s following 9/11, I had the opportunity to consult with American Airlines and to meet with pilots, flight attendants and call center personnel about the tragedy of that day, the loss of friends and their corporate community. Airline professionals are trained in expecting disasters so that their actions and behaviors not only create as much safety as possible but that they do it in as calm and controlled a manner as they can. Afterwards, they will respond with the agonizing emotions of loss, fear and anger, but that is a normal and expected.
While it took the employees from AA a while to recover from the trauma of that day and the subsequent decimation of the airline industry, their resilience was bolstered by their preparation for dealing with even unbelievable stressful events.
Like all of us, the people of Japan are resilient . We are still in the early stages of this tragedy and do not even know if more danger is afoot but we do know that we will have weeks and even months of tortuous news of lost lives and shattered families. It will take years for them to recover, but their preparation will help them bounce back even sooner.