Preparing for a disaster

March 15, 2011 1:40:05 PM PDT
C'mon, admit it. Actually, admission is the wrong way to look at it. Acknowledge it. That's more accurate.

Acknowledge that you've thought about what you'd do in the event of a disaster.

I hope you have.

But the hard truth is we shouldn't have to see a tragedy to make us think of a personal crisis management plan. Being prepared for any kind of disaster - natural or not - can make the difference between life and death, or, at the minimum, between managing the crisis or not.

That said, current situations should make us all think - again - about what to do in case of an emergency. My family has been talking about it. I think we're already fairly prepared for an emergency, but there are clearly some holes in our preparedness, and we're taking the opportunity to shore them up.

It's a bit empowering to know that there are extended-shelf-life power bars and extra flashlight batteries in stock. But it's hardly a cause for self-satisfaction. Because the bigger picture is that a disaster would be, pardon me, disastrous for the most populous city and metro area in the country.

The Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant is 40 miles north of New York City. And although Mayor Bloomberg says it's nowhere near us, it's well within the danger zone of any accident at Indian Point. Can you imagine trying to evacuate a city of 8 million? Heck, it takes an hour to get out of the city during the evening rush.

All this of course is top-of-mind because of the disaster in Japan - the earthquake that sparked a tsunami that sparked a nuclear plant crisis. You can get mental whiplash trying to keep up with the it's safe, it's leaking, it's safe, it's ready to meltdown, it's safe, it's heating up, it's safe - maybe - developments with Japan's nuclear plants.

The debate over building more nuclear plants - taking a turn in the last few years towards more acceptance - now seems to be waiting at the yellow light. And for good reason: there's little margin of error with nuclear. As we said in this space yesterday, plutonium is forever. (Although Nanuet attorney Martin W. Schwartz noted, plutonium's half shelf life is 80 million years, so "forever" may be a slight exaggeration.)

The world, meanwhile, is dependent on nuclear power. Or at least the First World is. Japan's reliance on nuclear has been much-ballyhooed this week, but the reality is that, with nuclear accounting for 29% of total domestic power production, Japan ranks 15th on the list of the most nuclear-dependent nations. France and the U.S. both produce more electricity from nuclear. And today, the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee insisted that the tragedy in Japan will not move the U.S. away from nuclear.

Not everyone agrees.

Meanwhile, the economic impact of the disaster continues to grow. And it's affecting business here: Japanese car making plants in the U.S. are now slowing down production because parts from Japan plants are difficult to get these days.

We'll have the latest from Japan, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, two deadly tour bus crashes in three days - one in the Bronx, the other last night in New Jersey.

A lightly regulated industry that, many say, needs stronger regs. We'll have the latest into the investigation of both crashes.

And not a good day for the U.S. in the Middle East. The rebels in Libya took a pounding, and are asking for U.S. help. Saudi Arabian troops arrived in Bahrain and were met by violent clashes. One democracy activist told the New York Times: "I wish the Americans would help us. But the day after your defense minister came here, the Saudi troops came in. What is the United States doing to end this situation?"

And in Cairo, Hillary Clinton tried to meet with pro-democracy leaders, but was snubbed. And her friendship with ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was the reason. "Based on her negative position from the beginning of the revolution and the position of the U.S. administration in the Middle East, we reject this invitation," the January 25 Revolution Youth Coalition said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Also at 11, our education reporter Art McFarland takes a look at a relatively new and controversial college activity: buying class notes, book summaries and other study materials. Flash Notes is the name - a high-tech crib sheet.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa (in for Liz Cho) and me, tonight at 11.


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