Friday afternoon 80 miles off the coast of Japan, the 4th largest earthquake since 1900 rocked the Island nation and then immediately sent a tsunami across the Pacific Ocean. Combined, the two events have left over 5,000 dead, tens of thousands more unaccounted for, eradicated coastlines and have brought Japan to the brink of nuclear disaster.
Some of the facts and statistics behind Japan's horrific natural disaster include:
The Islands of Japan are part of the great Ring of Fire which is an area that surrounds the Pacific Ocean. The Ring of Fire accounts for 90% of the world's earthquakes as well as 75% of the world's volcanoes. The west coast of the United States and Alaska are part of this very active Ring of Fire.
The reasons for the earthquakes and subsequent tsunamis is that this part of the globe has the most active plate tectonics which is the movement and collisions of crustal plates. In the simplest of terms, the Pacific Ocean is getting smaller as the land masses move toward each other or slide by each other. The friction (stress) caused by this movement builds up and then snaps like a twig when the rock cannot bear anymore stress.
The release of energy when the land masses jerk causes the earthquakes. Should the movement occur underwater, the displacement of earth may causes tremendous energy waves to form (like dropping a ball into a bucket of water). These waves can travel at 500 kilometers an hour across oceans. When the waves approach a land mass, the waves slow down, become compressed and the height of the wave grows resulting in a surge of water.
The USA has thousands of miles of coastland on the Ring of Fire. Earthquakes have rattled California, Washington and Alaska since records started being kept. In fact the 1964 earthquake near Prince William Sound is the second largest recorded since 1900 as it measured 9.2 MMS with a TNT equivalent of 948 megatons. By comparison, the 1906 San Francisco was estimated to be about an 8 MMS.
The major difference between the Japan and the USA is that the geology is different, with most earthquakes occurring on land making the likelihood of a tsunami far less likely. The similarity is that the west coast has nuclear power plants that can be impacted by earthquakes.
There is a lot of misinformation about the impact of the earthquake in Japan's nuclear plants. Early reports had a potential meltdown occurring, later reports indicate that although damaged the nuclear plants are following emergency protocols and under control. The biggest problem seems to be occurring at one of the Fukushima plants that has seen several explosions in the outermost shell over the last few days.
Despite the confusion over the information available to the outside world, Japan has actually reacted very well and experts on Boiling Water Reactors indicate there is no danger of a nuclear explosion. Two excellent resources are
There are no man-made structures on earth built to withstand 425 megatons of TNT explosive energy. Anything at ground zero when this much energy is released is history. Similarly, a wall of water can destroy even the best built buildings. When a natural disaster of this magnitude occurs there is going to be extreme damage and casualties.
The best any country can do is to be as best prepared as possibile for disasters. Preparation was the key to avoiding deaths upward of 100,000 or even a million deaths. Preparation is the reason the power plants and other buildings were not destroyed.
"Seismometers detect the first shockwave...Computers analyze the wave and estimate how powerful the second one will be...If that wave is estimated to be more powerful than a certain threshold (greater than 5 on the local scale), an alert is issued... It is simple enough, but it is a critical step so that companies, utilities, petrochemical plants, rail operators and others can shut down facilities and minimize damage. Make no mistake the warning is issued mere seconds before the earthquake actually occurs. But it is just enough to make a difference for those further away from the seismic center as well as initiate a ripple effect across the globe. "
Source: Smart Planet
Source: Smart Planet
Mother Nature cannot be beat, however, an EAM can help provide the system tools needed to shut down quickly, restart faster as well as minimize the loss of life. It works by creating a database of assets that gives utility, municipal and plant managers complete knowledge of where their assets are and what condition they are in.
Asset management starts by collecting asset detail such as location, description, serial number, vendor and maintenance history so that asset managers always know where their assets are and in what condition they are in. This information is then used to create inspection and maintenance checklists that can be used for:
Asset and procedure checklist can be used for emergency drills as well as to make sure redundant assets are secure or functioning properly. By scheduling the inspection of assets on a regular basis there is less chance of having an asset fail at a crucial time due to aging.
Most notable is the shut down checklist (time allowing)
After an earthquake, inspection checklist can be used to identify damaged, destroyed or missing assets. An EAM will help organize and automate work management including the scheduling of repairs, replacement of assets. Work is accomplished faster by eliminating paper flow through the use of handheld mobile devices.