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One Year Later: Lessons from Recovery After the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake

It is said that a wise man learns from the mistakes of others while a foolish man only learns from his own mistakes. The same applies to disaster preparedness and recovery. The U.S. would be wise to learn from the experiences of Japan in handling the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and not wait for another disaster to occur here at home.

A recently released Heritage Foundation Special Report reveals the four key lessons that the U.S. should learn from the Japanese experience. These lessons are in the areas of recovery and resiliency of infrastructure, environmental remediation, disaster relief and compensation, and population resiliency.

A common thread exists within all the lessons- local efforts should to emphasized, while the federal government should restrict its efforts to those things that only the federal government can do.

In infrastructure recovery, this means greater partnering with state and private sector actors in transportation efforts and letting the free market work in an all-inclusive energy strategy. In the area of environmental remediation, the U.S. should learn that all remediation is local. The U.S. should establish a chain of command that assigns responsibility to the correct agencies and local authorities, giving local officials the flexibility to accomplish remediation in the way that is best suited for their area. For disaster compensation, the U.S. would be wise to adopt a compensation model in advance of a future disaster and, importantly, make sure that it is reserved for truly catastrophic events, leaving smaller disasters to state and local authorities. Finally, the U.S. can ensure population resiliency by building strong local communities and organizations that can best support the mental and emotional needs of their members.

The American people are their own best asset in an emergency. Any disaster response plan should empower local efforts to take advantage of this amazing resource.

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