Guest Blogger: Global Economy Affected by Natural Disasters

On 3/11/2011, my younger son, Zane, and I were enjoying a beautiful early spring afternoon in Japan during our spring break. After strolling around the city of Kumamoto, we went back to my sister’s home where we were staying. As soon as my sister heard us come in the front door, she asked if we had heard the news about the earthquake that had just happened in the northern Japan.

 “Oh no, a tsunami is taking over the Sendai airport!” she screamed.  

My son and I rushed to the TV. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing live. There were people being washed away while still in their houses and cars. Houses and cars were on fire. Fishing villages were completely under water. Feeling helpless, we were afraid and shed many tears as we watched the natural disaster unfold.

How about my friend in Tokyo? Tokyo and Ibaragi, where the Narita International Airport is located, were the major cities directly affected by the earthquake. We saw people evacuating from buildings and rushing to the closest evacuation sites.

Is she safe? Where is she? I dialed her cell phone and home phone numbers, but received “out-of-order” messages. The telecommunication was out. It seemed that the whole nation was paralyzed and devastated. All the planes were rerouted to other airports rather than Narita, Haneda and others in the northern region.

How would our returning flight from Narita to the US in three days take place if the airport was temporarily closed? By watching the sad images on TV, we learned that the infrastructure damage was too severe in the north and east of Japan to recover and resume.

Water and power supplies, roads, and telecommunication were cut off at some point (and are still limited in certain areas). I soon remembered that many electronic components companies who supplied automotive components to our company were located in the area.

Some materials that were ready for departure could not be moved because air or ocean transportation was not operating. With this huge impact, I could only imagine that thousands of business properties and manufacturing sites would most likely be hopelessly damaged.

I wondered, will we soon see the parts supply shortage in the US, too? Manufacturing locations and warehouses wouldn’t be able to function right away. The parts inventory would be exhausted very soon. Will it be in two weeks or three weeks?

For two months after I returned to the US, my work days were consumed by evaluating and trying to restore the global supply chain as quickly as possible. More than 20,000 innocent people’s lives were lost in the Japan earthquake and tsunami. 4000 more people are still missing.

The disaster also tested the vulnerability of the global economy affected by the major disaster and left us with many questions on how we can best prepare for unexpected catastrophes. One isolated country’s disaster can have huge impact on the global economy. Recently, we’ve seen where hurricanes, tornados, floods, wildfires, and ice storms have affected the local or global economy.

How can future managers establish effective risk management to prepare and find the best investment options and alternative ways to maintain operations without interruptions?

© 2011 by Noriko Chapman

About Noriko Chapman:

Noriko Chapman, who is a native of Japan, is an international traveler and a role model to millions of women looking to overcome extreme obstacles in life. She is a production control supervisor for DENSO Manufacturing (TN).  A mother of two, she has over 16 years of experience in the automobile industry and is a cancer survivor. She is also a Lincoln Memorial University MBA student. Noriko led a successful campaign to assist the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center (TRC), which works with disabled adults to secure employment, with securing its government funding of $72 K.  Her new book, Second Chance, was inspired by the TRC. For more information, you can visit her on Facebook.com.