Standard advice about preparing for disasters focuses on building shelters and stockpiling things like food, water and batteries. But resilience – the ability to recover from shocks, including natural disasters – comes from our connections to others, and not from physical infrastructure or disaster kits. Almost six years ago, Japan faced a paralyzing triple disaster: a massive earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns that forced 470,000 people to evacuate from more than 80 towns, villages and cities. My colleagues and I investigated how communities in the hardest-hit areas reacted to these shocks, and found that social networks – the horizontal and vertical ties that connect us to others – are our most important defense against disasters.
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