A Disaster Not Waiting to Happen

03/10/2015 12:40 pm ET | Updated May 10, 2015

Burned alive, buried by a mud slide, mauled by a wild animal, airplane crash, crushed during an earthquake, drowned or frozen to death. All of these are horrible ways to die. If we ever had the opportunity to choose how we go, these ways to kick the bucket would surely never be at the top of anyone's list.

What's interesting is that most of these ghastly ways to die are related to disasters. Are you normally worried about disaster striking? Probably not. This is because we are wired to be optimistic and not think about these things. But reality shows that if we lose sight of the real risks we face and we don't prepare, the toll we pay is simply too high. Did you know that there is actually an entire global effort by the UN aimed at helping the world deal with disasters so we are all in a better position to survive if and when disaster strikes? It's no minor challenge to get people to act and take preventive measures towards things that are merely perceived as remote risks or that happen to others.

10 years ago, the tsunami that hit South East Asia was a huge wake up call. Over 200,000 people died! Was there anything we could have done? Clearly there was. We see the huge differences in economic and human death tolls between countries that are more prepared or less prepared to face disasters. But even if some places are faring better than others, it is not enough. The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has calculated that over 42 million life years have been lost annually in disasters between 1980 and 2012! If we look at the economic costs the numbers are quite unbelievable: 250-300 billion dollars are lost every year in disasters.

Next week in Sendai, Japan, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction is bringing the world together to discuss how to prevent and manage these situations. This conference will reach a global agreement so we all will be better prepared. This translates directly into fewer lives and less assets lost. It's easy to not bother when you don't feel the risk but, disaster can anyone anytime.

Doesn't it make sense for the world to have its act together on this front so we can save millions of lives? In today's day and age, we don't have a good excuse to let things like this get by. We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation: it's time to be prepared.