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Earthquake Preparedness in Japan

June 14, 2018


Japan is among the world’s most seismically active countries, which means that earthquakes are a relatively common occurrence. Small tremors are usually felt in some part of the country everyday, and there have been several big quakes in the last few years resulting in damage and deaths. While the damage was very significant, it is important to note that damage and deaths were remarkably limited.

Since a major earthquake in Kobe many years ago, Japan embarked on a mission to improve building codes and procedures. All of which were fairly effective. Even the much bemoaned walls erected to keep Tsunami waves at bay, which turned out to be much too short, did in fact hold back the waves for a time, and probably saved hundreds or thousands of lives. So while it is important to be prepared for a disaster, you should keep the danger in perspective. If you must live through a killer quake, Japan is probably the best place to do it. If you take only one thing from this article, please be pro-active and prepare your family and home for a disaster.

Preparation Pays off

Do you live in a new house or apartment?

Building standards become stricter and stricter as the years go on so a rule of thumb is that the newer the residence, the more thought has been put into earthquake resistance. Of course there’s no way of completely earthquake proofing a building, but it’s nice to know you have a little insurance.  Generally, any building constructed after – 1981, when the “shin-taishin”, or New Earthquake Resistant Building Standard Amendment was enacted, should be safe enough.

Do any of your family sleep where heavy objects could drop down and trap them?

This is of particular concern for smaller residences, where you’re likely to be sleeping on a futon, close to the television in the living room. Where you have no choice but to sleep near heavy stuff, at least make sure that it’s landing near your feet.  You can also use braces, available from the home center, or Tokyu Hands to brace large or heavy objects.

Are your windows earthquake resistant?

In other words, do your windows have a fine line of wires that hold them together in case they break and prevent them from shattering on the floor? This is particularly important on the upper floors where shattering glass can be a rain from above for people walking down below. There is a sticky film you can buy from the home center or Tokyu Hands to stick over the windows for this purpose.

Have you checked out the earthquake preparation corner of your local home center?

If not, you won’t have any trouble locating it today, as quakes like this morning’s one tend to snap people into action. There are things to bolt your furniture down, padding to put under the furniture to make it harder to fall down, and a whole range of items that you would need if a major earthquake prevented you from living a normal life in your home for an extended period of time.

What you will do in the event of a large earthquake?

  • Where is the safest place at home?
  • Where are the emergency supplies at home?
  • Do you have fire extinguishers in your home and where are they?
  • Where is the nearest evacuation shelter and evacuation route?
  • What are the responsibilities of each householder when evacuating?
  • Decide how to contact family members, and about where to meet for both a daytime and nighttime earthquake scenario.
  • Put personal effects and first aid kit in a place where they are easily accessible
  • Learn how to use the NTT disaster emergency dial 171
  • Look into disaster information options from your mobile phone provider such as this one from Softbank, this one from au, or this one from docomo. Remember that in the event of a disaster different phones will work in different areas depending on which transmitters have been damaged.

Items to prepare for an emergency evacuation:

  • By your bed: shoes (in case of broken glass), flashlight, whistle, glasses, medication
  • Emergency survival bag (put in an easily accessible place known to all family members) : valuables such as cash including change, passports, foreign registration cards, credit cards, bank passbook, drivers license.
  • Radio, emergency food rations, bottled water, mobile phone.
  • Clothes to be used in an emergency, including gloves and small towels.
  • First aid kit including medicine, band-aids, tissue paper, small scissors, tape etc.
  • The emergency bag must be as light as possible for ease of carrying.

In another place in the house known to all householders;

Items to stockpile to prepare for an emergency evacuation:

  • Emergency food and bottled water for three full days
  • Portable cooking stove and fuel (careful to check use-by dates and safe storage)
  • rope
  • disposable chopsticks
  • blankets
  • strong masking tape
  • paper tableware and thick foil cooking plates (available from camping stores)
  • people who camp – keep your camping goods updated and in good order, in an easily accessible place. Taking up camping as a hobby is one of the best earthquake preparations you can do!

Household response in time of disaster

  • Learn about the location of evacuation shelters in your area.
  • Learn about the provision of water in the case of an emergency.
  • Read up on advice from the fire department.
  • Find good guides to earthquake preparation on the internet – even if they are not for your area much of the information contained is useful. Use the guides like a checklist, be prepared.
  • Read up on earthquake warning systems.

While there are no guarantees that being prepared will ensure your safety in the event of a major earthquake, it could potentially make a huge difference should the worst happen. Tokyu Hands, a wonderful store that sells everything you never knew you needed, is a good starting point.

Lease Japan also offers an emergency disaster kit that can be tailored to fit the size of your family. You can find information by following this link.

Related links:

Photo by Masahiko OHKUBO from Kobe, Japan (#19950117 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (HD)) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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