Disaster preparedness

I had “disaster preparedness” on my list of potential blog posts from the beginning, but it now unfortunately seems timely following large earthquakes is southwest Japan (far from us but scary).

Not to freak anyone out but…

Japan is a small but rugged country prone to lots of natural disasters: earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis, mudslides, tornadoes (really!), and volcanic eruptions. Also snow storms, although not much where we live compared to northern Japan. I think that pretty much covers everything; at least I guess wild fires are a bit rarer than other places I’ve lived. So none of this is a joke: it’s really important to be prepared.

I’ve written about government inefficiency, but the local and national governments alike do pretty well with preparations and education. Schools and local governments have frequent drills and distribute information about safety and evacuation locations. The Tokyo municipal government has a fantastic preparation and survival guide, even in English, although it’s better not to think about all the potential scenarios it discusses if you’re prone to brood about the possibilities. The awesome rhino mascot may lift your spirits, though.

When disasters do strike, rescue and relief is deployed quite quickly in comparison with other countries. Recent building construction in Japan is designed for seismic activity as much as possible, so earthquakes that would wipe out other places can be sustained to some extent here.

In addition, some earthquakes can be detected a short time before they begin, and in such a case, alerts are automatically sent out across mobile phone networks and news media. This short clip from a BBC news radio broadcast explains how the earthquake alerts work: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03r3gm2. As the clip mentions, trains are automatically stopped when a earthquake is detected. Some other things, like gas stoves, often have auto-shutdown features when shaking is detected.

You can also sign up for non-crucial emergency alerts on your phone: I get alerts for all significant earthquakes, severe weather warnings in my region, and police alerts for my ward in the city. (In Japanese, though, but at least I can understand what type of alert has been issued!)

Another interesting service is Web 171. It allows people to leave and collect messages from each other if phone lines are jammed in an emergency. You can log in through the web or phone into it by dialing 171 to leave messages directed at other people who you’ve designated as contacts in the system. (It’s only active in case of an emergency.)

So, what have we done? Well, we have shock absorbing cushions on the bottom of our larger furniture (bookcases). We need to do more work on that, though. We try to store heavier/breakable things lower and lighter things higher. We know where evacuation locations are, and we’re trying to stock up extra food and water. Our bathtub is always kept full, to bathe in of course, but also as a water supply. And we’ve stocked a couple of emergency backpacks with food, first aid kits, basic toiletries, etc. etc., similar to this: http://global.rakuten.com/en/store/realchuchu/item/10002119/

Again, not to freak anyone out, but it’s good to be prepared…


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