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Earthquakes are more frequent than you think in Japan. They occur every day, of more strong or low intensity. But would you know what to do if you were to face one? And do are you prepared to manage them? I suggest you some things to anticipate your needs and some advices on handling such situations.
March 11, 2011, Japan was hit by the most violent earthquake in its History, with a magnitude of 9.2 on the Richter scale. This was followed by a tsunami. This killed over 15000 people. That’s a lot, but limited compared to the severity of the disaster. But how that figure could be limited to this point (remember that more than 220,000 people died in December 26, 2004following the tsunami that hitSoutheast Asia, especially inIndonesia)? Japan has experience and knows how to manage earthquakes as they can save tens of thousands of lives. I suggest you to learn some basics rules to follow in such situations.
What is an earthquake? Basic concepts
The earthquake is a terrestrial activity generated by a sudden release of energy resulting in a more or less violent shaking of the earth. These activities have three different origins:
- Tectonic earthquake (rupture of a fault or fault segment)
- Volcanic earthquake (intrusion and degassing of magma)
- Natural or induced by human activity earthquake (explosion …)
Earthquakes are measured by seismographs in the context of scientific activity called seismology. The power of an earthquake is usually expressed in terms of magnitude on the Richter scale (but there are however many other methods of quantification).
What to do during an earthquake? A guide to actions and practices to be followed:
The earth shaking under your feet? You did not prepare for this? This could be really dangerous. Many foreigners travelling in Japan minimizes the risk of earthquakes. But this is not the kind of things to laugh with. This why I give you a series of things to do to anticipate and manage possible earthquake. Take the threat seriously.
- Before the earthquake:
- Have fire extinguishers
- Keep your bathtub filled with water (perhaps dangerous for young children)
- Shut off gas when not in use
- Secure all furniture, fixing them to the walls (for example with screws)
- Do not stack objects on a too high level (they could fall during an earthquake). Especially never stack heavy objects as if they were to fall, you might be injured.
- Keep heavy objects on the ground, they will have no chance to fall on you
- Keep equipment and food for survival situation: canned food, bottled water, first aid kit, a portable radio (turned to a station in English), a flashlight, candles, matches, batteries, plastic bags, towels, soap, crockery and cutlery, a small gas stove.
- Prepare clothing that can be useful (especially if you have children) such as spare underwear. For ladies keep the products needed for your period.
- Keep coins on you constantly. This will be useful for beverages vending machines and public coins telephones, in a case of emergency.
- Keep a cellphone still charge on you. It will be unfortunate if you do not have anymore battery on your cellphone.
- Keep your identification papaers on you att all times. If you are in the streets and your building felled down, you will be happy to be able to prove your identity to your embassy.
- Locate the official gathering places, when you arrive. They are listed in the streets, on maps, and you can ask the police or in community centers.
- Provide a gathering place with friends and families in case you will be separated during an earthquake. This will take away a lot of unnecessary stress.
- Register with your Embassy upon arrival. It is helpful that we know you are here in case of trouble
- During the earthquake:
- Turn off the gas immediately if you’re using it, even if the earthquake is of low intensity
- Open at least one door (in fact, during earthquake doors move and be blocked)
- Put yourself safe from objects that could fall and be dangerous for you (in a doorway, under a table or desk …)
- If possible go into a small space such as a closet because they are stronger than larger rooms. The toilets can be a good place to go.
- If you live in a big city, stay indoors, do not go out. The exterior can be extremely dangerous with windows that would fly apart or buildings that could collapse (in whole or part)
- Turn on your radio (or TV if it still works) and listen to the information
- If you see a fire that begins to turn, turn it off immediately with your extinguisher or water you have stored in your bathroom.
- If you are driving, stop immediately, leave your keys in the ignition and get out of your car (do not close the driver door). Met at assembly point nearest you .Your car will be returned after the situation has returned to normal.
- In case of tsunami (a warning will be given) in the affected areas, flee wuickly to the heights of the city where you are. Evacuation areas are well signposted. Follow local and do not stay alone.
- After the earthquake:
- If you are inside a building, wait for the announcements from the outside. They will be given in Japanese and English, and will tell you what to do and when you can get out.
- If you get stuck, try to call the Police (110) or a relative, if you have the ability.
- If you see a fire, immediately turn it off. Fire is the worst enemy during an earthquake.
- Once you get the chance, go to the assembly point provided in each area (usually in a park).
- Notify, as soon as possible, your friends and family that you are well, and get their news. Minimize stress.
- In the hours immediately after, and as soon as possible, go to your embassy and see with them for further procedures.
- Do not stay alone, follow the Japanese they are trained from childhood.
- Help others, do not let potential victims without support, but do not take too dangerous risks.
An earthquake occurs, but I do not speak Japanese: A list of useful Japanese vocabulary
If you do not speak Japanese, I urge you to be able to know the basics of the English language when travelling in Japan. Indeed, when an earthquake occurs, the information will be given in Japanese and in English by the Japanese authorities. But if you some vocabulary that may be useful:
- I can’t speak Japanese: NIHONGO GA HANISHIMASEN
- I do not understand Japanese: NIHONGO GA WAKARIMASEN
- Help me please: TASUKETE KUDASAI
- Do you speak English?: EIGO GA HANASHIMASU KA ?
- Call an ambulance please: KYUUKYUUSHA O YONDE KUDASAI
- Where is the disaster center?: SAIGAI TAISAKU YOUHIN NO URIBA WA DOKO DESU KA ?
- I want to visit the earthquake simulation room: GIJI JISHIN TAIKIN SHITSU NI ITTE MITAI DESU
- Where is the disaster assembly point?: KINKYUU HINANJO WA DOKO DESU KA ?
- I am hurt: KEGA O SHIMASHITA
I suggest you keep this list with you, or even to supplement it with other useful phrases if do not speak Japanese. An earthquake can strike at anytime.
I hope you will not have to experience an earthquake and that you will enjoy your stay in Japan.