Preparing for Natural Disasters
Although Yamaguchi takes pride in having one of the lowest rates of natural disasters in Japan, one should always be aware of the possibility of a disaster striking, and should be well prepared for an unexpected emergency.
Earthquakes and typhoons are the most common form of natural disaster in Japan. Tsunami, floods, and volcanic eruptions are also known to occur. As summer is the season of the typhoon, now is the time to start thinking ahead of how to prepare yourself.
Some of the most important steps you can take to ensure your safety must actually be made before the event. First and foremost, you should inform your embassy that you are in Japan. This can usually be done by accessing your embassy’s webpage. This way they will be able to help locate you should the need arise. The next thing you need to do is to prepare a basic emergency pack. This should include bottled water, food that will not easily perish, a flashlight and batteries, a list of emergency phone numbers, and a simple medical kit. You may also wish to include clothes, toiletries, and a book, in case of not being able to return to your home immediately. This emergency pack should be placed near your front door so that you don’t need to waste time going to retrieve it. It is also important that you find the location of your closest evacuation point. These are usually schools with large gymnasiums.
Most earthquakes in Yamaguchi will pass by unnoticed, as most occur on a small scale. Occasionally, though, there are stronger earthquakes, and the possibility of one of these occurring should not be dismissed. Here are the basic emergency procedures to know off hand:
1. Stay calm and seek safety.
• Get under the nearest desk or table, and cover your head with a cushion or pillow. During strong earthquakes, furniture and household objects may come falling down, so it is important to protect your head.
2. Secure an exit.
• When you feel an earthquake, open a door right away. This ensures an escape route after the earthquake is over, as earthquakes may warp doors, making it impossible to open if they have been left shut.
3. Do not rush outside.
• Usually a strong earthquake will end within a minute or so. Seek shelter in the room you’re in and stay there until it’s over. Falling debris such as glass and overhead signs are a major risk faced when rushing outdoors in a panic during an earthquake.
4. Prevent or Extinguish Fires.
• Turn off and unplug any heat sources that may be in use, such as gas burners or heating stoves, as well as other gas and electrical appliances to prevent potential fires. If a fire breaks out, use water or a fire extinguisher to put it out, or shout “KAJI” (fire) to get help from neighbors. In the case of evacuation, make sure to switch off the circuit breaker in your home before leaving.
5. Stay away from narrow streets, walled streets, cliffs and river banks.
• If you find yourself outside during an earthquake, do not stand under the eaves of homes or buildings as roofing tiles, bricks, glass or concrete could fall on you. Stay away from cliffs and river banks as landslides often occur after earthquakes. If possible, evacuate to a sturdy building or public square.
6. In the case of evacuation, go by foot, not car.
• Wear comfortable, loose clothing and carry a minimal amount of personal belongings. Evacuating by car leads to traffic problems and delays, so it is best to walk.
7. Look out for tsunami.
• If you live near a beach, evacuate to higher ground quickly when you feel either a strong earthquake or a weak but lasting tremor. Listen to the radio for news concerning “tsunami.” Sometimes tsunami strike before authorities have time to issue a warning, so it is best to act fast.
8. Be sure you are receiving correct information.
• Follow the news on TV and radio and do not rely on rumors. Follow instructions given by the municipal office, fire department and police department.
9. When driving a car, pull over to the side of the road or vacant lot.
• Turn off your engine and listen for news on the radio. Follow police instruction and evacuate on foot, leaving the keys in the car.
In addition, basic advance preparations for earthquakes include:
1. If you live with a family, discuss a family plan.
• Assign responsibilities and discuss topics such as the safest place in the home, first aid kit, evacuating babies and the elderly, places and routes to evacuate, what belongings to take during an evacuation, earthquake kit, and procedures for both daytime and nighttime earthquakes.
2. Secure furniture.
• Use brackets to prevent furniture from tipping over or falling down, and invest in a film for glass doors and cabinets to prevent shattering.
3. Prepare an emergency kit.
• What to include: flashlight, batteries, candles, lighter, pocket knife, can opener, gloves, water, portable radio, canned and instant foods, a blanket, some clothing, inkan (name seal), cash, bank account book and a first aid kit. Store earthquake kits where you can easily reach them. On average, the weight of an earthquake kit for men should be no more than 15kg, and for women no more than 10kg.
Japan’s typhoon season is from June to November, with the majority hitting in August and September. The best security measure you can make is to stay indoors. You may find that you need to leave your house in a typhoon, in which case you should travel by taxi. Electricity, gas and water services can be affected by typhoons, so you may need the water and food from your emergency packs, and a blanket. Television coverage of typhoons is extensive, so watch that for an idea of when it is going to hit. Buildings can be damaged by typhoons, so it is important to watch out for falling debris, and sharp objects on the ground following typhoons. People can be injured from objects being blown from balconies, so ensure you remove any possible dangerous objects before the typhoon, and place them indoors.
Large earthquakes at sea may cause tsunami. Tsunami warnings are issued after earthquakes, so if possible try to listen to the TV or radio. If a warning is released then you should try to move away from the coast, and to higher ground.
The heavy rains in June and the rain that comes with typhoons can cause some flooding. If your home is affected you should head to your nearest evacuation center.
Volcanic eruptions are rare in Japan, but they do occur. In the event of such an eruption you should close your windows and wear a protective mask and goggles to protect you from the ash. If at all possible, do not leave your house.