Did you know that a tremor occurs at least every 5 minutes in Japan?
The island nation lies along the western edge of the Ring of Fire, making it one of the most tectonically active places on Earth, with as much as 10% of the world’s volcanic activity!
Most local Japanese have practiced various disaster drills (for earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.) since their childhood years. Foreigners like myself who have never grown up with the frequent risk of earthquakes, however, have to take extra measures to get familiar with what to do in the case of a disaster in Tokyo. Recently I took part in my office building’s earthquake drill and also a Disaster Preparedness Drill for Foreign Residents government sponsored by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Read on to find out what I had to do and get some possibly lifesaving tips if you ever find yourself in an earthquake zone!
The first thing you have to do when the alarm siren goes off is to put on your helmet to prepare for the tremor (there are usually helmets readily available for emergencies everywhere in Tokyo, but if you have no helmet, try to find something to protect your head and/or crawl under and hold onto a table to protect yourself in case of falling objects).
Colleagues in the office with their helmets on!
Important: DO NOT leave the building before the earthquake is over!
Contrary to what may be your first instincts, you should NOT try to leave the building during the earthquake. It is true that being outside and far from any building during an earthquake and its aftershocks would be ideal, but actually traversing a building (and its immediate surroundings) during an earthquake is a terrible idea and near impossible. Walking and running during an earthquake is dangerous as the floor/ground is moving! Studies in Japan have showed that traversing as little as ~10 ft (3 m) during an earthquake significantly increases your odds of injury.
Moreover, because of building codes, very few buildings in Japan actually collapse during earthquakes, despite taking serious damage.
In other words, staying in the building is much safer than being outside!
After the tremors end, evacuate via the stairs. At my office, we had to climb down from the 36F to the ground floor which took about 20 minutes (and was a lot more tiring than I expected - my legs were numb!).
Also practiced with a fire extinguisher during a fire drill! It was my first time using one.
There was an emergency food distribution station at the Lobby waiting for everyone to collect after evacuating.
Received my emergency pack!
The emergency pack included water, biscuits, and rice, among other long shelf-life foods! They were actually tastier than I had expected~ ;P
All in all, I have no doubt that Japan is possibly one of the most efficient places to be in the event of any disaster! I have heard that even in major earthquakes, people still line up in an orderly fashion at convenience stores to get supplies. Simply cannot imagine that happening in many other places in the world!