Earthquakes are a fact of life in Japan. Being prepared will create less stress in the event of even minor quakes.
Follow these common sense tips for living on shaky ground.
Although it is a pain, and seems like just another thing you have to remember, turning off your gas before going to bed greatly reduces the risk of a leak or subsequent fire. Most kitchens have a main on/off valve located on the wall behind or close to the gas cooker. Think of it as a nightly routine, lock your door, brush your teeth, turn off the gas. No one likes a late night inferno…
Sure, who wants to waste 2,000 Yen, that could otherwise be spent on 2 hours of Karaoke with all you can drink, on something as boring as furniture supports? However, your mad karaoke skills are not going to help you when you are trapped under a cabinet full of broken 100 yen shop dishes. Secure everything you can to ensure a quick escape, with minimal obstructions. You don’t have to go all crazy bolting EVERYTHING to walls, but stability poles between large and tall furniture and the ceiling are well worth the time and money, even if they look a little nasty. Securing dish cabinets with door supporters is equally horrendous looking and agitating, but if you have a massive plate collection, it may be worth the aggravation.
Big things falling are the obvious fear, but small things can create a lot more trouble? The seemingly innocent wall of picture frames, with photos of everyone and all of their adventures, can quickly become an obstacle course of broken glass and jagged wood or metal frame pieces. Securing frames, or other fragile items such as mirrors or wall fans, directly to the wall with adhesive or screw-in hooks is the best option. Thumbtacks just don’t cut it when the walls start moving.
There is a reason why Japanese furniture such as TV stands, bookcases, and dressers are shorter than those seen in the west. Low furniture equals low centre of gravity. A smaller bookcase filled with your 2 years worth of comics is less likely to topple than a floor to ceiling model filled to bursting.
As a rule, the heavier the object, the lower to the ground is better. Don’t balance a 50-inch flatscreen on a cheap and tipsy colour box. Don’t put a humongous vase full of fresh flowers on top of the fridge. Not only that just ugly, it is an accident waiting to happen. Anything over 40 Kgs especially, should be below the average person’s chest. If you have a really nice TV, investing in a special TV strap is also a good idea.
More stuff around means more stuff to fall and block your path to an exit. It sounds silly, but a clear hallway and clear path to ANY exit is necessary. If a big quake does hit, it can bend the main door rendering it useless. You don’t want to have to move a huge wardrobe to get to the window or swim through a sea of unwashed clothing, knick-knacks and 6 months worth of empties to get to the balcony.
Although you never know when earthquakes will occur, the chances of them are more likely than not. Prepare wisely!