Japan vs Earthquakes: How to Prepare for Disasters

  • HOW TO
  • Japan is known for its proneness for natural disasters. The good news is that in the recent years, in spite of 6 large quakes happening, the number of injuries has decreased in comparison to the past. I’m sure the battle between natural disasters and Japan will take a long time to end if it ever does, and until that time it is important for people living in Japan to know how to minimize damage and human injury due to disasters. What do the Japanese do to prepare themselves?

    Resistant Houses

    In order to ensure people’s safety, it’s a good idea to start at the base. One way to do this is to enhance the earthquake resistance of buildings and houses when they are still under construction, so even when a strong earthquake hits these buildings won’t easily collapse, one of the most important causes of injury or death during an earthquake.

    In Japan, all newly constructed buildings must follow strict rules set by the government. These buildings must meet 2 requirements: they are guaranteed not to collapse due to an earthquake within the next 100 years, and they are guaranteed not to be damaged within 10 years of construction. Moreover, all materials used for construction must follow strict rules of the relevant authorities.

    Earthquake Alert System

    All smartphones in Japan have an earthquake/ tsunami alert system installed, hence, about 5 to 10 seconds before a disaster strikes the warning system should give people a precious few extra seconds to escape to a safer place or duck under the table. When the alert goes off a buzzing noise is heard, and a voice keeps saying “Jishin desu! Jishin desu” (meaning “There is an earthquake”) until the earthquake stops.

    Since an earthquake that happens in a coastal area is more likely to generate a tsunami, a warning system improvement contributes to minimizing the loss of lives and property by giving an alert 5-10 minutes before the tsunami comes. Also, the Japan Meteorological Agency has installed more than 200 seismic forecast stations across the country, and on a larger scale the Ministry of Disaster Prevention has set up 800 stations for the creation of the warning system. With all the information gathered from the seismic stations, the government staff can immediately analyze the data, identify the scope of the disaster, as well as predict the time of occurrence time in each location and accordingly launch a warning to the people so citizens can be prepared.

    Integrated Disaster Prevention System

    To minimize the damage caused by natural disasters, the Japanese government has given extensive guidelines on how to survive would a disaster strike. Japan has built a system with full emergency faculties in order to serve people when a large disaster happens.

    What you have to do yourself, is to prepare an emergency backpack (also known as emergency kit) for each member of your household, in which you store essential things like flashlights, medicine, blankets, masks, ropes, a radio, a portable toilet … and an amount of food that would be enough to survive on for 3 days to 1 week.

    Next, each local self-founded evacuation center (commonly gymnastic rooms in public school buildings) is fully equipped with helmets, blankets, flashlights, food … to serve essential needs of people who come to this center when their homes are not safe anymore.

    Awareness of Disaster Prevention

    The Japanese government focuses on providing their people with sufficient knowledge about earthquakes and tsunamis. Training sessions and/or exhibitions about disaster prevention are regularly held just like conferences for evacuation area construction.

    This training starts young, from pre-kindergarten children have to regularly participate in the natural disaster drills. All Japanese students know that whenever an earthquake comes they are not allowed to panic, instead, they should protect their head, escape in an orderly way, and absolutely not rush or behave disorderly.


    Housewives in Japan also play an important role in disaster prevention. Because earthquakes will likely affect gas pipelines which can set off explosions and start fires, whenever an earthquake occurs housewives are trained to immediately rush into the kitchen to turn off the gas (and electricity if necessary), and open the doors in the house as they can become hard to open if they are closed when a strong earthquake happens. Japanese housewives also have another very important task: they have to check the emergency kit periodically in order to replace damaged or expired items.

    Another thing all Japanese people know is that when a large earthquake strikes, they must absolutely avoid things hanging on the ceiling because they have the potential to cause great injury, just like the windows that can break into many pieces. In many offices, commercial centers, squares or crowded places, there are detailed instructions and exit signs in case disaster happens…

    If you come to Japan or live in Japan, make sure to get familiar with at least the most basic safety measures so you know what to do in the event of a large disaster. Better be safe than sorry, and be well-prepared!

    Related Articles:
    4 Important Safety Tips to Remember for when an Earthquake Strikes in Japan
    How Does an Earthquake Really Feel? A Personal Account of the Kumamoto Earthquake