Japan is an earthquake prone country. The most striking was the one in north east back in 2011 which has taken away more than 20 thousands lives including 36 foreigners. Volcanoes normally exist in earthquake prone area. The last eruption in Japan occurred in 2014 at Mount Ontake between Nagano and Gifu Prefectures has resulted in 58 deaths and 5 missings. Another treat for an archipelago country like Japan is the typhoon, unavoidable during summer months, not to forget the tsunami triggered by earthquake.
Japan is not only rich in cultural heritage and natural beauty, but also has the history of enduring through natural calamities and the future of facing increasing threats.
Should a natural disaster hit, most of us are unprepared, be it a local or tourist. If you are lack of experience, local language competency and local contact, do you know your priority?
Be reminded that as a tourist, you are always the weakest. The best you can do is to prepare yourself in advance.
Contact details of your embassy or consulate office
During emergency, your first reaction might be to reach out to your government representative office. Most countries have their embassies or consulates based in major cities in Japan. It is advisable to note down their contact details.
Your first point of contact might not be able to promptly assist you. Imagine the limited number of staff working at the consulate office could potentially swarmed with requests. They might have restricted authority to carry out certain duties locally. Worse still, the consulate staff are also victims under such circumstances and you cannot rely on them.
Safety tips – your first resort for the latest news
The earthquake in 2011 has caused inconveniences to foreign residents and tourists. Since then the Japan authority has taken necessary steps in various aspects to enhance the protection of lives and properties of foreigners.
Safety tips is a mobile apps launched by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. It timely alerts the users based on GPS or location settings for any earthquake, tsunami, typhoon, thunderstorm, snowstorm and volcanic eruption. Moreover, it provides the linkages to shelter information and medical facilities for foreigners to facilitate emergency needs.
Sufficient cell phone battery supply
Natural disaster might result in power cut-off. Always ensure your cell phone is fully charged.
Learn how to respond to natural disasters
Certain disasters are climate or seasonal related and could develop in stages before it turns out worse, such as flooding.
Every year, typhoon affects Japan from May through October and most precipitation occurs between July and September. Based on the statistics of Japan Meteorological Agency (in Japanese), since 1951, most typhoons made the landfall at the south of Kyushu of Kagoshima Prefecture, followed by Kochi, Wakayama, Shizuoka and Nagasaki Prefectures, in descending order.
Due to recent climate change, there are storms caused by typhoons as well as flooding which threaten places nationwide. The flooding in Kinugawa River of Ibaraki and Tochigi Prefectures with 14 casualties in September 2015 was one of the examples.
The services of Safety tips include weather forecast. Should there be a storm or thunderstorm, push notification will be sent to users. In a more severe condition, tourists should even avoid the stream by revising or postponing the plan to remain safe.
Apart from typhoon or rain and snow storm which could be forecasted, there are unpredictable earthquake and volcanic eruption. Under such circumstances, it is important to remain calm.
During an earthquake, the first and foremost is to find an appropriate shelter. If you are within a building, quickly move towards a spot which has no falling objects or non-collapsible. Near a pillar is one of the best options. Avoid glass windows or large furniture. In city area, stay indoor to avoid falling signboards from building exterior. Only leave the building after there is no more earthquake. Elevator must be avoided at all times.
If you happen to be outdoor, you would need to judge the open space to decide your next move. While remaining at your existing position, ensure the surrounding has no building collapsing and free of falling objects which could lead to injury (also watch out for electric cables). On the other hand, in a rather narrow outdoor space, you would need to consider for a building which is strong and rigid for shelter.
You might not timely find a shelter during a strong earthquake. Your head and neck are the critical parts you should protect. A backpack or any books will come in handy.
If an earthquake happens while you drive, you should slow down (instead of abrupt brake) and then park beside the road. Check the road conditions and the surroundings before you leave the car. You should leave the car key in the car, do not lock. When there is a tsunami due to earthquake, do not count on escaping from the shore by driving, you should instead leave the car immediately and move towards a higher ground.
Where are the shelters located
In Japan, normally the schools, civic centres and stadiums are designated by the local government as shelters during emergency. These venues will be prioritised when it comes to receiving emergency supplies of food, water and blankets. Apart from Safety tips which provides information on the shelters, websites of some local governments also provide the precise information of the same. Eg: Tokyo and Nagoya .
While in the shelter facility, cell phone shall be set to vibrate mode (or low power mode, if applicable) in order to minimize disturbance to others.
Seek help from local Japanese
The local might not be experience enough to respond to various situations, but in terms of the knowledge on disasters, they have got plenty of information in hand. Regardless of any disasters, the best is still to reach out to a local for assistance.