Earthquakes - 5. "Where to evacuate?" | Lectures for Foreign Students on Disaster Control | JPSS, the information site of studying in Japan

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Lectures for Foreign Students on Disaster Control

"Where to evacuate?"

You have to take refuge outside if houses and buildings get in danger at the time of disasters including an earthquake. But where should we evacuate? Administratively, we are advised to evacuate in the following procedure according to situation of damages.

(1) Temporary evacuation site (Temporary assembly point)

For the time being, take refuge to the nearest spacious places such as a local park or a schoolyard, and assess the situation. Temporary evacuation sites are likely to be designated by the local residents' associations.

(2) Open evacuation area

If temporary evacuation sites seem dangerous, or you cannot reach the places, go and wait at a larger park or an open space. Open evacuation areas are designated by your city, ward, town, or village office.

(3) Evacuation shelter

Evacuation shelters are places for evacuees to live temporary when they lose their homes in a disaster. In general, local elementary and junior high schools are designated as evacuation shelters.

They illustrate the procedures of evacuation at their website Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Disaster Prevention Information.

It is advised to find out the locations of temporary evacuation sites, open evacuation areas, and evacuation shelters in your region. For residents of Tokyo city, they offer Tokyo Disaster Prevention MAP on which you can look up evacuation places of each region.

Websites showing evacuation shelter maps of other municipalities
City of Sapporo where to evacuate?
Osaka City Disaster response maps for each ward
Kobe City Evacuation shelters at disaster
Fukuoka City Disaster Prevention Map

In addition, please do a computer search by the words of " (your place of residence) evacuation shelter" to find out a list of evacuation sites on the website of your municipal office.

In the case of Bunkyo-ward in Tokyo, for example, the search word "Bunkyo-ward evacuation shelter" show the web page named "Evacuation areas at disasters," in which they give the geographical lists of evacuation sites and shelters predetermined in the ward.


More often than not, they just write down the addresses and maps of the evacuation places on their website or guidebooks they issue, and it is difficult to tell exactly where the places are unless you are very familiar with geographical circumstances and the names of schools and parks in your town. Only by the maps, we expect that you can not imagine accurately how far it is, how wide or narrow the streets are, nor what on earth the evacuation areas is like, especially when you are a foreign resident there.

Hence, it is recommended to make a visit on foot to the evacuation places in your place of residence and have a look at them before a real disaster takes place. By doing that you would realize things like, "it is further than I expected," or "they have no pedestrian crossing here," or maybe "that footbridge doesn't seem very stable so we should not use in the event of disaster." Please make a preliminary inspection of geographical circumstances in your town so as not to get upset in an emergency.

Again, it is also preferable to memorize the names and locations of districts, schools, and parks around. Emergency broadcasting from police or fire stations will inform you of which park you should take refuge at the time of disaster, but it won't be any use unless you know its locations.


As mentioned in the chapter 2, it is no need to take refuge outside except when insides the houses or buildings are not safe, or there appears danger of fires. The time to evacuate immediately is listed below;

  • 1-1. when there is the outbreak of a fire beyond your control
  • 1-2. when you can see the danger of building collapsing
  • 1-3. if police or fire station instruct you to

Remember the following points concerning evacuation;

  • 2-1. turn off circuit breaker and the gas main before leaving
  • 2-2. put on well-sized and sturdy shoes
  • 2-3. keep your possessions to a minimum
  • 2-4. do not use a car nor bicycle to evacuate
  • 2-5. take action in a group, together with your family, friends, neighbors when possible.


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