Earthquakes - 1. "Be aware of possible crisis on a regular basis" | Lectures for Foreign Students on Disaster Control | JPSS, the information site of studying in Japan

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"Be aware of possible crisis on a regular basis"

On March 11, 2011 at 2:46 p.m., a massive earthquake struck at the seabed of the waters off of Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures with a moment magnitude of 9.0 (with the maximum seismic intensity of 7), and the Tohoku region along with other parts of eastern Japan were heavily damaged in a large-scale disaster. Approximately 400,000 buildings were completely or partially destroyed, and the resulting tsunami and landslides claimed the lives of 18,524 people, and 400,000 were forced to evacuate the area.

In 2004 there was an earthquake in Niigata Prefecture, which also claimed many victims that were foreign students. What do you think about the following comments of students' who experienced the terrible disaster?

A student from Malaysia (who was a senior at Nagaoka University of Technology)

"(as an answer for the question that asked if he had enough knowledge of earthquakes) I had only learned from television that we protect ourselves by getting under a table or a desk when earthquakes occurs. However, I was in a panic so I couldn't remember such a guidance as this when it came."

A student from Thailand (who was also a senior at Nagaoka University of Technology)

"I guess that I totally got into a panic at the moment. Several strong quakes went on at intervals for a while, so we had been afraid for hours. My body was not injured, but mentally, anxiety didn't leave me even now."

A student from China (who was a junior at Nagaoka University)

"Glasses and dishes fell one after another before my eyes, and I didn't tell what happened at first. There was no one except three female staffs together, so we just threw ourselves on our knees screaming in terror." "What I need most for now is useful advices. I don't know well about earthquake and what to do when it strikes us all of sudden. It's terrifying not to prepare for situations of disasters."

(Interview articles from:"MONTHLY The Asia-no Tomo, December 2004")


Every comment stated above point out that they couldn't help getting into a panic at the critical moment. When rooms begin to sway, Japanese who are familiar with earthquakes promptly think of the possibility of earthquake. From their childhood they have plenty of experiences of quakes, various in scale, and got regular earthquake drills at schools. Because of that, when it turns out a real earthquake, the necessity to turn off the gas and secure escape routes instantaneously come to their mind.

Those who have hardly had earthquakes at their home countries, however, would not think of the possibility of the disasters when tremors strike them so that they can't figure out what happens at all and tend to be in a panic just as the students interviewed above did. In the case of the Chinese student, who didn't do anything except throwing herself down on her knees in a panic, it might have been a horrible accident if a fire had broke out around her or something heavy had fallen down on her.

It is no use without calm and reasonable mind even if you learn safety measures against earthquakes. So, how can we avoid losing our reasonable mind and stay in less panic?


The best way for that is to get used to earthquake itself, which means that you always remember that earthquake may strike us at any time in daily life. No need to fear more than necessary. All you need is experience, not knowledge, of how you feel and what you should do in case of earthquake.

So, how can you get familiar with earthquake exactly?

Obtain hands-on experiences of an earthquake.

The local governments offer disaster control centers, where you can experience the earthquakes artificially caused by shaking machines, have a try to extinguish fires using fire extinguishers, and get lectures on first aid such as artificial respiration and heart massage.

You are advised to visit these training centers at least once a year. It is of great importance to get used to disasters by feeling, touching, and having hands-on lessons.

In Tokyo, for example, the following institutions will be recommended.

Ikebukuro Life Safety Learning Center
In Earthquake Experience Section You can experience the shaking of earthquakes up to a seismic intensity of 7.
Smoke Experience Section here you can learn the danger that smoke can close off your evacuation route.
Fire Extinguish Section is equipped with a wide screen showing digital fire at which you aim fire extinguishers.
First Aid Section gives you lectures on artificial respiration and heart massage. Also, special lecture on aid for babies is available.
Place 2-37-8, Nishi-ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours 9:00 – 17:00
Closed Tuesdays, the third Wednesdays of each month (except when a national holiday falls on Tuesdays or the third Wednesdays. In this case, the center is open on the holiday and is closed the following day), and year-end holidays (December 28 -January 4)
Admission Free
Contact Tel 03-3590-6565

The other disaster control centers in Tokyo are;

Earthquake drills, pamphlets on disaster prevention

It is also recommended that you actively participate in regular disaster drills in order not to get upset in case of an earthquake. Especially don't miss the ones hold at your school or office.

All autonomous bodies provide the pamphlets or DVDs about disaster prevention, which are available in your region, at international associations, or on the Internet, so gain one to keep at hand and go through it.

Pamphlets available on the Internet are
Tokyo city government Disaster Prevention Leaflet for Foreign Tourists
Hachioji City, Tokyo Disaster Prevention Guide in Foreign Languages
Miyazaki Pref. Disaster Prevention Pamphlet for Foreigners
Rental of the DVD for foreigners, "What do I do if there's an earthquake?"
Contact the Citizen Affairs Management Section of the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Citizens and Cultural Affairs. Phone: 03-5388-3156

Guidance and knowledge on disaster control is no use if you get upset in case of an earthquake. Have a keen awareness of disaster prevention and sharp sense of crisis on a regular basis in order to stay calm and take the right action at critical moment.

Next chapter shows how you should behave when an earthquake actually occurs.


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