Earthquakes - 2. "What to do at the moment?" | Lectures for Foreign Students on Disaster Control | JPSS, the information site of studying in Japan

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"What to do at the moment?"

They say that the main causes to kill people in earthquakes are fallen buildings which crush them to death and fires which burn out them to death. In the great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake of January 1995, some of the victims were trapped alive by the broken buildings, and then killed in fires which followed.

Please make sure of the following three points that we should think of instantaneously in case of earthquakes.

  • (1)Put your own safety first.
  • (2)Prevent the outbreak of a fire.
  • (3)Secure an exit for escape.

How much promptly you can carry out these points in practice on the moment of a tremor determines if you would survive or not.

By the way, can you imagine how enormous the impact of an earthquake is? Actually we can do nothing in the quake of intensity 7(you can experience its strength at disaster learning centers). It is totally impossible to stand up straight so that we are just tossed about by the shaking. Inside a house, television set might be thrown about or locked windowpanes might come off and fall out on their own.

Yet, the fact that you can do nothing at the critical moment doesn't mean that you don't have to be prepared for. With hands-on lessons kept firmly in mind, you can remain less upset (as mentioned before, in the Chapter 1). Although we are quite helpless at the strong impact made by an earthquake, the next instant, we should try to focus quickly and cool-headedly on measures for survival.

For that, we encourage you to train your mind to act properly in case of a shake by imagining some acting patterns according to situations in daily life. And besides, it is advisable to participate in simulation training held at disaster drills or disaster learning centers.

So, let's make sure of how to act according to situation in which you are at the moment of disasters.

While you are indoors

(1) Protect yourself first!

Experts say that a tremor jolts us most violently in the first one minute. First of all get under a steady table and hold its legs tight to protect yourselves from fallen objects or furniture.

(2)Put out fire sources!

If you can afford to, shut off any sources of fire or heat including the gas, space heaters, and an iron.

Put on slippers or shoes for the safety of your feet. The rooms must be dangerous with broken dishes or glass splinters from windowpanes. with broken dishes or glass splinters from windowpanes.
If fires spread out around you, put out them calmly.

Caution! You don't need to try to extinguish fires while a quake is strong. The action, rather, puts you at the danger of bumping against flaming gas stoves or spilling hot water out of kettles.

(3)Secure an exit for escape!

Open the front door or windows to make sure you have a way out.

Caution! Don't rush outside in a panic! Objects such as scattered glass or signs may possibly fall over your head. In some circumstances, it is safer to stay inside. No need to evacuate unless you can see the danger of buildings collapsing, ceiling about to fall, or fires beyond your control. In case you are in need of taking refuge, please be alert to surrounding situations and act cautiously.

While you are out.
  • 1. Protect your head with a bag or coat.
  • 2. Keep away from objects which have potential to collapse or fall over such as buildings, vending machines, windowpanes, billboards, and telegraph poles.
  • 3. Go to as an open area as possible.

What mostly matters here is to protect your head from dangerous objects.

In an underground town.
  • 1. Protect your head with a bag or coat.
  • 2. Keep away from objects which have potential to fall over or fall down such as lighting, windowpanes, and billboards.

Underground areas are said to be relatively safer than the above ground. In underground a tremor would be felt less, emergency lighting will be utilized in case of power failure, and emergency exits are equipped with every 60 meters. Following the instructions by the person in charge, react calmly and reasonably.

Caution! The darkness caused by power failure can sometimes frighten you into getting upset. In such a condition, it is quite likely to bump into someone around you and it may lead people to fall over one after another and you to be jostled by the crowd. So don't dare to move around, but please calm down for the time being until emergency lighting would work on.

In department stores and supermarkets
  • 1. Protect your head with a bag or coat.
  • 2. Keep away from showcases, glass windows, and products such as electricity appliances and furniture.
  • 3. Aim at emergency exits and go out from the buildings by the emergency stairs.

Caution! Don't use an elevator. And you shouldn't go upstairs in case of fires because smoke rises upwards.

It is most essential, after all, to protect yourself from objects that can fall over or fall down, and manage to survive the first critical moment whether you are indoors or out.


(1)Ensure people's safety.

Please give first aid to those injured as much as possible on the spots. Call an ambulance, but they will take some time. It is recommended to learn skills for first aid from now on.

(2)Make sure whether there is an outbreak of fires. If any, put it out quickly and calmly.

(3) (When you are indoors) fill the bathtub with water.

It is water for toilet, and which is very essential! When water supply is stopped you cannot dispose of excrement. In that case, excrement will be just left in the toilet and there must be soon full of wastes. Keep water as much as possible when running water is available (Generally a couple of buckets of water is needed for one flush). It is a good idea that you make it a habit to leave water in the bathtub after using.

(4) Collect information on TV or radio.

(5)Evacuate to the outsides if there appears to be in danger of the house collapsing.

Caution! Never fail to put on well-sized and sturdy shoes, and turn off circuit breakers and the gas main before leaving when you evacuate to the outsides from the inside of buildings (if you would not turn off them, fires might be caused by recovery of power when the electricity flows through electrical appliances left switched on).

Regardless of the order shown above, carry out these points simultaneously and in flexible way.

Where to evacuate?

Where to go first of all after going outside? Local municipalities establish temporary gathering sites and evacuation shelters. Please escape to a temporary gathering site at first.

To a "Temporary Evacuation Site" for the time being

This is the place for gathering to assess the situation of damages. Local parks or shrines are designated as Temporary Evacuation Site by a community association or local residents' association.

To an "Open Evacuation Area" if temporary evacuation sites seem dangerous

This is the location predetermined by municipalities with the aim for escaping from the large-scale fires. You can go back home when the situations are restored.

To an "Evacuation Shelter" as a last resort

This is an accommodation refuge place for the purpose of temporarily protecting the people whose residence is collapsed or burnt down. Local schools, for example, are often designated as Evacuation Shelter.

Please check the following chapters for the detailed explanation about evacuation sites and evacuation shelters. For now, you are strongly advised to find out the locations of temporary evacuation sites, open evacuation areas, and evacuation shelters in your region via an official desk or websites of a local autonomous body.

We must also take into consideration emergency supplies, which should be kept to a minimum and be prepared with well in advance. The next chapter shows you what items will be recommended to get prepared.


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