I still remember it very clearly… I was sitting in my apartment, working on the computer, when I felt a gentle swaying. I thought perhaps it’s just a normal earthquake. Living in Japan has taught me to ignore the smaller ones and (just like the Japanese) keep doing what I was doing, as if nothing happened. Only this time, the swaying didn’t stop and instead, became stronger and stronger. I knew instinctively that this was not an ordinary Earthquake.
Finally, after a full minute, I realised that this could, indeed, be the one people have talked about for a long, long time – The Big One. In that moment, you have a split-second decision to make… do you stay, wait it out and risk injury or worse, or do you try to make a break for it, and risk injury or worse?
Since this was a first time for me to feel such a long, strong earthquake, I decided to do the latter, and just grabbed my jacket while heading for the stairs outside. I could still feel the swaying of the building, and was glad to reach the ground floor eventually. It was only later that I found out this was indeed the biggest earthquake ever to hit Japan. I’m talking, of course, about the great Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. It was a big, and certainly a devastating one. Now, almost 5 years later, people are still recovering. Some scientists are already stirring the pot again, however, and predict that the next big earthquake could hit Japan sometime before 2017.
Usually, people don’t pay attention to their warnings, but when even Dr. Masaaki Kimura (the guy who predicted the 2011 Earthquake) joins in, it’s time to start preparing. The threat of an earthquake in Japan is ever-present, since it sits directly above the Japan Median Tectonic Fault-line, or MTL, which is quite active. Due to this constant activity, especially in the MTL fault zone (中央構造線断層帯 Chūō Kōzōsen Dansōtai) which is an active fault and considered hazardous, Japan shakes more than Kim Kardashian’s derriere at a Sir Mix-A-Lot concert.
To help you prepare for the ultimately inevitable, here are a few tips and safety guidelines, if the next big one hits soon.
Turns out during the 3/11 Quake, I did the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to do during an Earthquake. Don’t follow in my footsteps, and do the following instead:
If you are inside, stay inside and find some cover from potentially falling furniture or loose objects. This could mean crouching under a Table, or under your bed.
Make sure to Cover your head to avoid injury.
Your noggin’ is your most important body party… make sure you protect it at all times. Use Pillows, or other items available to protect it any way you can.
Since Earthquakes either move the building up and down, or from side to side, make sure to hold on to your cover, so that you’re always under it.
Do NOT stand in a Doorway!
You might have heard this bit of advice from your great-grandparents, but now the consensus is that you shouldn’t stand in or near a doorway at all. Falling, or flying objects are the most likely sources of injury during an earthquake, and the doorway will not protect you from them.
Beware of glass.
If at all possible, stay away from Glass, as there is a high chance of it shattering during a major quake.
There’s an app for that
Download Yurekuru Call! (iOS / Android) This is an app which serves as an “early” warning system. After setting up the app, it warns you when there’s an earthquake detected in the area you specify.
Ditch the nostalgia
If you’re still in an apartment that’s older than the local Kisaten, or Izakaya, find a new apartment that was built after 1981. All buildings past this crucial year are built to the more modern, stricter building codes, and will be able to withstand most major earthquakes.
Escape from ____
Make sure you know where your city earthquake shelters are located and how to get there quickly. You should be able to get this information directly from your local government office.
Have an emergency kit ready
This should include some non-perishable food items, medical supplies, some spare clothes (make sure you update these clothes based on the season), and waste-management tools (Toilet paper!!!).
Tie it up, tie it down
Look into ways to secure the furniture in your apartment. Whether it’s with string, or through more professional means, find a way to not have so many potential hazards flying around your apartment in case of a major quake. And yes, that also means cleaning your apartment from time to time.
Make sure you have some way to contact friends and family, whether it’s through social media, phone, or Carrier Pigeon; in case of a major quake, your family and friends will be worried about you and will definitely appreciate being told by you directly that you’re Ok. [td_smart_list_end]
Let’s all hope, we won’t ever have to put these guidelines and tips into practice, but it’s always good to be prepared. As the old saying in Japan goes: “備えあれば憂いなし, (sonae areba urei nashi)”, which means, “be prepared and have no regrets”.