Nation in ‘Ring of Fire’ well prepared for quakes

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LIVES are certain to have been saved by Japan’s world-leading emergency planning which ensures its citizens are prepared for the impact of a devastating earthquake, should the worst happen.

Japan is one of the most seismically-active countries of the world, lying in the infamous “Ring of Fire” area where four tectonic plates connect.

The country has invested heavily in technology which allows its buildings to withstand regular tremors, and its National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention is home to the world’s largest “shake table”, used by engineers to simulate the effects of a massive earthquake and so test the effectiveness of modern building design.

Every company, institution and family across the country is encouraged to develop their own preparedness plan, and emergency drills are carried out annually so people can practise and become familiar with their responses to an emergency.

Footage from the aftermath of yesterday’s massive earthquake showed people in most areas of Japan automatically resorting to the safety drills they have learned since childhood, which are designed to save lives and enable rescuers to reach anyone who could be trapped if buildings were to collapse.

Since 2007, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has provided residents with earthquake early warnings, which are intended to give people the chance to move to an area of safety in the event of early tremors which could signify a greater shock on the way. Officials warn, however, the system may only provide vital seconds in which to take cover.

Tsunami early warning sirens are increasingly common in coastal areas across the Pacific, and many sounded yesterday as the first reports of the massive earthquake began to filter through.

The Tokyo Northern Disaster Research Centre also has an earthquake simulator which simulates the effects of small to large quakes.

Since the 1960s, citizens nationwide have taken part in Disaster Prevention Day, each September 1. The date was chosen as it is the first day of school after summer vacation, enabling pupils to learn the drills at the start of the year, and because it is the anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 which struck Tokyo, Yokohama, and surrounding regions. Measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, Kanto claimed the lives of 140,000 people – many of them being engulfed in the fires that broke out after quake.

The advice is also provided to visitors to Japan who are urged to make sure they are aware of what they should do in the event on an earthquake.

A comprehensive Earthquake Survival guide is available to all visitors, issued by the Tokyo metropolitan government, advising on what actions should be undertaken, such as finding shelter under a table, doorway or other strong construction and to cover your head with a bag or cushion.

It also covers what to do if outdoors, while travelling, and the type of emergency supplies that should be stockpiled by anyone staying in the country for lengthier periods of time, including first aid equipment, food and water.