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Natural Disaster Prevention Strategy in Japan

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

Japan is known for being a country that stands out for its civic culture, innovation, and its ancient culture that has been preserved for centuries. A country that has inspired generations and continues to surprise as time goes by.

By: María Camila Peña Mejia - Audiovisual and multimedia communication Intern CCJCI

Despite this, there is something that prevents many people from deciding to stay in the country, the difficult geographical position where it is located. Known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, this place consists of more than 450 active volcanoes, which are formed thanks to the movement of the tectonic plates that occur in the place and geographically Japan is in the line of fire of this ring. Which generates that the country experiences tsunamis, typhoons, floods and better known, earthquakes constantly.

On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit by a 9.0° earthquake, known as the Sendai earthquake; It was the strongest earthquake recorded in Japan and the fourth strongest in the history of the planet. This was accompanied by several tremors near the epicenter and the most devastating was the tidal wave that formed a tsunami with waves of 40.5 meters that caused irreparable human and material damage.

Due to Japan's history with natural disasters, they have created a solid disaster prevention system, which has evolved over time in order to guarantee the safety of citizens and their heritage.

Disaster Learning

Very few people truly get an induction into what a natural disaster would be like. Not everyone would know how to react if faced with a situation of this magnitude, and in countries where these types of incidents do not usually happen, people do not usually ask. However, in a country like Japan, knowing what to do in these situations is a lifeline.

As a result of this, Japan has disaster prevention centers, which are free and visited mostly by children when they are in their schools to introduce them to this reality. The good thing about these centers is that they not only teach theory, they also simulate practice.

The centers have simulations of different situations, where people can experience what it would feel like to be in a natural disaster. From a fire in the kitchen that you have to put out; until you find yourself on the street or in a car in the middle of a flood; or in your apartment when an earthquake starts. The center teaches you about alerts and warning signs to adhere to in the event of a calamity, to be properly prepared, what to do, and how to react. The purpose of the centers is to raise awareness and make the community capable of protecting itself and others in an emergency.

Anti-tsunami technology and alarm systems

Not surprisingly, Japan is one of the best prepared countries for a tsunami. They have an early warning system that consists of a network of buoys connected to the iridium constellation, a satellite system that sends information to a prevention center when the buoys detect movement on the sea floor.

They also have 12-meter walls, built on the edge of the coasts; Although this has been a controversial project within the islands, Japan continues with the works for prevention. The trains also have a detection system, the UrEDAS (Urgent Earthquake Detection and Alarm System) detects the start of an earthquake in less than four seconds. Based on the shock wave, it indicates which areas are going to be affected and immediately stops the train networks in that area.

Based on the UrEDAS, they also created specialized alerts, which are broadcast on all television channels at the time of detection and are also activated on all people's cell phones almost immediately.

Japanese Engineering

It is well known that the Japanese stand out for their technological advances and the opportunities they create in the different sectors of technology and as it is expected that they have advanced anti-seismic technology in their buildings, research into new technologies has made the Japanese achieve create skyscrapers that stand up without problems in the middle of an earthquake. The Japanese government has invested in the creation of the E-defense Shake Table, a plate that realistically simulates the movement of an earthquake, and real-scale buildings are built on it, in order to test the different techniques that are developed.

They have also created countless products for Japanese households, from innovative stickers to prevent furniture from falling on a person, to strong stickers that are placed under refrigerators so that they do not move. The Japanese have learned to secure their homes, always have a first aid kit or a disaster case with them to be prepared in any situation.

Prevention Initiatives

Japan has shared the policies that they implement for prevention, since Japan invests in the prevention and early identification of disasters, rather than in repair and rehabilitation, since if a disaster can be prevented there will be no need for the second.

Among these points are:

  • Constantly check the fluidity and good condition of the tracks. This before the possibility of problems during heavy snowfall that could hinder the movement of emergency vehicles. Carry out a cadastre of the most dangerous areas and identify vulnerable populations.

  • Consult permanently on the status of communications in geographically isolated areas.

  • Carry out emergency drills.

  • To publicize the devastating effects of volcanic eruptions based on historical evidence.

There are many things that can be learned from this Japanese strategy, since it continues to be a country that has amazed us over the years with its technologies and beautiful culture, showing itself strong in the face of adversity and creating measures that serve them for countless situations. that can be presented, always being one step ahead. And as with this natural disaster prevention strategy, there are many more examples that Japan gives us that we could implement in our daily lives, and that can give us the advantage when we least expect it.


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