Nation knows disaster drill all too well
Published 12/03/2011 | 05:00
NO country on Earth is better prepared to deal with earthquakes than Japan.
Millions of Japanese were alerted to yesterday's tremor a minute before it struck, thanks to the world's best early-warning system.
The sophisticated technology, connected to a network of about 1,000 seismometers around the country, gave people vital seconds to take cover and was thought to have saved countless lives.
"The system functioned well because warnings were seen on television across the country," said Hirohito Naito, a seismic specialist at the Japan Meteorological Agency.
Japan also has several earthquake drills that went into operation as soon as the alert was sounded.
Every schoolchild is familiar with the drills, which teach them to take cover under their desks when alarms sound. If the children are out in the playground they rush to the centre of any open space to avoid being hit by falling debris.
Fire brigades take groups of children into earthquake simulation machines to familiarise them with the sensation of being in a tremor.
Schools with two storeys or more have evacuation chutes that children can slide down to safety.
Television footage from schools and offices in Tokyo during yesterday's tremor showed workers and students behaving with extraordinary calm and composure as buildings shook violently.
Processions of children could be seen walking calmly to muster points wearing helmets.
Many lessons were learnt from the Kobe earthquake of 1995 that killed 6,400 people and led to a reassessment of building regulations.
Damage to buildings in Tokyo was slight yesterday owing to techniques which ensure that skyscrapers sway during a quake, but don't collapse.
Buildings are made earthquake proof with the aid of deep foundations and massive shock absorbers that dampen seismic energy. Another method allows the base of a building to move semi-independently to its superstructure, reducing the shaking caused by a quake.
All offices and many private homes in Japan have an earthquake emergency kit, including dry rations, drinking water and basic medical supplies. (© Daily Telegraph, London)