Apartment Dwellers Excluded from Evacuation Shelters: Urgent Call for Preparation and Preparedness as Earthquake Risk Looms | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Apartment Dwellers Excluded from Evacuation Shelters: Urgent Call for Preparation and Preparedness as Earthquake Risk Looms

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Tokyo’s “shelter capacity” is 3.18 million people, and 9 million people are living in apartments and communal houses…

The Noto Peninsula, an area roughly the same size as Tokyo, has been devastated by a major earthquake of magnitude 7, and as of January 31, some 15,000 people are still living in evacuation centers, but what would happen if a major earthquake were to strike the Tokyo metropolitan area?

According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, as of April 2010, there are approximately 4,700 evacuation centers in Tokyo, with a capacity of approximately 3.18 million people. On the other hand, there are approximately 9 million people living in condominiums and other shared housing. This means that condominium dwellers will probably not be able to enter evacuation centers.

Mr. Kenichiro Yamamoto, Director of the Japan Association of Disaster Prevention Professionals, also commented

If you live in an apartment, I strongly recommend evacuating at home. Some vulnerable people who need assistance may be better off in an evacuation center. But if not, I don’t think you should go to an evacuation center.

I believe that if you are not in need of assistance, you should not go to an evacuation center.

There are approximately 4,700 evacuation centers in Tokyo, with a capacity of approximately 3.18 million people. The number of people living in condominiums and apartment buildings is 9 million… (PHOTO: AFRO)

Condominiums built before June 1981 may be in danger of collapsing…It is important to check the stockpiles in your condominium.

According to Mr. Yamamoto, there are some things that must be checked even when evacuating at home. One of them is the earthquake resistance and seismic isolation of the condominium. Condominiums built after June 1981 and meeting the new earthquake resistance standards are designed so that they will not collapse in an earthquake of intensity 6 or 7.

Those built before 1981 and not reinforced against earthquakes should be careful.

And check the stockpiles.

It is also important to check the location of the stockpile warehouse. If the stockpile warehouse in a high-rise condominium is on the first floor, residents on the upper floors will not be able to use it.

Mr. Yamamoto recommends that condominium stockpiles be equipped with generators.

Sometimes people feel safe just having a generator and don’t check it for years,” he says. Evacuation drills are often conducted under the assumption of a fire, but I urge you to check your equipment in case of an earthquake as well. Try to run the generator, check to see if it is filled with gasoline, and also check the gasoline for deterioration. It would be a disaster if it didn’t work at the critical moment.

Some condominiums have well-developed disaster prevention plans, but even these need to be checked every year, Yamamoto said.

Ten years ago, there was a management association that had a very solid disaster prevention plan, but they never checked it again. Once you have a disaster prevention plan, you should review it every year.

Mr. Yamamoto says he would like to see high-rise condominiums equipped with a sled.

It is impossible to carry a person who needs assistance downstairs from a room on the 20th floor or higher on your back. For such situations, Yamamoto recommends a large sled for use at disaster sites. If a caregiver can be placed on this sled and glided down the stairs, it is convenient for guiding the caregiver to evacuate to the lower floors.

There is also the danger of being trapped in an elevator in an apartment building.

We recommend that you install an assembled toilet inside the elevator. Assemble it and put a flashlight, battery charger, water, emergency rations, and aluminum heat-retaining sheets inside, and cover it when not in use. When you need to do your business, you can simply cover the aluminum thermal sheet.

Basically, each person should prepare at least three days’ worth of water and food. Each person is allowed 3 liters of water per day, which is 9 liters for three days.

I recommend that you carry these items in your suitcase for travel and business trips. There is no need to prepare an emergency bag. Keep a rolling stock of daily necessities such as water, food, toothpaste, toothbrush, first aid supplies, hygiene items, etc. in your suitcase and use them as you go. You can always think of emergencies as you go about your daily life.

It is impossible to carry a person who needs assistance downstairs from a room on the 20th floor or higher on your back. What we want to have available for such situations is a large sled for disaster sites,” says Yamamoto (photo: image).

Long-period vibrations can break windows on high-rise floors and cause them to fall outside.

Although it is believed that condominiums built after June 1981 will not collapse if the seismic intensity is 6 or 7 on the Japanese seismic scale, one cannot rest assured. In particular, upper floors are known to sway greatly and for a long time due to long-period vibrations.

When a building shakes so much, furniture moves a lot, which could result in broken window panes. On high-rise floors, winds are strong, and there is a danger that broken window glass could cause furniture to fall, or even the entire piece of furniture to fall if you are holding on to it. If tempered glass is used, it may not break, but the entire window frame could fall because of the warping of the building.”

It is said that the relatively safe areas in a residence are the entrance, bathroom, and toilet. It is also important to secure entrances and exits. When a tremor is felt, it is advisable to evacuate to the entrance, especially for those living on upper floors.

Imagination is the key to disaster prevention. “Imagination is the key to disaster prevention. If there are a lot of things out in the hallway, the passage might be blocked. If there is a river nearby, the levee might break and flood the basement electrical room. What should we do then? We have to think about this on a daily basis.

You never know when or where an earthquake will strike. It could happen while we are at work or while we are on the road. Mr. Yamamoto urges people to always think about what they would do if an earthquake occurred here.

A single condominium building is a “district. Apply for a “District Disaster Prevention Plan” to obtain support from the municipal office for home evacuation.

Mr. Yamamoto recommends that condominium residents create a “district disaster prevention plan” and apply for it at the municipal office.

The term “district” here differs from “area” in the local government, and can be created by residents on a voluntary basis. You can create a “district” with your neighbors, or you can apply for a district for a single condominium building. I believe that condominiums conduct evacuation drills, and you can submit a manual titled “District Disaster Prevention Plan” to the local government. Then you can get advice from the municipal office, and the municipal office will be more likely to support you and make it easier for you to receive public assistance.

How to obtain necessary information when you are evacuating at home… (Photo: Image)

If you are evacuating at home, you may feel uneasy if you do not have information on when the water trucks will arrive or what is going on in the city. It might be a good idea to apply for this.

The location of each condominium is different, as is the age structure of its residents. We can make a plan for ‘what we can do’ that suits each condominium. The way of thinking of the residents is also different. There is no right answer to disaster prevention planning. Please make a plan that suits you.

Kenichiro Yamamoto is a director of the Japan Association of Disaster Prevention Professionals. (President of andBOSAI Inc. Part-time lecturer on erosion control and disaster prevention engineering at Nihon University College of Science and Technology. He holds a Master of Project Design (MPD). After graduating from university, joined a construction consulting firm. He later served as President of the NPO Landslide Prevention and Public Information Center before assuming his current position. He is a member of the Japan Association of Disaster Prevention Professionals, which has 8,500 members and sends volunteers to disaster sites.

  • Interview and text Izumi Nakagawa

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