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Dave Ewing

The headline you won't be reading: "Millions saved in Japan by good engineering and government building codes". Buts it's the truth.

Mar 11, 2011 @ 11:49 AM from Echofon


I was searching twitter for tweets related to Japan after the 8.9 earthquake strike to find out the above tweet on top of my search results with more than 3000 retweets. It got my attention and made me think I should do some research on how this most earthquake-prone country in the world is prepared for such earthquake and if they were successful in their preparations. So here is what I found -and it is impressive!



Emergency Kit

First thing I came across in my search is this advice from Japan Guide website on preparedness to earthquakes: “Every household should keep a survival kit with a flashlight, a radio, a first aid kit and enough food and water to last for a few days. Avoid placing heavy objects in places where they could easily fall during an earthquake and cause injury or block exits. Have a fire extinguisher. Familiarize yourself with the designated evacuation area in your neighborhood.”

It’s also common and advised in Japan that furniture should be secured to prevent it from falling during earthquakes. The image below suggests some techniques to be used.

Securing Furniture



Building Code

Japan implements the best building codes in the world. The codes have saved many lives in the country and not a single tower collapsed in the city of Tokyo. Japan uses the most sophisticated technologies in their buildings to resist earthquakes or more accurately to go along with any vibrations instead of sticking to the ground and resisting it which will cause tearing the building apart. Some known technologies include Tuned Mass Damper and Base Isolation.

The figure below shows the building material used in Japan.

Japan Building Material



People Awareness

People in Japan are very used to emergency drills and response to earthquakes. It’s a routine due to the excessive training and materials available for that purpose.  Justin McCurry at The Guardian says “Every schoolchild knows what to do the moment the earth begins to shake: slip a padded cover on to their heads and duck beneath the nearest desk. People who are at home when disaster strikes know, almost instinctively, to open the front door in case it is necessary to make a quick exit to open ground.” September 1 -which marks the anniversary of the massive 7.9 magnitude The Great Kantō Earthquake– is known as Disaster Prevention Day in Japan.



Earthquake Early Warning System

This system broadcasts automatic warning messages through media to the public whenever it detects a seismic wave. It provides people with a few valuable seconds allowing them to protect themselves and act before the arrival of strong tremors. Below is chart from the Japan Meteorological Agency explaining how the Earthquake Early Warning system works.

Earthquake Early Warning System in Japan



After all it is still very early to judge how these precautions and measurements helped Japan mitigate the earthquake effect. But it is obvious what they have done is impressive and has definitely saved a lot of lives.