Disaster Awareness and Preparedness
This page has information about emergencies/disasters in Saga, what you should do if a disaster occurs, advice and recommendations about communication after a disaster, and how to be prepared. It is strongly suggested you do your own further research on disaster preparedness as the information below is not exhaustive.
What to do in the case of an emergency/disaster
FIRST. Make sure you are safe. Your safety is top priority. Go to your nearest evacuation area. These areas are called 避難場所（ひなんばしょ）in Japanese, and the signs look like this (please note that not all evacuation signs have hiragana or English: try to remember vaguely what the Kanji looks like!):
SECOND. Contact your contracting organisation supervisor and report your condition ASAP.*
THIRD. Contact your Prefectural Advisor ASAP.
FOURTH. Once it is safe, go to your base school/office.
REPEAT FOR EACH ADDITIONAL EMERGENCY OR DISASTER. For example, if there is a large earthquake, go through all of the steps, and there if there is a large aftershock, follow the steps once again!
*Once you contact your supervisor, your supervisor will in turn contact the International Affairs Division at Saga Prefectural Government (i.e. the Japanese Prefectural Advisor). In a large-scale disaster, Saga Prefecture will then report to CLAIR the safety of JETs in the area. It is important that you follow the order of contact so as to avoid unnecessary confusion.
Disasters in Saga
As Japan sits on top of four tectonic plates, on the edge of what is called the “Ring of Fire”, it is often considered a land of earthquakes. In fact, Japan may only occupy 1% of the earths surface but it experiences 10% of the worlds earthquakes. The majority of these quakes are too small to be felt.
In general Saga does not experience many earthquakes, and is considered one of the safest prefectures in Japan. However there is the possibility of a magnitude 7.5 (out of 10 on the Richter Scale) earthquake occurring in Saga, and the prefecture has experienced major shaking in the recent past. This is due to approximately 6 fault lines under and around Saga Prefecture.
Earthquakes can lead to other natural disasters such as landslides. Landslides are possible due to a huge variation in soil types causing ground instability, lots of rain, and earthquakes.
A lot of the ground in Saga is made of sand, which means if an earthquake were to happen liquification is a high possibility. This is when the ground turns to liquid, sand gushes up from below and buildings can sink into the ground.
However, the biggest concern and most common natural disaster in Saga Prefecture is flooding caused by heavy rainfall and typhoons at the end of summer.
What to do in different disaster situations
In an earthquake
- Drop (get down on the ground), cover yourself (your head with your hands), and hold on. Ideally this would be done under a table or large object that would protect you from falling items. If that is too far away get close a solid internal wall.
- If you are inside a building, move no more than a few steps, drop, cover, and hold. Stay indoors till the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit.
- If you are in an elevator, drop, cover, and hold. When the shaking stops, try and get out at the nearest floor if you can safely do so.
- If you are outdoors when the shaking starts, move no more than a few steps away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines, then drop, cover, and hold.
- If you are at the beach or near the coast, drop, cover and hold then move to higher ground immediately in case a tsunami follows the quake.
- If you are driving, pull over to a clear location, stop, and stay there with your seat belt fastened until the shaking stops. Once the shaking stops, proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps that might have been damaged
- If you are in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be alert for falling debris or landslides.
In a flood
- Listen to your local radio stations as emergency management officials will be broadcasting the most appropriate advice for your community and situation.
- Consider using sandbags to keep water away from your home.
- Lift valuable household items and chemicals as high above the floor as possible.
- Fill bathtubs, sinks and storage containers with clean water in case water becomes contaminated.
- Turn off utilities if told to do so by authorities as it can help prevent damage to your home or community. Unplug small appliances to avoid damage from power surges.
- Do not attempt to drive or walk through flood waters unless it is absolutely essential.
- Stay away from rivers and other bodies of water. Water levels could rise suddenly.
In a typhoon
- Stay informed on weather updates. Listen to your local radio stations as civil defense authorities will be broadcasting the most appropriate advice for your community and situation.
- Secure, or move indoors, all items that could get blown about and cause harm in strong winds.
- Close windows, external, and internal doors. Pull curtains and drapes over unprotected glass areas to prevent injury from shattered or flying glass.
- If the wind becomes destructive, stay away from doors and windows and shelter further inside the house.
- Water supplies can be affected so it is a good idea to store drinking water in containers and fill bathtubs and sinks with water.
- Don’t walk around outside and avoid driving unless absolutely necessary.
- Power cuts are possible in severe weather. Unplug small appliances which may be affected by electrical power surges. If power is lost unplug major appliances to reduce the power surge and possible damage when power is restored.
In the event of a nuclear disaster
There is a nuclear power plant in Genkai, and though very unlikely, it is best to know what to do if a nuclear disaster were to occur.
Action to be taken varies by location, and the closest areas, Genkai, Imari, and Karatsu each have their own protocols. Check the municipal websites for more information.
For areas further from the power plant, the Prefecture emphasizes the importance of taking shelter indoors unless specifically told to evacuate.
Detailed information is available in the English-language handbook, and a basic outline of what to do in a two-page flier.
You should evacuate when:
- Any evacuation advice is issued.
- A locality (local government or voluntary disaster prevention organizations) concludes there is a danger.
- Fire is expected to spread.
- Houses are in danger of falling down.
- There is a danger of landslide.
- There is a danger of mudslides.
- A flood might occur.
Tips and facts
- There is a controversial internet article going around called the “Triangle Life” that suggests people should shelter beside cars, tables, or other large objects instead of under or in them during an earthquake. A quick Google search shows that many experts debunk this theory.
- Earthquake aftershocks can sometimes cause more damage than the main event (for example Christchurch 2011), but in general aftershocks should lessen in frequency and strength over time.
- A car can float in a foot of water. When walking through flood waters hold a umbrella or stick in front of your to feel where there are holes or unstable ground as you won’t be able to see the ground.
- Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
- Battery powered lighting is the safest and easiest to have for an emergency. Don’t use candles as they can tip in earthquake aftershocks or gust of wind.
- CLAIR’s Emergency Support page
- Tokyo’s very detailed disaster preparation guide
- SPIRA’s booklet for emergency situations
- Safety Tips is an app with information in English and notifications for a variety of natural disasters that could happen in Japan.
- Both Pocket Shelter and Japan Shelter Guide have maps showing your closest evacuation shelters.
- Yurekuru is a popular app for getting a few seconds heads up on earthquakes
- Saga Prefecture’s Nuclear Disaster Prevention page
- Keep an eye on the Japan Meteorology Agency’s website after earthquakes and in times of heavy rain. Weather advisories, maps showing areas at risk for flooding and landslide, and much more can be found here.