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Keeping in Contact with Your Family During Earthquake

By SOHEE PARK


The Japanese archipelago is famously one of the most seismically active region. It is also home to some of the most advanced technologies against earthquake such as early warning systems on mobile phones and quake-resistant construction. The Japanese government has continuously developed and implemented ways to minimize potential earthquake damage.

March 11, 2018 marked seven years after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that caused the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. Fukushima and its neighboring regions are yet to be recovered from the impact of disaster. And much to our dismay, Japanese experts estimate that an earthquake as big as the 2011 disaster may strike again the northernmost region within the next 30 years. Japan’s Earthquake Research Committee predicts a 70% chance of a magnitude 8 earthquake to hit Eastern Hokkaido.

In the midst of this heightened risk, it is highly recommended that international students studying in Japan be prepared for a crisis. There are many ways for you to get prepared, such as buying or making your personal “Go Bag” or checking in advance where the evacuation shelter nearest to your residence is located. But above all, it is crucial to confirm methods of showing your safety in Japan with your families living in and out of Japan.

During the 2011 Earthquake, social media such as Twitter and Facebook served as a lifeline for families to keep in contact with the affected individuals. On the other hand, the commonly used messenger app such as Kakaotalk for Koreans did not work, and Line, an equivalent messenger app in Japan, came into existence as part of the disaster response.

First, let your families know the location and the phone number of the designated shelter near your school or house. In any case you become unreachable, your families will know where to find or contact you. Visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Disaster Prevention Website (http://www.bousai.metro.tokyo.jp/foreign/english/index.html) and check the shelter nearest to your residence. The nearest evacuation shelter near school and the Komaba Lodge is the Komaba Elementary School, located right next to the lodge building. The school or the housing office will be giving instructions for evacuation but just for your reference, make sure and check the place on your way to or from school so that you can evacuate calmly in any case of a disaster.

Second, make use of the safety confirmation services provided by communication businesses. When a large-scale disaster such as an earthquake, tsunami, or volcanic eruption occurs, it may become difficult to contact families due to the sheer number of people using the communication network. In the event of such a situation, communication businesses including SoftBank, au, Y!mobile, NTT DoCoMo and NTT East provide disaster message board service. Here, users of the respective mobile phone company can post their safety status as text which can be checked from mobile phones and computers. Users can register their status on the board with their phone number. The message will then be sent to J-anpi, a portal site where families living in and out of Japan can search for the status of affected individuals through their phone number. Google Person Finder provides the same service as J-anpi and both websites can be accessed in different languages. Access this website (http://www.bousai.metro.tokyo.jp/foreign/english/bousai/2000010/index.html) to check disaster board message provided by your communication provider and add it to your Favorites so that you can make a use of it when necessary. Also make sure to let your families know your Japanese phone number so they can confirm your safety.

A view of the Disaster Message Board website operated by NTT East and NTT West. Individuals affected by disaster can post their status on this message board.

A view of the Google Person Finder website where families of the affected individuals can search message posted in the Disaster Message Board through phone number.

And lastly, social networking systems can also be useful during disaster for you families to confirm your safety. Talk with your families ahead of time and establish several means to contact each other. Making a new Twitter or Facebook account for your parents can be one of the many ways for you to keep in contact during emergency. And in case the internet service falls short due to traffic overload or infrastructure damage, designate a certain bulletin board at school or near your house so when you become unreachable, your parents will be able to check your safety by referring to the note you put on the board.