Disaster Preparedness

Located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan is one of the most seismically active areas in the world. Four main tectonic plates – the North American Plate, Pacific Plate, Philippine Plate, and Eurasian Plate – all converge in or around Japan.  In addition, Japan sits under large volcanic zones.  Tsunamis and typhoons are also a very real threat.

In 2007 the Japan Meteorological Agency began providing Earthquake Early Warnings through media such as TV and radio.  Please note that these warnings, when accurate, may just give you a couple of seconds advance notice. Preparation is of the utmost importance. Kumamoto Prefecture does not lie directly above a major fault line.  Many smaller active faults, however, do exist.  In addition to earthquakes, flood tides caused by strong winds and low atmospheric pressure from typhoons can affect coastal areas.  Unpredictable volcanic activity in and around Mt. Aso – one of Japan’s largest active volcano – can also pose dangers.

CLAIR Emergency Pocket Guide for JETs

Kumamoto International Foundation (KIF) Disaster Information Email Service

One of the questions that came up during this year’s Kumamoto Orientation was how English-speaking foreigners can get information in English when there is a disaster.  The Kumamoto International Foundation has a mail magazine called Anshin Anzen (Safe and Secure).  If you sign up for this free service, you will get monthly updates on disaster prevention and living information relevant to Kumamoto.  You will also receive information about evacuations if such notices are issued. To sign up for the KIF Disaster Information Email Service, please do the following:

  • Send an email to: [email protected]
  • Write the following in the subject line: 1
  • Leave the body of the email blank.

You will receive an email with a link to a registration page. It seems you can’t change the email address you want to register, so if you want the information sent to your keitai, you should send the blank email from your keitai.Steps to take in an emergency

  1. Fill out the Emergency Contact Information and Evacuation Area Sheet (大規模災害時連絡先及び避難場所確認シート).  You should have received this form from your tantosha.  Make sure you and your CO each have a copy.  To fill out this sheet you need to know your area’s nearest designated evacuation area.  You can find this information at your city, town, or village’s official website.  Some even provide maps, but they are all in Japanese, so you may want to ask your tantosha or a Japanese colleague to help you.
  2. Make sure your Area Leader and Prefectural Advisors also have your contact information (mobile number and address, home phone number, email address, etc.).
  3. Register at your home country’s embassy/consulate.
  4. Prepare an emergency pack. Details on what to include are below.
  5. Photocopy your passport and other important documents. Store copies away from home (for example, at work).
  6. Know your neighbors and make them aware of the number of people living in your home.
  7. Know how to contact the police, fire and rescue services in Japanese. Be able to provide your address in Japanese.
  8. Draw a floor plan of your home showing the location of exit windows and doors, utility cut off points, emergency supplies, food, tools, etc. Put it in a place where everyone can see it.
  9. Establish reunion sites with alternate sites for when the family is not at home, e.g., local shelter, neighbor’s house, park, school.

What to put in your emergency pack

  • Water (four liters/one gallon per person per day. Change water every three to five months)
  • Food (canned or pre-cooked, requiring no heat or water. Consider special dietary needs, infants, pets)
  • Flashlight with spare batteries and bulbs
  • Radio (battery operated with spare batteries)
  • Large plastic trash bags (for trash, waste, water protection, ground cloth, temporary blanket)
  • Hand soap and/or disinfecting hand cleaner gel that does not require water
  • Feminine hygiene supplies, infant supplies, toilet paper
  • Essential medications as required; glasses if you normally wear contacts
  • Paper plates, cups, plastic utensils, cooking foil and plastic wrap (wrapped around plates so that they were re-usable) and paper towels
  • First Aid kit with instructions
  • Yen in small bills (ATMs may not work after a disaster), with coins and phone cards for public phones.

Store enough for three to five days. Place emergency supplies and your telephone in places where they are less likely to be knocked over or buried by falling objects (on the floor under a strong table is a good choice).

Measuring earthquakes

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) Scale is a seismic scale used to measure the intensity of earthquakes.  It describes the degree of shaking, orshindo (震度), on the Earth’s surface by assigning earthquakes levels from 0-7 (0 = weakest, 7 = strongest).  Thus, the further away from an earthquake’s epicenter you are, the lower the degree of shaking and the lower the shindo.  The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, for example, measured a level of shindo 7 in Miyagi Prefecture, Upper 6 in other parts of Miyagi Prefecture and in Fukushima, Ibaraki, and Tochigi Prefectures, and Upper 5 as far away as Tokyo.  The JMA Scale is different from the Richter scale, which measures an earthquake’s magnitude (energy released).

Essential Steps Immediately After an Earthquake

  • Check your immediate surroundings for fire, gas leaks, broken glass and other hazards.
  • Open doors and/or windows to avoid being locked in if there are after-shocks.
  • Monitor local TV and radio for evacuation information (If available in your area, for English info, listen to AFN 810AM).

Strong Earthquakes (Lower 6 and above) and serious, large scale emergencies

Here is what the Japan Meteorological Agency says about the effects of a Lower 6 earthquake:

  • It is difficult to remain standing.
  • Inside of buildings unsecured furniture moves and may topple over.  Doors may become wedged shut.
  • Outside of buildings wall tiles and windows may sustain damage and fall.
  • In both wooden houses and reinforced concrete buildings cracks may form in walls, and structures with low earthquake resistance are more likely to lean or collapse.
  • Cracks may form in the ground.
  • Landslides may occur.

After an earthquake with a shindo of Lower 6 or above, it is essential that the International Affairs Division be able to confirm the safety of JET participants as quickly as possible.After securing your physical safety, please contact the International Affairs Division PA,and your base school (for SHS JETs) or your contracting organization (for municipal JETs).  Be sure to report where you are, your condition (whether you are safe or need help), and any other relevant information.  This information will then be reported to the International Affairs Division and then CLAIR.  If we cannot confirm your whereabouts your area leaders will be asked to help us get in contact with you.

You can contact the International Affairs Division PA and your base school/contracting organization by phone, mobile phone, or email.  If these services are unavailable after a disaster, please contact your base school/contracting organization via the Disaster Emergency Message Dial System (171) described in detail below.  In the event of multiple disasters that occur in a short period (e.g. an earthquake followed by a tsunami), please contact your contracting organization after each disaster occurs.

Click here to see what the emergency phone tree looks like in Kumamoto.

Disaster Emergency Message Dial System (171)

During a disaster, damage to infrastructure and high call volumes can interrupt landlines and cellular service.  The Disaster Emergency Message Dial is a voice message system that is activated during severe emergencies that allows individuals to use any landline phone to record messages and register them to any landline phone number within the disaster-affected area.  Others can then verify their safety by accessing the system and listening to the registered messages.

The prompts given you access this system are in Japanese only.  We have explained the process step-by-step so that participants of all Japanese levels know how to use the system.

Recording a message:

  1. Dial 171.
  2. Dial 1 to indicate that you want to record a message.
  3. Dial the appropriate phone number according to your job type.
    Municipal ALTs – enter the number of your BOE
    Prefectural ALTs – enter the number of your base school
    Municipal CIRs – enter the number of your office
    Prefectural CIRs – enter the number of your office
  4. Wait for the tone to start recording, or dial 1 and then # to start recording (this will depend on the type of phone you are using to access the system).
  5. Leave a message of up to 30 seconds.
  6. Dial 9 and # to end the call

**Only TEN messages can be recorded and registered to any one telephone number using this system.  If you have a landline, it is a good idea to record a message regarding your safety and whereabouts and register it with your home phone number as well.

**This service can only be used to register messages to LANDLINE phone numbers.  The system can be accessed via mobile phones, but cannot be used to register messages to mobile numbers.

**Using public pay phones to access the Disaster Emergency Message Dial System is NOT free.  Be sure to prepare a few 10 yen coins in your emergency kit for use at public pay phones during a disaster.

Checking Messages:

You can check your own recorded messages and the messages that others have registered via this system.

  1. Dial 171.
  2. Dial 2 to indicate that you want to listen to messages.
  3. Dial your own phone number (if you want to hear your own messages) or the phone number of the person whose safety you are trying to confirm.
  4. Dial 1 and then # and/or just stay on the line (this will depend on the type of phone you are using to access the system).
  5. Listen to messages (messages will be played in reverse chronological order).
  6. Dial 9 and # to end the call.

Disaster Emergency Message Boards

災害用伝言板 (さいがいようでんごんばん – saigaiyou dengonban)

During a disaster, damage to infrastructure and high call volumes can interrupt landlines and cellular service.  The Disaster Emergency Message Boards offer mobile telephone users a way to inform others of their situation and confirm the safety of others after a major disaster has occurred.

Accessing the boards:

How you access the Disaster emergency Message Boards will differ based on the provider and phone you have.  Because this system is only activated during a serious disaster (such as an earthquake that registers at a Lower 6 or higher on the JMA seismic intensity scale), you may not be able to access certain features of the Disaster emergency Message Boards, or even the boards themselves, at any other time.


  • Non-smartphones:  After an earthquake occurs that is Lower 6 or above on the JMA scale, an icon for the 災害用伝言板 or “Disaster Message Boards” will appear at the top of the “imenu.”  Select this icon.
  • Smartphones:
    • Blackberry models:  You will need to download a Blackberry application to access the boards:
    1. From your homescreen, go to メニューキー (menyuukii – menu key).
    2. Select ダウンロード (daunroudo – download).
    3. Select “docomo service portal”.
    4. Select 災害用伝言板.
    • Non-Blackberry models:  Access the boards through a link in the Docomo market or on the Docomo website.


  • Non-smartphones (equipped with Yahoo! ケータイ):  Start up your Yahoo! ケータイ browser and click on the 災害用伝言板 (or “Disaster Message Board” if your phone is in English) icon.
  • iPhones:  Download the 災害用伝言板 application from the Japanese Apple Store.  You can access the Japanese Apple store in two ways.
    • Switch your existing Apple account to the Japanese region.
    • Create a new Japanese region Apple account.
    • NOTE:  Both will require a form of payment that uses Japanese yen as its primary form of currency (a Japanese credit card ot a Japanese iTunes gift card), even though the application itself is free.
  • Other Softbank smartphones: purchase the 災害用伝言板 application through your phone’s application store.  The boards are also available via a link on the mysoftbank page during a serious disaster.


  • EZweb equipped mobile phones:  Open your EZweb browser and select the 災害用伝言板 icon.
  • Smartphone models:  Android IS01, IS03, REGZAPhone IS05, IS06:  Download the 災害用伝言板 application via “AU One Market.”  The application will be under the 災害対策アプリ category.  If you have trouble finding it, use the AU One Market search engine.
    • You cannot access the Disaster Emergency Message Boards via a wi-fi connection.
    • An EZweb email address (e.g. [email protected]) is required to access the Disaster Emergency Message Boards.
    • Smartphone models other than the ones listed above may not be able to register messages on the Disaster Emergency Message Boards.  The above list is complete as of April 27, 2011.  Please confirm if your phone can access the Disaster Emergency Message Boards at time of purchase.

Registering messages:

There are small differences between the Disaster Emergency Message Boards offered by Docomo, Softbank, and AU.  However, the general procedure for registering messages is essentially the same across all mobile service providers.


  1. The Disaster Emergency Message Boards for each mobile service provider have English versions of their boards that can be accessed via a link on the board homescreen (the icon should say “English” or “英語”).
  2. Select [Register].
  3. Choose one option listed under “Status”.
    • I’m fine
    • Need help
    • Safe at home
    • At evacuation area
  4. You can also add a short message (maximum 100 characters) in the “comment box”.
  5. Select [Register].


  1. Select [安否の登録] (あんぴのとうろく – anpi no touroku
  2. From the menu that appears, pick one of the following:
    • 無事です (ぶじです – bujidesu – I’m fine)
    • 被害があります (ひがいがあります – higai ga arimasu – Need help)
    • 自宅に居ます (じたくにいます – jitaku ni imasu – Safe at home)
    • 避難所に居ます (ひなんじょにいます – hinanjo ni imasu – At evacuation area)
  3. You can also add a short message (100 characters or less in the box marked コメント (komento – comments).
  4. Select [登録].

NOTE:  You can only store 10 messages with this system.  If you try to store more than 10 messages, the system will automatically delete messages in the order they were registered.

After you register a message with this system, you will be asked whether you wish to send email with the contents of your registered message to a list of email addresses you designated beforehand (see “automatic mail notification” below).

Automatic mail notification:

Although the [Register] function of the Disaster Emergency Message Board System is not available until a severe disaster strikes, you can register up to 10 email addresses at any time for the auto-notify function.  This function will allow you to send an email automatically from your phone to each of the registered email addresses whenever you register a message using the Disaster Emergency Message Boards.

To register an email address or change the email addresses that you have registered, access the disaster Emergency Message Boards and select [自動Eメール送信設定] or [Setup Auto Notify].  Enter the email addresses you wish to register, and select [OK].

Confirming the safety of others:

For more information about Earthquake Early Warnings
M-F 9:30am – 6:15pm: 0963-810-110, extension 4764Messages registered on Disaster Emergency Message Boards can be checked via mobile device or via personal computer.
To confirm via mobile device:  Access the emergency message board and select [Confirm] or [確認].
To confirm via a personal computer:  Access the URL (listed below) for the the appropriate mobile service provider’s Disaster Emergency Message Board.Docomo:      dengon.docomo.ne.jp/top/cgi
Softbank:     dengon.softbank.ne.jp
AU:              dengon.ezweb.ne.jp

Enter the phone number of the individual whose safety you are trying to confirm and select [確認] or [confirm].  A list of the messages registered by that individual will appear.  Select the message you wish to view.

NOTE:  The Disaster Emergency Message Boards for each mobile service provider are separate from one another.  This means that you will only be able to confirm the safety of an AU mobile user using the AU Disaster Emergency Message Boards, and so on.  If you enter a phone number that belongs to a mobile provider other than the one running the disaster Emergency Message Board, you will be redirected to the [Confirm] page of the appropriate message board.

Disasters Requiring Evacuation

Evacuations will likely occur after an earthquake when fires are spreading or buildings are in danger of being destroyed by landslides, or when a tsunami is expected. Police and fire authorities will issue evacuation advice. There are three levels of evacuation warnings:

避難準備 (ひなんじゅんび – hinan junbi Evacuation Preparation.  The lowest evacuation warning.  There is no immediate need to evacuate, but residents are encouraged to begin preparations should the need arise.

避難勧告 (ひなんかんこく – hinan kankoku Evacuation Recommended.  Residents are highly encouraged to evacuate to their nearest refuge area.

避難指示 (ひなんしじ – hinan shiji Evacuation Order.  Remaining in the area is extremely dangerous and all residents should evacuate to the nearest refuge area immediately.

If a disaster requiring evacuation occurs during work hours, follow instructions given to you by your contracting organization or school.

If a disaster occurs outside of work hours and an evacuation order is issued, proceed immediately to the closest refuge area.

Upon feeling an earthquake, JETs in coastal areas and near rivers should immediately evacuate to high ground.  If you cannot reach high ground within 5-10 minutes, take refuge on the upper floor of a tall building.Other useful telephone numbers and websites

Sexual Crime Help Line:    0120-834-381

Kumamoto police interpretation center (emergency only):  M-F 9:30am – 6:15pm: 0963-810-110, extension 4764

Association of Medical Doctors Abroad: Find a medical professional who speaks your language;  TEL: 03-5285-8088

For more information about Earthquake Early Warnings:

*Thank you to the PAs of Mie Prefecture for providing information on the Disaster Emergency Message Dial System, Message Boards, disasters requiring evacuation, and other useful phone numbers and websites.