During your stay in Japan there may be times when things go wrong and you encounter emergency situations. Whether it be a natural disaster or a medical emergency, it is good to be prepared for any situation that may arise.
Depending on the situation there are different numbers you can call to get the appropriate help you need.
What to do in an emergency
If an emergency that requires an ambulance or fire services occurs, the emergency phone number you need to call is 119. In a situation that requires police assistance, call 110 for reporting accidents, theft, or other crimes.
When reporting to the police and you are not sure of your location, there are serial numbers on traffic signs, traffic signals, utility poles, and vending machines you can tell them to specify where you are. If you require police assistance or information during non-emergencies, you can call #9110 or 03-3501-0110.
If you see a fire, call out in a loud voice to inform neighbors about the fire (the word for fire is “kaji” - 火事) and call 119 with the location and/or nearby serial number.
For those needing help finding a medical facility, you can contact the Tokyo Fire Department Disaster and Emergency Information Center at 03-3212-2323 who will be able to direct you to the nearest hospital to you. English assistance is available to those who need it.
Emergency Phone Numbers:
● 119: Medical Emergency and Fire Brigade, for ambulances or fire services.
● 110: Police, for reporting accidents, theft or other crimes.
● 118: Coast Guard.
● 0570-000-911: Japan Helpline.
● 03-3212-2323: Tokyo Fire Department Disaster and Emergency Information Center (English speaker available).
● # 9110 or 03-3501-0110: Metropolitan Police Department General Counseling Center for non-emergencies.
Common Natural Disasters
Being an island nation bordering the ring of fire, Japan is a country where different natural disasters take place. Among the common natural disasters are earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, flooding, landslides, and volcanic eruptions. Let us cover the basics and what to do under these circumstances.
Earthquakes can happen fairly frequently in Japan, ranging from small shakes to large deadly earthquakes. Japan measures earthquakes with both Shindo Scale and the Richter scale to express the strength of the earthquake. Each step of the Shindo Scale specifically tells you how it will physically feel to a person experiencing the earthquake.
Shindo 1 - Hardly noticeable
Shindo 2 - Slight shaking.
Shindo 3 - Can be felt, objects rattle.
Shindo 4 - Strong shaking, unsecured objects can fall.
Shindo 5 lower - Most unstable objects fall, furniture moves. Very strong shaking.
Shindo 5 upper - Heavy furniture starts to fall over. Unreinforced walls can collapse.
Shindo 6 lower - Most furniture falls. Damage to less earthquake-resistant houses possible.
Shindo 6 upper - Movement is only possible by crawling. Furniture is displaced. Houses may collapse.
Shindo 7 and up - Movement is impossible. Heavy damage to buildings.
Many hotels and other accommodations will have at least a flashlight, if not a small earthquake survival kit. In case evacuation measures are taken, find out where the nearest evacuation spots are so that you are able to receive first aid and earthquake information.
What to do in case of earthquake
Unlike typhoons and other weather events, earthquakes can only be predicted mere seconds before they hit. For bigger quakes, a warning may occur, via radio, on the TV screen, or a mobile phone alarm.
When you hear or see this alarm, or experience shaking, the first important rule is not to panic. If you are in an area with Japanese around, look at how they are reacting and do similarly. Structures in Japan are made to withstand earthquakes, and if those around you don't seem to be paying much attention then it probably isn't something to be worrying about. Many quakes subside within a minute or so.
However, if shaking does becomes increasingly violent, dropping to the floor and covering your head comes next. Try to seek shelter underneath a table or similar protective shelter, but don’t go out of your way to reach it, as you might be knocked over by a jolt, or hit by a falling object.
Additionally, stay away from windows, bookshelves, or similar things that might break or topple. As already mentioned, modern buildings are designed to withstand even strong earthquakes, able to absorb the jolting and shaking without suffering major damage. Even if a building might ultimately collapse during an earthquake, the safest thing to do is not to run outside but instead stay put under a table – it is one of the most reliable shelters during quakes.
Typhoons are large tropical storms (much like hurricanes) and usually bring strong winds, rain, and high tides. Typhoons often also cause other disasters like flooding and landslides. Stay informed with weather watches on the TV or radio, or the Japan Meteorological Agency which provides typhoon information in English. As a precaution, move and secure any outdoor objects which may become a hazard, close any home window shutters if available, and watch for flooding in basement floors.
Tsunami are tidal waves formed due to seismic activity like earthquakes. A large tsunami will cause flooding and damage, so it is best to keep an eye on tsunami warnings and advisories after an earthquake or during a typhoon, especially if you are in an area that is close to the sea. As with typhoon warnings, tsunami warnings can be viewed in English at the Japan Meteorological Agency website, Tsunami Warnings/Advisories page.
Japan is home to several active volcanoes, many of which are popular tourist spots. Warnings are usually given when the area is unsafe and people are informed not to approach the crater or volcano. Volcano warnings can be checked on the Japan Meteorological Agency website, Volcanic Warning page.
You can find smartphone apps in a number of languages to assist you in case of emergency.
Safety tips: Developed by the Japan Tourism Agency, Safety tips is a push-enabled app for alerting you with early warnings of earthquakes and tsunamis.
Yurekuru Call: Another popular push-enabled app for alerting you with early warnings of earthquakes and tsunamis.
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