UPDATE : 2023.12.3 Sun 23:48
Comparing Korea and Japan's earthquake response
  • Lee Hun & Park Hyun-jong, cub-
  • 승인 2016.10.11 16:40
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Earthquake response in Japan

On March 11th, 2011 an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 struck the northeast side of Japanese islands.

Massive life and property losses occurred, but we could see the response system which helped minimize damage in Japan due to many experiences of earthquakes.

At first, if the seismograph senses an earthquake, all television programs and radio broadcasts stop and an earthquake alert is raised. Earthquake alerts are sent to all communication devices. The period between an earthquake occurring and the earthquake alert is so short that people can prepare for massive quakes such as going under desks and evacuating from buildings before the quakes actually hit them.

Earthquakes happen very often in Japan historically, so Japanese people prepare for earthquakes by building earthquake-resistant structures. Tokyo is a city with the 5th highest skyscraper density in the world. However, highrise buildings get almost no damage from severe quakes. Actually, a video draws attention after earthquakes. In the video, skyscrapers in Tokyo sway a lot right after the shock. People inside buildings in Shinjuku, a place that is the most modernized part in Tokyo, took the footage showing buildings absorbing shock waves and swaying. Netizens in other countries admire the Japanese architecture after watching the video.

Furthermore, we can see that most school buildings have diagonal columns on the outer walls and have truss structures. These kinds of structures are also designed to respond so the energy traverses along the buildings when earthquakes take place.

We can also see that apartments in Japan have no windows and chassis on outer walls. Structures of buildings can be designed solidly; however, windows are the weak point of buildings and also have risks of falling down. Falling of windows or other building parts can cause serious secondary damages, so Japanese eliminated outer windows.

Japanese construction laws are very strict as earthquakes happen often. Every building must include seismic isolators. Seismic isolators levitates buildings from the ground, so they protect buildings from direct shockwaves. Furthermore, dampers for buildings which absorb earthquake energy must be installed according to Japanese construction law. Ways of earthquake resistant designs are described in detail in construction law. Moreover, the Japanese administration supervises buildings in the design process to the construction process. It is a striking contrast from Korea. We can get permission if an architect submits a structural drawing and it passes with simple supervision.

Japanese people always consider earthquakes, even in their home. In fact, the majority of wounded people are wounded by fallen furniture, not c

Manuals of Japan are very specific.
Manuals of Japan are very specific.

ollapsed buildings. In response to this, people store heavy stuff in low places and light stuff up high to minimize losses. They also fix big furniture like wardrobes to the wall to prevent furniture from falling down.

Earthquake response manuals in Japan are very specific and contrast greatly to Korean manuals. Korean manuals just tell us unidimensional things like going under desks and watching out for fires. However, Japanese manuals are over 200 pages and they advise people to prepare evacuation bags equipped with instant food and vegetable juices in order to prevent vitamin deficiency. In fact many victims underwent vitamin deficiency after evacuation.

Furthermore, there are directions to make temporary diapers and tampons. In addition, in worst case scenarios, survivor manuals themselves can be used for body warmth and to get water in the city.

Responses to earthquakes are organized per minute right after the shock. While the earthquake strikes, people should do their best to protect their own bodies. Two minutes after the earthquake, manuals advise people to look after their families and lock gas valves. After 3 minutes, get ready for evacuation and pack their bags. After 5~10minutes, look after their neighbors and go to pick up their children. These manuals are specific enough to act as guides even for people who are in panic.

Their citizenship is so good, even when they are waiting in massive queues to get relief goods, no one tried to cut in line and all waited patiently. They let emergency vehicles go first, even though they were in a hurry too.

Japanese people have different attitudes to earthquakes. They always live with the possibility of them occurring right under their city. Because strong earthquake can happen in 30 years, people always get ready and prepare for disaster.

Earthquake safety tips for Korea
Recently, there were magnitude 5.8 earthquakes in Gyeongju and on the 20th there was another one of 4.5 magnitude. According to the meteorological office, there were 20 earthquakes over 2.0 magnitude since January and there were 17 earthquakes more than last year, which had more than 3.0 magnitude 5 times every year on average. There are various opinions for the reasons of increasing earthquakes and a major opinion is that after Japan’s big earthquake in 2011, we had earthquake stronger than 3.0. Korea isn’t prepared at all for earthquakes.

According to the survey of Korean safety office, only half of buildings were built to withstand earthquakes last year. Buildings not built for earthquakes can result in many victims when there are magnitude 6.0 quakes. It means that Korea isn’t safe for earthquakes anymore. When everybody is prepared for earthquake safety, the damage can be minimized.

The evacuation method in Korea is a little different from Japan because the buildings are not designed to withstand earthquakes. An earthquake-resistant design refers to a strong structure that could stand against an earthquake. You have to remember that it is wrong to follow the same method as Japan since the building structure is totally different. Then let’s figure out how to evacuate during earthquakes in Korea.

First, lock the gas valve. The first thing that we should do is lock the gas valve in the event of an earthquake. Commonly, Japanese use lot of electric food devices, so they don’t have evacuation methods for this, but Koreans commonly use gas so we need to lock the gas. It is to prevent fire in case of shocks. Should there be any fire, it is good to extinguish by using extinguishers.

Second, keep the door open. It is very important to find an escape route when earthquake happens. When there is small damage to buildings, walls which have cracks might be difficult to open doors, so we need to keep them open.
Third, as for lower floors in buildings, quickly escape to the outside. This should be the most basic method that everyone knows. Get yourself outside. However, we can’t say that going outside is always safe. It is only for people who live in lower floors of buildings or people who can go outside quickly. Earthquakes happen for 40-45 seconds, It is impossible for people on higher floors to escape. The next method is necessary for people in this situation.

Fourth, don’t duck under tables. Instead, stick to the wall with your head covered by a pillow. Japanese can hide under tables, but Koreans should stick to the walls. Japan has low-rise buildings which are well-built for earthquakes. Also, for low buildings, their buildings are built with wood so they can survive when they go under the table, but most of Korean buildings are built with concrete so there is a danger for crumbling and when that happens we can be pressed to death by the heavy weight, so hiding ourselves under the table is rather risky. So in Korea, it is much safer to stick to the walls, with our head covered with a pillow.

Fifth, we must use stairs, not elevators. There could surely be people using elevators to escape quickly from the building, but this is very dangerous. Earthquakes can result in blackouts, so there is a high risk we may be stuck in the elevator. We must use stairs by keeping order with each other. These are the ways for earthquake evacuation. It seems similar to Japan, but please remember the importance of the differences and be the person who wisely escapes from the danger that falls upon us suddenly.

Lee Hun & Park Hyun-jong, cub-  cg0314@naver.com

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