Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst and Always Be Prepared

Sanjo Disaster Prevention Drills 2017

Since the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake of 2011, Sendai City has held regular disaster preparation exercises aimed at foreign residents who may not be as familiar with the drills as their local counterparts.

Originally organised by Sendai Tourism, Convention and International Association (SenTIA) and Tohoku Fukushi University, the event expanded to include Tohoku University last year because of the large number of international students living at the University House dormitories in Sanjo.

"I think such drills are useful and necessary," said research student Gustavo Navas who's originally from Venezuela. "People aren't usually that interested in doing these kind of prevention drills because they think that disasters won't happen. But earthquakes have caused catastrophes in the past and we should not ignore the possibility that it could happen again."

This year's session, which had some 200 participants, began at the dormitories with an evacuation drill. Students practiced evacuation routes - where to go and how to safely get there - as well as the most effective ways to use a fire extinguisher.

Participants also had the chance to experience the force of a large earthquake via the simulation vehicle, Gurara.

The session then moved to Tohoku Fukushi University's Station Campus for a disaster prevention class, which included a comprehensive lecture by the fire marshall.

There, the students were joined by other members of the community as they walked through a simulation of a smoke-filled house, practiced using standard life saving equipment such as AED, and learnt to prepare simple food in emergency conditions.

"I thought the AED session was really useful," said Associate Professor Rumi Watanabe of the Global Learning Center. "The AED can be used not just in a disaster, but also in traffic accidents and many other situations in everyday life."

"Natural disasters are not that common where I'm from, but I think it's important that people should know what to do if there's an accident, or a fire or flood," said Julia Gerster, a graduate student from Berlin. "First aid training is mandatory when you get a driver´s licence in Germany, but many people hardly ever revise or practice so they hesitate to step in when something happens. Regular training like this could ease such concerns and help to save more lives."

Japan experiences regular seismic activity and has made efforts to raise the level of disaster preparedness, especially in vulnerable cities. Evacuation drills and awareness programmes are held regularly in schools.

The safety of international students is often a concern among family members who are far away in their home countries. Tohoku University, being in Sendai, has various safety procedures in place, including a bilingual safety confirmation system to verify the whereabouts of all staff and students following a disaster.

"My family lives in Venezuela so they do get worried whenever there is a situation in Japan," said Navas. "But I think knowing that I take part in drills like this and that I know what to do during an emergency is reassuring to them."

Online resources about disaster preparation can also be found on Tohoku University's International Support Office website below.


Education and Student Support Department
Tel: +81 22 795-3943

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