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Hey Did You Feel That? Emergency Prep Tips from an Expert

By 5 min read

My first week in my new apartment in Japan a sizeable rocker-style earthquake woke me up — not a big one, but enough to make me realize I have nothing prepared if I need to evacuate my place. And to be honest, I don’t even know what I’d really need. Or where to go? Or how to get information if my mobile doesn’t work? Oh man, time to find out some answers.

Japan has its share of emergency preparedness experts, and I was lucky enough to sit down with a guy in charge with protecting pretty much everyone in case of an emergency. Meet John Guliani, and check out his emergency prep tips.

He protects the friggin military. Kind of a badass.

CP: How long have you lived here?

JG: I’ve lived in Tokyo for the last 23 years…I arrived here in June 1990 as a duty assignment with the U.S. Air Force.

CP: Wow you’ve been here a long time. What did you do in the Air Force?

JG: As a Security Specialist I was tasked with ensuring Air Force priority resources were properly secured against foreign threats overseas. I also assisted in securing Air Force aircraft at an Air Base in Saudi Arabia during the first gulf war. I spent four and a half years doing various jobs in the Air Force Security field.

CP: So what do you do now?

JG: I’m currently employed by the U.S. Navy as a civilian… doing security work which involves Force protection, anti-terrorism, and emergency preparedness.

Clearly, this guy knows his shit. Here’s what he had to say about apartments, trains, and staying cool in a scary situation.

CP: If a disaster hits what are some practical tips for someone living in an apartment?

JG: First off, you should only live on the second to seventh floors of a building as in case of fire or emergency the fire truck ladder can reach your window.  Anything higher than that and it gets more difficult for rescue.  Living on the first floor is not wise due to the ease of someone with bad intentions gaining access to your apartment.  Especially important for women.

CP: What should people know about their apartments or buildings? What about their towns or communities?

JG: The construction material of a building is a good thing to know—if it’s made of wood or steel and concrete.  Concrete buildings are stronger and more resistant to fires. Also for security issues, a building with an auto lock system is a plus.

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When you move into a community, you should find out where your City Hall is located and any other Community Centers which would be government places where you can get information and other hand outs during an emergency or crisis. Also find out where the local evacuation point for your community is.  Normally it’s located at the nearest public school.  City Hall usually has booklets with all of this information.  If you’re lucky it might be already translated into English.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (a.k.a. Tokyo City Hall)

CP: What about emergency supplies? Sites like http://www.ready.gov offer lists for preparing personal and home kits.  For a new, single teacher coming to Japan, what basic/minimum supplies would you recommend she keep in her apartment?

JG: When the big earthquake hit on March 11th, the first thing to fly off of store shelves was tissue and toilet paper. Batteries and candles were quick to go as well. Water, rice, and bread were the main food products in high demand.

CP: What about transit in Japan? Is there anything we should know if something happens and we’re underground and don’t speak Japanese?

JG: It’s always good to have a bicycle in Japan. In case the trains are not working, at least you have a quick mode of transportation that’s better than walking or being stuck in traffic.

Don’t panic, keep calm and try to follow the crowd as most will understand any directions being played over the loud speakers or railway staff.  Follow emergency exit signs to open air, but be prepared to go back down if the situation isn’t any better above ground.

CP: Are there specific emergency websites or radio channels in English for people living in Japan? Any hotlines or useful numbers?

JG: The American Embassy Tokyo or any other Embassy whose citizens are looking for information.  It will be in their home language as to reduce miscommunications.  Eagle 810 am Military radio station is in English and gives regular updates to emergency situations in the general area.

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CP: I love Bobble—it’s a charcoal filter personal water bottle that would be perfect for an emergency kit. Do you have any favorite gadgets or products that should make the cut?

Head strap-on LED

JG: I have an LED keychain light that I always carry.  Another thing I like to have is the LED lights that can be strapped to your head for free use of your hands in case of emergency.  Energy or protein bars, easy to store, carry and use. Trail mix or dehydrated food of any kind that can be kept for longer periods of time.

Here are a few links and contacts to check out about services and additional tips for emergency preparedness.

US Embassy http://japan.usembassy.gov/e/acs/tacs-7111.html

Japan Meterological Agency http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html

Tokyo City Hall http://www.metro.tokyo.jp/ENGLISH/

Tokyo International Communication Committee http://www.tokyo-icc.jp/guide_eng/kinkyu/05.html

Ready.gov http://www.ready.gov/

72hours.org http://72hours.org/

Radio and TV:

Eagle (810AM)

NHK (693AM)

NHK Channel 1

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