What To Do If You Fall On The Train Tracks

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Photo by tarotaro

Anyone who has squeezed onto a crowded Tokyo platform has probably had this thought: what should I do if I fall on the tracks in Japan? As it turns out, we have several options in this worst-case scenario. In this article, you can read about preventing falls, the several common safety features of Japanese train platforms and how you can use them in case of a fall.

Preventing a Fall

Before starting, it is worth mentioning that prevention is the best strategy. Be careful when drinking and riding; many accidents occur when someone who is intoxicated attempts to rush on the train before the train actually arrives.

It’s also no secret that many train casualties are intentional. Taking care of mental health should be a priority, so if you or a friend need help, don’t hesitate to call a helpline.

Another important prevention tip is to pay attention to the needs of others and help those who need it. According to a survey done by the Japan Federation of the Blind in 2011, about 40% of those with visual impairments reported having experienced a fall on the tracks.

Lastly, it’s worth remembering to “stay behind the yellow (or otherwise demarcated) line” when a train is approaching and to “mind the gap” when getting off the train.

Train Platform Safety Features

While the train companies are working on installing barriers and platform doors to prevent falls, you’ll have to rely on the other safety features in the case a fall does occur. Three common safety features are listed below. Although most stations will have at least an emergency stop button, the type of safety features available will depend on the station, line and company.

Emergency Stop Button
非常停止ボタン

The most familiar of safety features is the emergency stop button. As you might imagine, this is a big red button installed on columns at intervals on the platform and is often labeled “SOS” and “Emergency (train stop) button.”

stop-buttonPhoto by Ryosuke Sekido

Pushing this button will automatically make the train come to a stop or alert the conductor, who can then put on the emergency brake. If you see someone fall on the tracks, press this button! Be aware that even if you press this button you yourself should not climb down on the tracks.

Platform Step
ホームステップ

The Tokyo train platforms are fairly high at about 1.1 meters. To help you pull yourself up, several stations have installed a stepping-up bar or ladder, which are usually colored yellow. As of 2013, JR East reportedly has installed these bars at 162 train stations.

yellow-barPhoto by Dick Thomas Johnson

Area of Refuge
ホーム下退避スペース/ホーム下避難場所

One more useful safety feature to know about is the shelter under some platforms. Sometimes these shelters take the form of a cubby hole carved out of the platform. In other cases, you may find that the top of the platform juts out over the rest of the platform, providing a space under the platform and away from the tracks.

jr-stationPhoto by jpellgen

If you do happen to fall on the tracks, you are probably more concerned about any oncoming train but you should also note that some lines may have a high-voltage third rail. This rail provides power to the train and is extremely dangerous to touch!

Equipped with the knowledge of these safety features, hopefully we can worry a little less and just enjoy the ride.

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Spends weekends aimlessly wandering Tokyo.
  • Janperson says:

    What if one of your belongings fell on the tracks like cellphone or wallet?

    • Paul says:

      You have to call a station-staff-member. They have long poles with grabbers. Never go yourself on the rails.

  • Kaylor Roberts says:

    Wait, Doesn’t pushing the button cost? You are stopping a train line, so
    even if a person is saved, are you not fined for pushing the button?

    • Anton says:

      So?? You might have saved someones life, thats worth all the fines in the world.

    • Terangeree says:

      You would probably get fined if you pushed the button unnecessarily (as in “I wonder what would happen if I pushed this button?”), but I doubt there would be any penalty for using the button in a genuine emergency.

  • #facepalm says:

    Oh, and I’ve been thinking of the same thing everytime I wait for my train to the office.
    “What if a crazy guy suddenly decides to push me?”
    “What if a train is approaching then a strong earthquake suddenly occurs?”
    …LOL, the thoughts that come to mind when the platforms have no shield. I really hope they could transform the entire Japanese railway system’s platforms into safer waiting areas similar to those found in Seoul and Hong Kong.

  • Sakura Chan says:

    The name of photographer of the third picture…..Wow.

  • saiaku says:

    “Ever wonder what would you do if you fell on the train tracks?” Hard question, but I would probably get my ass back up onto the platform.

    • Aldo says:

      Train are frequent in Tokyo (almost every minutes on the Yamanote). I saw a doc about this topic, the best is the option to stay in the shelter and ask for help.

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