CAMP ZAMA, Japan – The U.S. Army in Japan community conducted an earthquake emergency response drill March 1 to improve community readiness and awareness.
Everet Sterling, installation emergency manager with U.S. Army Garrison Japan’s Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, said these types of drills are crucial for the entire community living in Japan.
“Japan had 2,374 noticeable earthquakes in 2022,” he said. “In our area most have been fairly small, so over time we tend to become complacent.”
According to the University of Tokyo, four of the Earth’s tectonic plates converge under Japan, leading to more than 2,000 active faults. About 20 percent of earthquakes in the world measuring magnitude 6.0 or higher occur in or around Japan, according to the university, and earthquakes and volcanic activity pose a major threat to residents.
The Great Tohoku Earthquake, which struck Japan March 11, 2011, serves as a stark reminder of the absolute devastation that can occur with a major national disaster. The 9.0 earthquake and series of tsunami waves devastated a large swath of coastal northeastern Japan.
And Sterling said the more recent 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Feb. 6 near the Turkey-Syria border serves as a reminder that a devastating event can occur at any time. That is why it is important to ensure the community is prepared, he said.
“These drills ensure that preparedness remains in the forefront of everyone’s minds, and gets the whole community involved in the process,” Sterling said. “At the same time, the drill provides the opportunity for unit preparedness program managers to review and update their processes.”
The goal with last week’s drill was to familiarize the community with the concept of “Drop, Cover and Hold On” in the event of an earthquake.
The first step is to drop immediately to one’s hands and knees for protection from being knocked down in the case of violent shaking. The second step is to cover one’s head and neck with one’s arm and hand and, if possible, take shelter under a sturdy table or desk, or crawl next to an interior wall. The final step is to hold on until the shaking stops.
These basic protective measures can absolutely save lives, Sterling said.
As an emergency manager, Sterling is laser-focused on planning for the worst and wants to ensure people have plans in place for both work and in the home.
“No matter how many plans we have or how good they are, if our partners, stakeholders and community as a whole do not understand what to do or how they fit into the process, we will be unable to protect our population,” he said. “A home, personal plan provides the framework and critical information we’ll need to protect ourselves and families.
“People who develop a plan are more likely to get through the emergency situation safely and with less worry,” he concluded.