City of Sapporo > Disaster > Earthquakes

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Update:November 17, 2016


Japan is a country with many earthquakes. Although it is impossible to precisely predict earthquakes, appropriate knowledge and preparation can help to minimize damage in an emergency. Below is some recommended preparation for earthquakes.

Preparing for Disasters

  • In Japan, regional elementary and junior high schools or parks are usually used as evacuation sites. Check and get to know your nearby evacuation sites well.

    Types of evacuation sites

    Temporary Evacuation Site

    Long-term Evacuation Site

    Wide-area Evacuation Site

    Where families and neighbors of the district could evacuate temporarily during a disaster and confirm each other’s safety. Parks and school grounds in the area are some of the places that are designated for this purpose.

    Where people need to be evacuated for a long period of time to protect themselves. Large facilities such as schools and public halls are used during such times.

    An open air evacuation location where people evacuate from flames and fumes during a large fire. A large park or field is usually used as evacuation sites during such disasters.

    Types of Signs

    Seal of Temporary Evacuation Site

    Seal of Long-term Evacuation Site

    Seal of Wide-area Evacuation Site

  • Prepare emergency food, water, and other types of supplies important for your safety to take during evacuation.

    Examples of things to have ready to bring out in case of a disaster:
    3 days worth of food, 3 days worth of drinking water, portable radio, clothes (including undergarments, warm clothes, blankets and towels), first aid kit, flashlight, lighter or matches, rope, cash and other valuables, rain gear (parka)etc.

  • Determine how to contact family members and friends or where to gather after a disaster to ensure you can meet up.

  • Always carry a card with your name, address and phone number as well as information on your blood type and contact numbers for your relatives, friends, workplace and embassy.

  • Fix furniture to the walls to prevent it from falling when earthquakes occur.

    Participate in community disaster drills as often as possible.
    Neighbors will need to work together and help each other during a large disaster. Prepare yourself for a possible disaster by frequently communicating with your neighbors such as by discussing on disaster prevention in meetings held by your neighborhood association and cooperate in protecting our city.

When there is a large earthquake

  • Move away from household items that could fall over and go somewhere in the house where you can protect yourself such as ducking for cover under a table and wait until the shaking stops.
  • After the quake has stopped, turn off all sources of heat (fire, gas valves, etc.) and prevent any possible fires.
  • Open your door and confirm the location of the evacuation exit.
  • Outside, beware of falling objects such as bricks, fallen over dispenser machines, glass, and signs.
  • If you are near the shoreline, evacuate immediately to higher ground to avoid possible tsunamis.
  • If you are driving, slowly drop your speed and move towards the left side of the road and turn your engine off. If a swift evacuation is necessary, leave the key, do not lock the doors, and evacuate by foot taking your valuables such as your vehicle registration certificate with you.

Basic information on earthquakes

Magnitude (M):

Magnitude is a unit that expresses the energy level of an earthquake; the numbers state the scale of the earthquake. For example, if a magnitude scale is increased by 1, the energy level of the earthquake is about 30 times stronger, and about 1000 times stronger when increased by 2.

Seismic Intensity:

Seismic intensity (shindo in Japanese) measures the strength of the movement of an earthquake and expresses it on a 10 scales. The following table was made by the Japan Meteorological Agency describing what usually occurs in the environment such as inside your home during an earthquake depending on its scale:

Seismic intensity: 0

Seismic intensity 1

Seismic intensity 2

Seismic intensity 3

Seismic intensity 4

Movement not felt by people, but detected by seismometer.

Some people may feel slight movement if they sit still in a quiet room.

Most people feel movement if they are sitting still in a quiet room. It many wake up some people that are asleep. Things hanging from the ceiling such as lights move slightly.

Most people inside could feel the earthquake. There may be some people walking outside that notice as well. The quake will wake up most people that are asleep. Utensils in the cabinets may rattle.

Most people indoors and outdoors will notice the quake. The shaking will wake up most people that are asleep. Things hanging from the ceiling will sway and utensils in the cabinets will rattle.

Seismic intensity lower 5

Seismic intensity upper 5

Seismic intensity lower 6

Seismic intensity upper 6

Seismic intensity 7

Most people will panic and have the urge to hold on to something. Objects hanging from the ceiling will sway violently and objects in cabinets may fall out. Most insecure objects and furniture will fall over.

The shaking impacts the environment to a point that most people will have trouble walking without holding on to something. Many objects in cabinets will fall out. Insecure furniture may fall over.

It will be hard to stay standing up. Most insecure furniture will move around and some many fall over. Doors may be hard to open.

It will be impossible to stand and the only way to move is by crawling on your knees. You may not be able to move at all due to the violent shaking and be tossed around. Most insecure furniture will be moved around and many will fall over.

It will be impossible to stand and the only way to move is by crawling on your knees. You may not be able to move at all due to the violent shaking and be tossed around. Most insecure furniture will be flown around violently and fall over.