City of Sapporo > Disasters > Earthquakes

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Update:April 2, 2018


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 and Roles of Evacuation Sites Evacuation Site Signage
     Designated Emergency Evacuation Sites:Where you can evacuate to in an emergency to protect yourself from natural disaster. Elementary school and other venues are designated by type of disaster (flooding, landslide, earthquake, large-scale flooding)



    Designated Evacuation Sites: where evacuees can seek temporary shelter

    • Key Evacuation Sites (public elementary schools, etc.)

    The main facilities which can accommodate the most number of assumed evacuees.

    • Local Evacuation Sites (public facilities, temples, shrines, etc.)
    Facilities which can accommodate evacuees temporarily until they can be moved to the key evacuation sites after a fixed period of time.


 *There are also Wide Area Evacuaton Sites (large parks and other grounds etc.) where you can protect yourself from smoke and ash and confirm each other's safety during large scale fires, and Temporary Evacuation Sites where you can temporarily evacuate to and gather to confirm each other's safety in the event of a disaster.

  • Prepare 3 days worth of food and drinking water, and other types of supplies important for your safety to bring with you during evacuation.

    Examples of things to have ready to bring out in case of a disaster:
    Food, 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.