March 15, 2011 12:09
The people of Japan have awed the world with the calm they displayed after a devastating earthquake and tsunami on Friday, with the Western press singling out the disaster training that Japanese receive from an early age for particular praise.
Disaster prevention items are part of living necessities in Japan. Cushions in schools can also be used to protect children's heads against glass and concrete debris falling from the building in an earthquake. Maps that tell people how to walk home from work when all transport has failed are very popular. Companies and schools stock various items ready for a disaster and have designated shelters like parks nearby.
All buildings above certain size are required to be earthquake-proof and have disaster prevention experts on site. Many people working in their office at the time of the earthquake immediately put on helmets and went out to shelters with a bag full of emergency food, a radio and water, which had already been prepared for them.
The manual for action in times of disaster is concrete and detailed. It includes advice such as "Designate a meeting point when the family gets separated," and "When an earthquake settles, put out fires before rescuing people." There are a whole range of books and publications on the topic.
Shim Jae-hyun at Korea's National Institute for Disaster Prevention said, "Just as soldiers learn military tactics through repetitive training, Japanese disaster prevention education allows people to act unconsciously according to the safety rules in an emergency."
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