Crisis management and the Japanese earthquake

As crisis management plans go, Japan’s was a well-prepared one. After the 1995 Kobe earthquake, the Japanese have become world leaders in seismic technology and all modern structures are designed for earthquakes – and older buildings retrofitted appropriately. Buildings shorter than three storeys have reinforced walls and foundation slabs of a certain thickness, while taller structures have innovative earthquake-resistant designs that undergo regular review by structural engineers. Mid-rise buildings often rest on huge rubber or fluid-filled shock absorbers which slide from side to side, dissipating lateral motion and turning it into heat. Buildings sway in high winds but that helps to prevent them disintegrating into reubble when earthquakes hit. Every household is instructed to keep a survival kit with a torch, radio, first aid kit and enough food and water to last for a few days, and issued with instructions such as avoiding placing heavy objects in places where they could easily fall during an earthquake and cause injury or block exits; having a fire extinguisher to hand; and being familiar with the local evacuation plans in their area. Earthquake planning is a key part of all organisations’ business continuity planning, and the Japanese view crisis management planning as a core business activity – it is simply an essential way of life.

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