JAPAN - "ShakeOut" earthquake drills, which originated in the United States, have rapidly spread across the nation.
It takes only about a minute for participants to practice safeguarding themselves according to the slogan "Drop, Cover and Hold On." Since the method was introduced in Japan last year, about 600,000 people are said to have participated in drills. They practiced the simple actions at locations of their choice in response to alerts issued through e-mail and disaster management public address systems as if an actual earthquake had occurred.
A number of local governments plan to conduct the drills Sunday, which is known as the nation's annual Disaster Prevention Day.
The method is said to have been invented in 2008 by emergency management experts and others in the United States. Participants perform three basic protective actions as they "drop" to the ground, take "cover" by getting under a sturdy desk or table and "hold on" to it until the shaking stops.
"It's an earthquake. Be on guard for strong shaking."
On the morning of Aug. 25, as soon as the announcement was made through a disaster management public address system, homemaker Mayumi Yamamoto, 44, rushed to take cover under a desk in the living room of her home in Kofu, together with her second and third daughters, 11-year-old Sena and 7-year-old Moka.
The three participated in the ShakeOut drill, which was organised by the city government for the first time and lasted about a minute.
Afterward, Yamamoto said: "Even if I do receive an emergency earthquake alert, I might panic when the occasion arises and just freeze. The drill gave me a chance to check if there are any items around that may fall."