Jul 7, 2018

Emergency alert warning; every second does count

One thing I may never get used to here in Japan is the emergency alert warnings. Tonight there was a large earthquake in Chiba prefecture. A couple of seconds before the earthquake struck, my phone started that all too familiar siren. And while I have heard it many times before it still frightens the bejaysus out of me.

Emergency alert warning; every second does count photo

What I have learned from experience is that while it is certainly useful to be on guard for the pending disaster, in the case of an earthquake the warning really doesn't give you much more time than to lift a cup of coffee away from your computer, as I did tonight. That is quite literally the time I had. Because first you need your brain to recognize what is happening, which actually takes a couple of seconds. Or maybe that's just me? 

Tonight, even though my Android is set to "manner mode", the siren went off at 8.24 pm, which is one minute before the recorded time of the earthquake. However, it doesn't record seconds and I would speculate that the siren went off about 30 seconds before the earthquake. I heard the siren the first time and had a nagging inkling to pay attention, but it silenced for a second and my brain was just processing "what was that?" when it went off again! It was only when it went off the second time that I registered what it was. I turned to my husband and said "emergency alert" just as the TV also started squawking that terrible sound. I turned back to my computer, eyed my hot coffee full to the brim; picked it up, pushed back my chair to stand away from the table and bam, it started. 

You never know what type of disaster is coming when you first hear the phone signalling an emergency disaster alert. However, nine and a three quarter times out of ten it is signaling an impending earthquake. But you also don't know how big the earthquake is going to be. I have ducked under the table after a siren only for it to be a barely noticeable quiver. On the flip side for the 2011 one, the largest I have ever felt, we were glad we'd positioned ourselves under door frames before the rocking started.

It may only give you seconds to prepare, which isn't much, but it is enough to move a full hot coffee away from your computer or, if your brain and legs work fast enough, dash for cover. Every second does count.



Level 8 LocalGuide with Google. Blogging about life in Japan as an Irish WAHM to 4 kids on insaitama.com.


  • Lyssays

    on Jul 8

    I find those alerts scarier than the earthquake itself lol!

  • Saitama

    on Jul 8

    @Lyssays absolutely, most of the time anyway. The 2011 one the earthquake was definitely scarier than the alert. But... those sirens, I lose seconds off my life every time I hear them!!