If a major earthquake were to hit right now, how quickly could you evacuate? Do you have all of the essentials you’d need to survive the next few days in something small enough to carry? Do you have everything assembled in one bag that you could grab, and be out the door within seconds?
How prepared you are now can determine how well you’ll survive when the next big earthquake strikes Japan. An Emergency Survival Kit (also referred to as an Earthquake Grab Bag) is your first line of defense when faced with natural disasters and accidents. We’ll explain in more detail what an Emergency Survival Kit is, and what contents residents of Japan should include in one.
What Is an Emergency Survival Kit?
An emergency survival kit is a bag that is light enough for you to carry, but big enough to contain all of the basic necessities you’ll need to get through the first few critical days following a disaster. Earthquakes, typhoons, tsunami, and fires are just a few of the calamities that you should be prepared for as someone living in Japan.
An emergency survival kit is designed to help you save time by allowing you to escape quickly with important supplies. You may only have a few minutes, or even a few seconds, to escape to a safe area during or after a disaster. In the case of an earthquake, the building you’re in could collapse. You’ll want to have an emergency survival kit that you can grab and take with you before that happens.
Tsunami are a threat for people living in coastal regions, and can hit within minutes following an earthquake. You do not have time to rummage around and look for emergency supplies when a tsunami is approaching. You must evacuate and get to higher ground as soon as possible. An emergency survival kit will help prevent wasting time, and allow you to spend those few vital moments to get to a safe area.
You can buy one online, such as the 30-Piece Disaster Evacuation Set that is flameproof and waterproof.
How Can You Make Your Own Emergency Survival Kit?
Anyone living in Japan or visiting should have access to an emergency survival kit. You can prepare one on your own with goods that can be purchased at most drugstores and department stores. The contents you’ll need to pack will vary depending on your personal needs, and the number of people it is intended for.
To start, you’ll need something that is sturdy, and preferably waterproof. Items in your emergency survival kit could become damaged if exposed to water. We recommend finding a bag that will at least protect your supplies from the rain. Or, we suggest that you seal all of the contents in ziplock or vacuum-sealed bags to keep them dry.
For many adults, a well-made backpack will be sufficient. You should use one with two shoulder straps, and a buckle around the waist in order to maximum movement. A bag that fits securely will move around less when you run, and will enable you to use both of your hands unhindered.
For older people, and people with physical disabilities, a suitcase on wheels may be more useful. It can help them to transport more supplies than they would be able to physically pick up and carry. However, it might not be suitable for anyone living above the ground floor. In the event of an earthquake, the elevator should be avoided, and the stairs should be used instead.
See our article about What to Do During an Earthquake in a Tall Building.
Families with children may need to prepare two or more emergency survival kits depending on the ages of the children. It’s a good idea to create a bag that is small enough for children to carry, and stored in an area that they can reach.
One you have selected an appropriate bag, you’re ready to start filling it with all of the essential supplies that you or your family will personally need.
What You Should Include in Your Emergency Survival Kit and Why
We’ll begin by listing all of the basic items we recommend for an emergency survival kit in Japan.
What to pack:
- First Aid
- Water Filtration System
- AM/FM radio
- Rain coat
- Change of clothes
- Hand sanitizer
- Face mask
- Wet wipes and plastic bags
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene
- Waterproof matches
- Copies of important documents
- Spare Keys
Drinkable water may become inaccessible for a period of time after an earthquake. You should include at least 1 liter of water in your emergency survival kit per adult per day. At least 3 liters is recommended for 3 days, but check that you are able to carry that amount while preparing your kit. The more that you can carry, the better, but be careful so that your bag doesn’t become too heavy.
You should pack enough food to last at least 72 hours. Dried foods and high energy snacks are ideal. Pay careful attention to the expiration dates, and try to avoid packing foods that will expire in less than a year. There are Japanese emergency food options that can last up to five years. These are great for the long-term sustainability of your kit.
A basic first aid kit should also be stored in case you or someone else gets injured. Most are inexpensive and sufficient for covering minor injuries such as cuts, burns, and lacerations. This All-Purpose First Aid Kit comes in a nice case that you could also add an emergency whistle and flashlight to.
An AM/FM radio can help you receive important information and updates during an emergency. Some can use multiple power sources, which can be beneficial if your batteries die. Look for one that with an AC adaptor or hand crank. This 6-Way Radio, Flashlight, and USB charger can help you keep your phone running during a power outage.
Copies of your important documents are good to keep in case the originals become lost or damaged. We recommend that you keep backup copies of the following documents in your emergency survival kit. Having these copies can make it easier to replace them, and will give you something to temporarily use to identify yourself.
- Driver’s License
- Resident Card
- Insurance Card
- “My Number” Card
- Medication List
- Emergency Contacts
Wet wipes and plastic bags are useful for personal sanitation when toilets are inaccessible. Women should also include feminine products such as high-absorbency pads. Portable toilets are sold in pouches that seal tightly and prevent bad smells. This Mobile Toilet with Resin can hold up to 500cc of fluid in a single use, and comes in a pack of 5.
It is important to carry cash in your emergency kit, especially coins. Many stores in Japan still do not accept credit cards, and electronic payments may not be available for some time after a disaster. Vending machines might be usable, but can run out of small change. If that is the case, you will be unable to use 1,000 yen bills to purchase anything from them. Also, vending machines do not accept anything lower than 10 yen.
- 10 yen coins
- 50 yen coins
- 100 yen coins
- 500 yen coins
- 1000 yen notes
Lastly, you should keep a spare key for your home, car, and bicycle in your emergency kit. These are easily misplaced, and can be difficult to locate when you’re in a hurry to evacuate. Keeping a spare set along with everything else we recommended will help you to get to a safe area more quickly, and with a peace of mind.
Check Your Kit Regularly
Food and supplies inside your emergency survival kit will eventually expire. We recommend that you check the expiration dates at least every six months, and replace any items that will expire over the next six-month period. A good way to remember to check the kit is by setting up a recurring alert or reminder on your phone.
See also our article The Safest Place to Be in an Apartment During an Earthquake.