Nov 2012


Overnight disaster drills at schools

Many people may remember taking part in disaster drills during their school days. This year, 180 public high schools throughout Tokyo are actually holding overnight drills.

In light of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education stated that “overnight drills will not only help students learn to be able to take care of themselves during an emergency, but also help them to be able to play an active role contributing to society, such as through supporting evacuation center operations.”

Peace Boat has been invited to participate and give lectures at drills held at three schools, most recently the Momijigawa Public High School in Tokyo. This drill began with an earthquake announcement, upon which the 240 students and teachers first evacuated to the gymnasium. After the roll-call and explanations, representatives from the local fire station gave a lecture on how to best protect oneself in the case of an emergency situation.

Peace Boat Disaster Relief Volunteer Centre board member Goda Shigehiro followed with a 30 minute lecture about Peace Boat’s experience coordinating volunteer activities in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. This also included an introduction of the characteristics and roles of the various sectors involved, including the fire brigade, police and the Self Defence Force, as well as the situation at evacuation centers at the time and the roles played by disaster relief volunteers.

Thanks to the help of the PTA, drinking water and emergency rations for dinner was distributed to students. They then received blankets and went to sleep in classrooms, monitored by teachers. In the morning, after students cleaned up their classrooms and had a breakfast of crackers, they assembled for a final meeting.

Though it must have been difficult for students to have an overnight drill after a full day of classes, the school creatively attempted to convey what a real disaster would be like. For instance, they had practice emergency first-aid stations. Of course, in the case of an earthquake striking Tokyo they may be power outages, other people may use the school as a shelter, and in a serious situation students may even have to stay at the school for months, unable to return home. Though there will always be unexpected aspects meaning that things will not go according to plan in a real disaster situation, these kinds of drills can help students know what to expect if a disaster was to occur in real life.

Wanting to help as a volunteer means that you have survived unscathed. It is especially important for families, schools and businesses to have a periodic overview and feedback on their disaster risk mitigation plans.