Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Earthquake Drill in Tokyo Addresses Foreign Language Barrier

It’s still a ways of before the year 2020 and the second Summer Olympics to be held in Tokyo, but it’s never too early to make emergency preparations for that momentous event. Coupled with the constant threat of a major tremor that could strike at the capital of Japan any time in the future, police and emergency medical services conducted an earthquake drill with an additional caveat: making things easier and more accessible for Tokyo’s large number of foreign tourists and residents.

The English-language website of the Asahi Shimbun reports that the drill was held at Japan’s tallest building, the Tokyo Skytree; to be precise, the exercise took place at the structure’s observation deck some 350 meters above the ground. To simulate its intended purpose, the drill organizers invited some of Tokyo’s resident foreigners and tourists to take part, with around 115 of them gathered at the Skytree deck to act as earthquake victims in need of rescue.

When the drill began, the emergency personnel got to work in securing the foreigners trapped at the observation deck after a strong quake, and escorting them all the way back down to ground level. Since the point of the exercise was for the Japanese rescuers to be able to communicate with the tourists, and for the same tourists to be comfortable with the rescue teams aiding them, the emergency responders were all equipped with state of the art handheld translation devices.

When Japanese is spoken onto the translator, it converts the language into any of three possible options: Korean, Mandarin Chinese and English. The translation is then broadcast either through the device itself for one-on- one communication, or publicly through a loudspeaker so that a large number of people can hear.

With these translator gadgets, emergency workers are able to communicate with the tourists and issue simple commands that are easily understood, such as “Gather in this spot here”. The method was highly praised by the foreign participants. An Egyptian tourist among the “rescued” described the drill as a good experience. In all, about 7,000 rescue workers from the Skytree staff, police, firefightersand Self-Defense Force (JSDF) personnel took part in the simulated rescue.

Recently elected Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike emphasized the importance of the city and its people both foreign and domestic being prepared for any disaster, in light of the sudden influx of foreign visitors to the country for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, as well as the projected 70% chance, according to the government, of a magnitude-7 temblor in Tokyo within the next 30 years. She also requested that foreign visitors begin to pay attention to the city’s specially crafted disaster preparedness plan which gives tips for how to react to an emergency anywhere in Tokyo, and what to do best.


Photo Credit to http://www.thestar.com.my/


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