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How to confirm safety of important persons in times of disaster

It has been a year since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Laura, who has moved to Japan recently, asks her colleague Eileen about her experience of the disaster.

Eileen

One of the difficulties that I faced during the disaster was that I couldn’t get in touch with my family after the earthquake.
Laura
I heard that it was really hard to get through to anyone on the phone.

Eileen

The phone lines were flooded as everyone tried to make calls. The phone companies limited the phone traffic, and neither my cell nor office phone was working. That was very difficult for me. I was so worried about my husband and children until I walked back home and finally saw their faces.

Laura

Knowing that it would only make you upset to try making calls while everyone else is doing the same, it must be still very frustrating to have no means to confirm the safety of your own family. Shouldn’t there be any better ways to know if your relatives and friends are ok?

Eileen

I have learned after the disaster that there are actually special services to confirm someone’s safety that both land and mobile phone companies provide in times of disaster.

Laura

Really? What are the services like?

Eileen

The most known service of such is saigai-yo dengon dial (disaster emergency message dial). You can record and replay to share voice messages by using your land phone number as a key number. To use the service, you call “171” and follow the guidance.

Laura

That sounds very useful.

Eileen

Another available service is saigai-yo dengonban (disaster emergency message board), in which you can leave and share your messages in text. You can use your cell phone to register your message and confirm others’ messages too. If you are using a smartphone, ask your phone company if you need to download an application to use this service. In addition, saigai-yo broadband dengonban (disaster emergency broadband message board; “web171”) is also available, which is a safety confirmation system on the Internet.

Laura still seems to be a little anxious even after learning that there are various types of safety confirmation services available.

Laura

I am not sure if I could make full use of these services.
Eileen
Check the websites of the phone companies and learn more about how to use these services. Besides, they also offer trial days of each service, where you can actually use the service and experience how the service works. You might want to simulate how to use the service as a family.

Laura

That’s a good idea to have an experience trying the service at least once.
Eileen
I heard that many people used Facebook and Twitter to let others know their whereabouts during the last year’s disaster.

Laura

We would be more prepared if we are familiar with various means of communication for such emergencies.

Eileen

Some cell phone companies have started a new service to relay voice messages in times of disasters. It is a good idea to discuss with your family members and make sure everyone understands how to make contact with each other in case of disasters, which emergency shelter to go, and other important things.

Laura

I think I should rehearse and practice how to walk back home.

Eileen

I also encourage you to take part in disaster drills held in your community. You will find good information sources there.

Laura

I see. Thank you so much for your help!
Saigai-yo dengon service trail day
  • *1st and 15th days of every month
  • *New Year holidays (January 1 to January 3)
  • *Disaster preparedness and volunteer week (January 15 to January 21)
  • *Disaster preparedness week (August 30 to September 5)
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Disaster Prevention information site Message services during a disaster
http://www.bousai.metro.tokyo.jp/english/e-message/index.html