Estimates of damage published in December 2021 in the event of an earthquake on the Japan Trench, off northeast Japan, or the Chishima Trench, off eastern Hokkaido, suggest that virtually all of the human toll will come from tsunamis, with the proviso that it could be reduced by some 80 percent through early evacuations and seismic toughening of buildings2.
Early evacuation requires people to be able to get going as soon as tremors are felt and move promptly to an evacuation site. In the case of a massive earthquake such as those anticipated on the Chishima Trench or Nankai Trough, it is crucial that people take immediate action in line with preemptive earthquake information issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency.3,4
Such information notifies people of an increased likelihood of an earthquake. In areas of advanced population decline (which tend to have a high proportion of slow-moving elderly) and areas whose geography makes it hard for even people in good health to flee from a tsunami, even in normal times it is vital to always have in place plans based on preemptive information that lay out escape routes and specific actions to be taken in an emergency.
One key consideration for ensuring effective disaster readiness is to create an environment that makes false alarms tolerable should warnings be issued prematurely or by mistake. For example, this could mean having dwellings in two or more locations, each with the possibility of enjoying social interactions there. And each should be equipped so people can work from them, for instance remotely online. They would have the additional benefit of offering changes of scene, which often leads to new, enjoyable experiences. Shifts in society whereby people are free to choose where they live and connect with others, where and when they work, and how they spend time should enhance individuals’ resilience and happiness.
On the other hand, even if available such an environment would be of little value to people without the good health needed to enjoy everyday life. Thus moves to extend healthy longevity abound as lifespans lengthen. People who are healthy are even more able to enjoy daily life and can evacuate under their own power in emergencies. Such is truly built-in readiness.