Tokyo has recently been involved in a spate of natural disasters  causing widespread disruption; this resulted in many tourists being isolated and having limited access to information.  Tokyo is due to host the Summer Olympics in less than nine months, therefore it’s necessary to understand that certain risks do exist and be prepared to take responsibility for your own personal security.

Japan is affected by earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons quite often.  The country is fixed along the most active earthquake belt in the world, making it more prone to natural disasters.   The location of Tokyo makes it particularly vulnerable to earthquakes due to its geological formation.  However,  most of Tokyo’s earthquakes go unnoticedand the Japanese now see them as a way of life.

If visiting Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics Tokyo it will be important to have a plan in place just in case the worst case scenario occurs.   Earthquakes are impossible to detect which makes it important to know how to respond to better increase your chances of survival if ever unfortunate enough to be caught in one.

Earthquake Response Drills

To increase your chance of survival you need to respond immediately.  If you are indoors, stay indoors. Tokyo’s infrastructure and seismic technologies are the most resilient in the world, they are designed to absorb the shock.  Drop to the floor and protect your head, if possible, use a piece of furniture for cover, or position where objects cannot fall on you.  Hold your position even after the earthquake is finished, most quakes last less than 10 seconds but many injuries occur during the aftershock phase.  When it’s safe to move, consider moving outside and making your way to the nearest evacuation point or safe area, primarily where there is less risk of items falling on you.

If an earthquake occurs while you are outside, stay outside, and the principles are generally the same.  Move away from anything that could fall on you.  If possible, stay in open terrain, drop to the ground and protect your head.  Don’t move until it’s safe, then make your way to the nearest evacuation or safety point. When you have a few minutes to gather your thoughts, think about communication with family, colleagues or anyone you are traveling with to initiate dialogue. Start planning where you are going to spend the next 24-48hrs and try to secure food and water.

Tsunami Response Drills

If you are near the sea and you feel an earthquake or see large waves moving towards land, get to high ground immediately.  Most high-risk countries have evacuation signs in place and early warning sirens, but an early warning may not happen, especially if the earthquake’s epicentre is close by.  Be proactive don’t wait to be told to move.  Tsunamis can last for hours, stay on high ground until you are cleared to move by a local authority.  Many people were killed, during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami when they returned to the beach before it was over.


Typhoon season in Japan runs between May and October.  Tokyo is mostly unaffected by the storms due to its unique underground flooding infrastructure, designed to mitigate damage.  However, the effects Typhoon Hagibis had on transportation lines within Tokyo caused a lot of problems for tourists this year.  The Disaster Prevention Portal has been designed in preparation for the 2020 Olympics, get familiar with the information before you travel.

Travel Safety Training 

If you want to know more about personal safety when traveling, the ExploreSecure® eLearning security courses are designed by security professionals with extensive experience in personal safety and surviving extreme and challenging environments and incidents. Our team stems from specialist backgrounds including the UK Government and Special-Forces and our coveted system focuses on pro-active avoidance measures.

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Olympic Security:

ETS Risk Management provides security, transportation and risk management services to organizations and individuals for Olympic programs, hospitality programs, and VIP itineraries. We have a local team of security and drivers, as well as an experienced group of UK and US operators with extensive Olympic security experience. ETS has provided Olympic Security services to Tier One Sponsors, athletes and UHNWIs at the last three Olympic Games.

This article was written by Naomi Robb of ExploreSecure®