20% of fire stations at risk of collapse in major earthquake

October 07, 2013

By ATSUSHI TAKAHASHI/ Staff Writer

Hundreds of fire stations, their headquarters or branches may not be up to the challenge of providing firefighting and rescue operations in a major earthquake, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

It said that out of 6,415 facilities nationwide, those that do not meet quake-resistance standards or whose quake resistance remained unconfirmed accounted for 21.2 percent, or 1,360, as of March 2012.

This raises the possibility that those buildings will collapse in an earthquake with a seismic intensity of upper 5 or higher on the Japanese scale of seven.

A major concern is that fires will break out in many locations simultaneously if an anticipated mega-quake strikes along the Nankai Trough off the Pacific coast or immediately below the Tokyo metropolitan area.

In the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, 27 fire stations and branches in three prefectures were destroyed or damaged.

According to the agency, the ratio of quake-resistant fire headquarters, fire departments and branches was less than 70 percent in 15 prefectures.

The ratio was particularly low in the Tohoku and Chugoku regions. By prefecture, Yamagata was the lowest at 41.4 percent, followed by Fukushima’s 54.3 percent and Yamaguchi’s 59.5 percent.

The ratio was relatively high in the Tokai region and the Tokyo metropolitan area, where mega-quakes are predicted. Aichi Prefecture was the highest at 94.4 percent, followed by Kanagawa’s 93.6 percent and Tokyo’s 93.5 percent.

The nationwide average was 78.8 percent, compared with 83.7 percent for educational facilities, such as school buildings and gymnasiums, and 77.4 percent for medical facilities.

Cities, towns and villages are responsible for improving the quake resistance of fire stations.

The ratio of quake-resistant facilities differs from one municipality to another depending on local risk awareness as well as local government finances, according to the agency.

It has not published the ratio for each prefecture but disclosed the figures in response to an Asahi Shimbun inquiry. It plans to release the statistics as of March by year-end.

By ATSUSHI TAKAHASHI/ Staff Writer
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A water tower truck at a fire station in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

A water tower truck at a fire station in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • A water tower truck at a fire station in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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