Today is disaster prevention day in Japan. September 1st was the day the Great Kanto Earthquake devastated Tokyo in 1923 and so every year this day is used to practise evacuations and disaster management plans throughout Japan.
This year what with the Tohoku Earthquake fresh in everyone's minds thinks were ramped up considerably in the emergency drill department.
The school decided to drill the mass evacuation of all students. This involves every student being released to a parent or grandparent ("where neither parent is available any immediate relative older than high school age will suffice") from the school oval.
So, 800+ students being released at the same time. Madness enoough.
But wait, there's more!
We have to pretend the roads are all a mess and we can't drive to the school. So the parents are supposed to walk to school to get their kids.
Only this is a really big school district. Many kids are bussed in as they live too far to walk. Thinking that the mums (and it was mostly mums) are going to hike 5km+ in the heat and humidity for a role play exercise was wishful thinking and I guess word got out that there were some rebels in the ranks as a series of stern (wavy lines and bold font and all) letters were issued reminding us that this was serious and teachers would be patrolling to ensure nobody parked near the school, the gym, 7-11, the roads near the school, gym and 7-11 and basically anywhere close to the school at all.
I guess some people felt they were exempt from the drill as they used after school care (when there have been real emergencies- well sudden dismissals of students due to bear sightings or thunderstorms- all the after school care kids were released to the staff there) so another note came home saying the after school care centre would be closed and all school buses cancelled.
You will participate in this drill and you will come and get your kid.
So, we had to be there between 2:35 and 3:15 to collect the kids. I am naughty so I parked at work and walked from there cutting out a massive hill climb from my journey. If challenged I was going to justify it by saying there's every chance I would be at work when an earthquake happened. I wasn't challenged and I ran into a number of women who had borrowed the kinder car park, and walked passed one of Meg's classmate's house which had grown four new cars over night so I guess I wasn't the only one looking for a short cut.
I arrived at school at 2:20 to this sight:
All the people you can see are the parents. What you can't see is the kids sitting down behind all the parents. The parents were in orderly lines behind witches' hats marked with the name of their kid's class. If you have more than one kid at the school you line up at the class of the oldest kid.
By 2:20- five minutes ahead of schedule, the kids were being dismissed. Older siblings walked down and brought (dragged/ pushed) their siblings up to their class and then the adults gave their names, kids' names and neighbourhood area name to the teacher and filed out of school via the back entrance (away from buildings and big rocks.)
It all ran very smoothly (save for the poor mums who had naively believed the times stated on the handout and were still making their way to school against a stream- nay onslaught- of kids and mums heading home) but it was pretty pointless in my opinion as any kind of preparation for the real thing.
I mean who is going to photocopy all the signs when the power goes out?
How many parents will be in Azusagawa when the quake happens? (If they're not in Azusagawa they will need to rely on the bridges not collapsing and roads not being impassable...)
And more than anything else, the school is a designated evacuation centre. It has that huge oval you can see with no overhanging buildings, fences or even trees. It has shelter, food and water stored there. It is right near two clinics, the police box and fire station. Why would we rush to school to take our kids away from there and back down winding and narrow concrete fenced roads to our houses?
Don't ask me. I just do what I'm told. Well most of the time.
And Amy? She came home from kinder rabbiting on about what to do when the kinder collapses and there's too much glass and broken stuff on the playground to go there. The answer- you go to the nursing home across the road as it's newer and has a big carpark. Unless of course you were in the building when it collapsed. Then you wait to be rescued as if you walk you might get hurt. Great positive stuff this, huh?