New Earthquake Emergency Shelters

Earlier this year, Mike McKinlay and I went to to the Gifu Prefecture Regional Disaster Management Center to try out the earthquake simulator. Being the only visitors all day (and introducing ourselves as big-time Canadian bloggers), the staff treated us like royalty! We were given a personal tour of the facility and they even filmed us trembling like little girls on the simulator.

A ground-shaking experience

The Earthquake simulator! The earthquake simulator, which went up to the maximum Shindo 7, was quite an experience. Japan’s Shindo is a measurement of intensity at a given location, whereas the Richter scale used in the West measures magnitude of an earthquake at its epicenter. Mike will be posting the videos on his own blog soon, along with his lame attempts to escape a burning house rocked by an earthquake in a virtual reality game. Update: Here’s Mike’s post.

The 150,000 yen cardboard box

On our tour of the management disaster center, we were shown the latest and greatest in modern emergency shelters – a cardboard box puzzle house called the Octagon.

Although there’s no mention of price on the manufacturer’s website, we were told you can buy this fantastic new solution to short-term housing problems for 150,000 yen. I asked whether the management disaster staff had already bought one for their own families, but they admitted the price was too high and should an earthquake occur they’d come down to the center to borrow one! I told them I quite understood, and that I would be racing here for my own cardboard house so they better be quick!

They then proceeded to talk us through the construction of the Octagon…

Emergency Shelter

STEP 1 – Grab your cardboard box puzzle house

There are two boxes weighing 41 kilograms each. The instructions recommend two people carry each box.

Step 1

STEP 2 – Find a somewhere to put it

You’ll need a 6m x 6m area, preferably flat, before you can build your new “compact house”.

Step 2

STEP 3 – Slot the panels together

For a nation that grew up with origami, putting this thing together is a doddle.

Step 3

STEP 4 – Put the roof on

You don’t need any special tools, just tape the roof on and you’re done. If there are three of you, you’ll have the house finished in about three hours.

Step 4

STEP 5 – Move the house

Now that the house is finished you can move it… quite how I’m not too sure. Like the guys in the instructions it might be best to just leave it where you built it.

Step 5

STEP 6 – Make a floor

If you flatten out the cases that contained the puzzle, you should have enough cardboard to cover the floor. It’s the equivalent of 6.5 tatami mats which is a reasonable size to live in.

Step 6

STEP 7 – Walk around inside

This critical step involves walking around inside the “tent” so you familiarize yourself with the height and don’t bump your head on the cardboard. The lowest part of the ceiling is 1.5m, and the highest is 2.2m, high enough for even Mike to stand up straight in. Apparently, there’s room for a family of five in this cardboard house, which sounds like a very tight squeeze to me.

Step 7

STEP 8 – Waterproof it!

The final step involves covering the house with waterproof sheets. With care, the cardboard tent will last six months, but you’re advised not to use it in heavy rainfall or strong winds (not that you’d have much choice). They do encourage you to cut out some windows, and when you’re finished, you can recycle the whole house!

Step 8

Stop by for a cuppa tea

The emergency cardboard puzzle house is awesome, just like camping in a tent. Mike and I had a cup of tea and wondered how much cheaper an actual tent would be…

Nick in a cardboard tent

Mike in a cardboard tent

Preparing for the big one

If you are worried about the big earthquake which is supposed to be coming sometime in the next 10,000 years, do yourself a favor and buy a cardboard box puzzle house! If you can read Japanese, go to Sago Mokuzai for more information. There’s also a FAQ worth reading. One question asks whether the Octagon comes with a toilet, and while I was hoping for a more creative answer involving constructing a toilet out of leftover cardboard, the answer is an honest, “No, it doesn’t come with a toilet”.

If you fancy riding the Shindo-7 earthquake simulator, find one in your area here (Japanese).

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

12 thoughts on “New Earthquake Emergency Shelters

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  2. We could do with the cardboard houses here. We have had a few earthquakes here over the last few years, admittedly not big ones but you never know what might happen in the future. I can also see them being erected to house the homeless. They could pop up all over London, in the parks and on the riverbank. How much are they in pounds,Nick?

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