May 23, 2018
On Sunday, May 13, APU Japanese-language teachers, in cooperation with Beppu’s International Plaza and Beppu City Hall, held the second-ever Disaster Preparedness Walk. Around 80 participants, both APU international students and Beppu citizens, joined the event.
Inspired by the aftermath of the 2016 earthquakes that struck Kumamoto and Oita, instructors at APU’s Center for Language Education created the event based on surveys conducted in Beppu. The event’s goal is to better prepare both APU students and local people in the event of a natural disaster, as well as strengthen the connection between people living in Beppu. The event also allows both local citizens and international students to better know the area. In December 2017, the first iteration of the event saw almost 60 people walk from Beppu Station disaster shelters along an evacuation route to Beppu City Hall.
For this month’s event, APU Plaza Oita marked the starting point. Officials from Beppu City began by giving a brief talk on natural disaster preparedness. Participants then broke down into 19 groups, mixing APU international students with Beppu locals. Using maps provided by Beppu City that contained evacuation routes, the groups walked to disaster shelters making sure to pay attention to signs indicating sea level and tsunami shelter buildings.
After reaching the destination at a community center, groups discussed what they noticed along the evacuation route, then presented their observations and opinions to the other participating groups. One group stated, “It was hard to see the names of buildings that are designated as tsunami shelters, and it was hard to recognize if the building you are looking at is the same as the one on the map.” Another group mentioned that “many of the roads on the evacuation route are quite narrow, and it would be difficult to evacuate along that route by car.”
Organizers have invited disaster preparedness experts for a future event to be held in October. More events are planned to continue the association’s efforts to connect international students with Beppu locals and better prepare everyone to stay safe during natural disasters.