On Sunday August 10th a large and slow moving typhoon hit mainland Japan. It made landfall and crept north across the Kansai district, which is where we live. Our city, Otsu, is located in Shiga prefecture, dead centre between the Pacific ocean and the Japan Sea. Because the typhoon was slow moving, it rained heavily and for a long time, causing waterways to fill up and the potential for disaster to increase.
At 10am I received an email stating that all Shiga prefecture fire corps members were on “home standby”, which basically means that we must stay within 30 minutes of our fire hall and be prepared to go to the fire hall should we be called. At 11:00 I received an email followed by a phone call, informing me that we were being activated. Our hall works with a phone tree system, so after calling the next person below me on the tree, I suited up and headed to the hall. About 15 members were available that day and once everyone had arrived we discussed strategy and then headed out. I rode in the fire engine with 4 other members, and 3 other vehicles were used. 2 were personal cars, used for patrolling the area and checking certain high risk spots. The other vehicle was a flat bed truck piled with sandbags. Everyone communicates through cell phone and we are in constant contact with the full-time fire fighters at Otsu City Fire & Rescue South Hall and also local community centre volunteers, who send us reports from their areas.
We patrolled for about 1 hour, stopping at each of the community centres within our area to meet face-to-face with local leaders. We stopped and checked areas that had been flooded during last year’s large typhoon. At this time all was well so we returned to the fire hall and ate lunch, which the chief had ordered for us. While eating we received a call that someone’s house was being flooded so we hopped into the fire engine and headed there. This house had been flooded in last year’s typhoon and in the interim the city had dug an emergency trench should this area start to flood again. The trench was about 2 meters deep by 2 meters wide and was blocked by about 20 sandbags. It was a simple task to move the sandbags, thus redirecting the water into the new, emergency trench. After checking with the owner and local leaders we started to return to base when we received another call. The afternoon proceeded in this way, running from place to place, building sandbag walls here and there, redirecting water away from homes and into drainage ditches.
The rain let up around 4pm, we did one final patrol tour and then headed back to the hall. We cleaned ourselves off, cleaned up the hall, cleaned and dried the engine and put everything back in place and ready for next time. At 6 o’clock we were stood down by the chief and we returned home, weary but proud of the work we had done.