What's inside a Japanese quake grab bag?

Contents of a grab bag

The widespread devastation caused by Japan's earthquake and resulting tsunami has been a reminder that even a country well-prepared for such disasters cannot always avoid the brutal blows of nature.

With more than half a million people living in temporary shelters and panic-buying leaving stores empty of supplies, people are being reminded of the importance of government advice, which tells them to have a survival "grab bag" permanently at the ready.

So what sort of things should be in such an emergency kit?

The Japanese government recommends a long list of items to its citizens, but it is down to the individual to take on board the advice and prioritise what is crucial to them.

Portable toilets

Sarah Ono, who lives with her Japanese husband - a disaster specialist - and their two children in Kochi prefecture on the southern Japanese island of Shikoku, has opened up her family's three grab bags to show what she has at the ready for such emergencies.

People being evacuated after the Japan quake Thousands of Japanese people have lost their homes and belongings

"We have evacuation bags in the house and the car - fireproof bags containing first aid, coins for public phones, as usually there is a loss of mobile phone service, enough food and water for three days and also portable toilets," she explains.

Sarah's kit also contains survival equipment, such as a ground sheet and sleeping bags, a water container to fill up at temporary pumps, gloves to protect hands from broken glass, knives, torches and rope for escape.

There's also wet wipes, other sanitary products and toilet absorption powder - in case there is no supply of water - as well as communications equipment, such as a wind-up mobile phone charger and a radio to stay across the latest warnings and information.

Bracing for the 'big one'

The Onos have also installed solar panels at their home to ensure they have minimal power during cuts, and, Sarah explains, they take part in regular drills.

"We have an annual evacuation in September every year," she says. "We go to our local evacuation point and go through the procedures of what would happen in a real disaster."

And the Onos have been watching events in quake-hit northern Japan closely, because they know that one day soon, their grab bags may well be used for real.

Shikoku is braced for the "big one" - the Nankai earthquake, which hits at regular intervals, costing thousands of lives, and is expected to rock the area once again within the next few decades.

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