Disaster drill conducted in Yokohama’s Landmark Tower

A disaster drill was conducted Friday at the Landmark Tower in Yokohama in an effort to gain a better understanding of how emergency services responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

The drill, organized by the nonprofit Crisis Management Preparedness Organization, was based on the premise that an airplane had slammed into the skyscraper, which is the tallest building in Japan.

Around 160 people participated in the drill, including firefighters from the Tokyo Metropolitan Fire Department and other fire departments, local city government officials, and corporate employees whose offices are located in the 70-story building.

Disabled volunteers also participated in the drill. On the premise that an aircraft had struck between the 60th and 65th floors, participants separated into eight groups and tried to make their way to the ground from different floors via one staircase.

Another group comprising rescue workers made its way up the building and tried to evacuate everyone.

It took 52 minutes for all of the participants to arrive at the first floor, according to the organization.

“It was faster than expected, but it would take more time in an actual disaster due to crowding and confusion on the stairs,” said organization worker Kaori Hirago.

Takeshi Morita, an expert on disaster prevention who has researched procedures used at the World Trade Center, said drills of this kind are not often conducted inside Japanese skyscrapers. He said people should have a greater sense of awareness regarding disaster prevention.

While vehicles for disabled people similar to those used in the World Trade Center evacuation were used in the Yokohama drill, some firefighters carried one participant in a wheelchair all the way down from the 47th floor.

“At least four people are necessary to carry a person in a wheelchair. But it’s heavy and would be very tough for ordinary people to do,” said Fumio Okada, a firefighter from Sakura, Chiba Prefecture.

Okada said vehicles of this kind would be a great help in an evacuation scenario and should be installed in all tall buildings.