With fears growing that North Korea could hold a nuclear or missile test as early as Tuesday, municipalities and prefectures nationwide are responding to a government request to provide information on what to do in the event Japan is targeted.

The moves come as the Cabinet Secretariat Civil Protection Portal Site on what to do in case of a North Korean missile attack has seen a surge to about 2.6 million views this month from 450,000 in March, after beginning a gradual climb in February last year. The site offers information on how the public will be notified of an impending missile attack and what actions they should take.

But with Tokyo admitting there will likely be only about 10 minutes between the time a warning is issued and impact, those in or near the targeted area will have little time to flee to safety.

Japan has a system known as J-Alert which, under the Cabinet Secretariat, is responsible for getting the word out about an imminent missile attack. Any information will be broadcast via satellite, telephone and cyberspace to disaster management officials at the local level.

From there, local governments will relay warnings via outdoor loudspeaker systems, emergency broadcast channels on cable TV, FM radio broadcasts and cell phone alerts.

If you are outside when a warning is sounded or received, the government’s advice is to proceed calmly to the strongest concrete building you can quickly get to, or to go underground, if possible. Families in their homes are advised to stay low to the floor, take cover underneath tables and to stay away from glass windows.

At a meeting in Tokyo last week of 70 prefectural disaster and crisis officials, representatives were urged to make additional efforts to warn residents and establish their own plans. One of the first cities to respond was Osaka.

Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura, speaking on the same day as the Tokyo meeting, announced that the city will establish a response team, led by the mayor, in the event of any North Korean missile launch, nuclear test or attack on North Korea by the United States.

The city’s website recommends that, if school is in session, pupils remain in their classrooms and get under their desks.

“The team will include officials involved in crisis management as well as schools, and will discuss whether to close schools and how to get information out to city residents.”

But Yoshimura, while explaining, as requested by the central government, how the nation will be notified of a missile attack, said that there would be almost no time to respond.

“A missile may not be detected as soon as it leaves the launch pad . . . and that could take several minutes. Depending on the case, the warnings and alarms might only sound four or five minutes before a missile arrives,” Yoshimura said.

Prefectural governments, while obliging the central government’s request to pass along information on the J-Alert system, also called for legal changes last week to make evacuations easier.

These changes included new laws to make evacuation mandatory, we well as a nationwide system of drills to be held in cooperation with the Defense Ministry.

Last month, residents of Oga, Akita Prefecture, in cooperation with the central government and the prefecture, conducted an evacuation drill in response to a North Korean missile attack, the first to be held in the country.

Last August, a North Korean missile landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone at a spot about 250 km west of the Oga Peninsula.

At last week’s meeting between local officials and the central government, some prefectures suggested that new laws be passed to create a nationwide system of drills based on Oga’s experience.

For more information, in Japanese, on how the government plans to respond to a missile launch, visit www.kokuminhogo.go.jp

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