We recently visited the Chuo Fire Bureau and wanted to share our experience with you! It is surprisingly open to the public and free. They have interactive displays and they can take you on a tour of the building which was finished just 3 years ago.
When you first walk in, you see the interactive displays which were a lot of fun. They explained and let you experience a variety of things related to fire safety. There was a 50 meter ladder truck simulator that let you control the ladder. You could challenge someone to see who could hit the target with a (model) fire extinguisher. Not to mention you can test your knowledge regarding fire safety and what to do in emergencies. (That said, everything is in Japanese).
We also got to learn about what life is like for the firefighters that work there. We were told that there are regular “office” workers and then there are shift “firefighter” workers. The regular workers have firefighting experience and now work in the office.
The rest of the firefighters work in 24 hour shifts and stay, at the ready, on the first and second floors where all the nap rooms, cafeteria, locker rooms, and all their other firefighter needs are met.
One of the firefighters cooking lunch
Fire suits at the ready just in case a call comes in
Shiny big red trucks
I just thought this one looked funny
The city is divided into many districts with 26 fire stations placed strategically throughout. The firefighters at this building mainly service the nearby areas but of course may be called to neighboring wards-or even cities like they did when the Itoigawa fires happened.
Many fire stations are also ambulance stations but despite this being the main fire bureau it doesn’t. That is because the Niigata General Hospital is not far away and it better serves as the main hub for ambulances.
Ambulance center at City general hospital
We also got to see the room they would use in the case of a large scale disaster such as an earthquake over a shindo 5.
The disaster response command center
We also got to see the 119 emergency call dispatch center for the whole of Niigata City-in action. Since personal information is shown as calls come in we were not able to take pictures of the room but here is a picture of a labeled picture of the room. It was so cool to see how much technology goes in to making the response as efficient as possible.
We were told that to make it easier for responders, make sure you (or someone around you) can say your address or clearly explain where you are, starting with the city name. Apparently, sometimes your phone signal could be picked up by a neighboring city but once they know, you can be transferred instantly.
119 call dispatch center
Once they have the location, they have sent help your way even if they are still talking to you getting more information. And of course, don’t call if it isn’t an emergency in the first place!
Firefighters practicing time trials
Practicing how to use a fire extinguisher
Then we got to go outside, practice with water filled practice fire extinguishers and see the outdoor training area which was actually in use. There is a regional time trial competition and it is actually held here so various departments brought their teams here to practice on the course.
All in all we learned that the fire department doesn’t just put out fires, but also deal with medical emergencies, emergency response (ie traffic accidents), dispatching for all of the above, search for the cause of fires using various techniques, and most importantly they promote fire prevention. They educate people about and check that businesses have smoke detectors. Thanks to them, and the the citizens of Niigata, we have the smallest number of fires of all the designated cities
It was a great place to visit. There were lots of cool things to see and learn about. I highly recommend!-if you can understand Japanese or go with someone who can.