Japan's "Let's Stockpile Toilet Paper!" Campaign Isn't As Insane As It Sounds

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It may seem like a silly message, but Japan's "Let's Stockpile Toilet Paper!" campaign is pretty important. In conjunction with Disaster Prevention Day, the Japanese government has launched the campaign to raise awareness of a possible toilet paper shortage in the wake of future earthquakes. Yup, you read that right. Still, it makes sense: Nearly half of Japan's toilet paper is manufactured in one of the country's most earthquake-prone areas, so stockpiling it now could prevent a crisis in the future.

An industry official told the Associated Press that a toilet paper shortage could lead to an even bigger crisis. He explained that after people run out of TP, they start to use tissue paper, which clogs toilets, and in the wake of a disaster, working toilets are likely to be limited as well. Forty-one percent of Japan's toilet paper supply comes from Shizuoka prefecture, which experts predict has a higher-than-80-percent chance of being hit by a major offshore earthquake in the next 30 years. By stockpiling now, families will have an emergency inventory in case an earthquake in Shizuoka prefecture halts TP production.

Officials came up with the campaign after northern Japan's 2011 tsunami and earthquake, which led to shortages of several essentials. Under the government's Basic Disaster Management Plan, toilet paper was added to the list of recommended items to stockpile, along with food, water, and first-aid kits. It might not be the first thing you think of in the event of an emergency, but after the 2011 disaster, toilet paper disappeared from store shelves just as quickly as food and water.

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As part of the campaign, whose slogan is "Be prepared and no regrets," toilet paper producers are introducing an extra-long economy roll. At 490 feet long, a family of four should be able to live on a six-pack of the product for a month, since it lasts more than twice as long as a regular roll.

Earthquakes Closer to Home

And should we be doing the same? In August, San Franciso's Bay Area was hit with the largest earthquake the area has experienced in 25 years. The 6.1-magnitude quake left more than 100,000 residents without power and injured more than 150 people. As of Sunday, there have been about 90 aftershocks in the area, with the strongest one registering 3.9.

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By comparison, the earthquake that ravaged Japan in 2011 was the largest recorded in the country's history — and the fourth largest in the world on record — registering a magnitude of 9.0. Nearly 16,000 people were killed in the disaster, and more than 9,500 aftershocks were recorded as of March 2013.

Should We Be Preparing For "The Big One"?

Researchers predict that a "monster quake" will probably hit the U.S.'s northwest coast within the next 30 years, possibly killing more than 10,000 people.

According to researchers, the recent 6.1-magnitude quake may just be a prelude to "The Big One," which will have a predicted magnitude of 8 or greater.

Seismic prediction maps created by Quake Predictions Earthquake Forecast Center indicate that California has high chances of being hit again — so it wouldn't be a bad idea for residents to consider stockpiling essentials. Though the state is working on implementing some precautionary measures, like early warning sensors, there is no official stockpiling plan in effect. Judging by those maps, maybe we should be buying TP in bulk too.

Images: Quake Predictions Earthquake Forecast Center