The Japan Association for Fire Science and Engineering has reported that out of 239 fires caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, about half, or 122 cases, were electrical fires caused by electrical appliances or switchboards.
The report, covered by the Chicago Tribune this month, highlights the importance of installing seismometric circuit breakers that automatically cut off electricity when quakes are detected.
The association compiled the findings in November last year, collecting questionnaires from 291 fire department headquarters that had received disaster damage reports. The association paid special attention to the 122 cases of electrical fires that made up 51% of the fires caused by the quake. About 100 of these cases are believed to have occurred due to incidents such as flammable items like towels falling onto electric heaters or falling objects switching on electrical appliances, the Tribune reported.
In the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, fires that broke out after the restoration of electric power were a problem because fires were triggered by electrical appliances that people had forgotten to turn off when they evacuated their homes. The recent survey shows that the risk of electrical fires from an unbroken power supply cannot be disregarded, however.
The installation rate of seismometric circuit breakers, which are effective safeguards against fire regardless of whether power is on or off, was a mere 6.6% in a 2013 survey by the Cabinet Office.