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Japan Researchers Find Cardboard Beds Remain Strong Despite Long-Term Storage in Outdoor Containers

Courtesy of Hokkaido Research Organization
Corrugated cardboard beds are placed in an experimental container in Asahikawa, Hokkaido in June 2021.

Corrugated cardboard beds, which can be used in evacuation shelters following a disaster, remain in good condition when stored long-term in outdoor containers, according to a Hokkaido research institute.

The beds are listed among necessary emergency goods in the government’s Basic Plan for Disaster Prevention, but little progress has been made in their stockpiling, primarily due to difficulties faced by local governments in securing storage sites. The latest findings could provide a fillip to the nation’s authorities in this regard.

The Asahikawa-based Hokkaido Research Organization’s Northern Regional Building Research Institute, and others, conducted an experiment in which 100 beds — each measuring about 1 meter long, 33 centimeters wide and 60 centimeters thick when stored — were placed in three containers at the institute’s parking lot from May 2021 until November last year.

Each of the containers differed slightly: No special measures were taken for the first container; the walls of the second container were lined with plywood sheets; and the walls of the third container were lined with air-permeable corrugated cardboard.

The researchers periodically sampled the beds’ moisture content. After a year and a half in storage, no condensation was detected in any of the containers and the cardbords were still in strong condition.

Stockpiling issues

Corrugated cardboard beds were used after the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011. In case of future disasters, it is hoped the beds will help prevent and hold in check the spread of so-called economy-class syndrome (a condition brought on by reduced movement named for cheap airplane seats) and infectious diseases.

The central government’s plan calls on local governments to stockpile the beds at designated evacuation centers, along with food and other emergency goods. However, securing suitable storage locations has proved challenging.

Last summer, The Yomiuri Shimbun surveyed Tokyo and 46 other prefectures, 20 ordinance-designated cities and 23 wards in Tokyo about the stockpiling and usage of cardboard beds. The results showed that 39 local governments had yet to introduce the beds, with 22 citing “difficulty in finding a storage location” as a reason.

A Kochi prefectural government official in charge of preparing for an envisaged Nankai Trough earthquake said: “Securing storage space is a common issue for many municipalities. Using containers is a very promising option.”

Concerning the use of cardboard beds in regions with high humidity, such as coastal areas of Honshu, the institute’s chief researcher, Koichi Tatematsu, said, “The beds can be stockpiled in inland and highland areas, and delivered promptly to evacuation centers by truck if a disaster occurs.”

Courtesy of Hokkaido Research Organization
A corrugated cardboard bed of the type used in the experiment