Photo/Illutration A red-and-white checkered flag, shown in Tokyo on Feb. 13, will be used to evacuate hearing-impaired people on the beach when tsunami warnings are issued. (Ryunosuke Kanayama)

Starting this summer, red-and-white checkered flags will be used to warn people with hearing impairments on the beach to evacuate when tsunami warnings and other alerts are issued.

An expert panel of the Japan Meteorological Agency made the decision on Feb. 13.

The design was introduced to the panel on visual means of notifying people of the issuance of tsunami warnings and other alerts, headed by Atsushi Tanaka, professor of disaster information at University of Tokyo’s Graduate School.

The agency plans to revise ministerial ordinances by around June to include the recommendation of using flags to notify people of tsunami warnings and other alerts and to specify the design of the flag.

When alerts, such as tsunami advisories, tsunami warnings or major tsunami warnings, are issued, lifeguards and others should call on those on the beach to evacuate by waving red-and-white checkered flags.

The agency aims to encourage local governments to employ the newly designed flags starting this summer, although they will not be required to use them. 

However, the panel stipulated that a warning flag should have a rectangular shape and a red-and-white checkered pattern with the shorter sides measuring more than 100 centimeters each.

Currently, few local governments are using flags or other visual means to alert people on beaches of danger. Even among those that use flags, their designs differ.