When the 9.0 Tohoku earthquake struck Japan in the afternoon of March 11 last year, Tokyo’s extensive subway and train routes were shut down — leaving countless Japanese workers with no way to get home. Google, like other companies, set up a temporary shelter for its employees in its Tokyo headquarters.
“The earthquake took place around 2 or 3 in the afternoon,” recalled Mak Arima, Google’s Japan country managing director. “Some people couldn’t get back home because the transportation system was down.”
Arima booked rooms in the nearby five-star Grand Hyatt Hotel for his pregnant employees. That left 100 other Googlers in need of a place to put their heads down for the night.
“We had 100 people but only 40 blankets,” said Arima, an expert in ad sales but not crisis management. “So I decided females first. The number of females were 40.”
While the women got the blankets, the men had to fend for themselves.
“Please, sleep anywhere you want!” Arima told the guys.
Of course, fending for oneself in a Google outpost isn’t too bad. Googlers camped out in a spacious and well stocked office. (As with every Google outpost, Google Japan has a lot of yummy food and drinks on hand for its hard-working staff.)
The managing director didn’t need a blanket because he spent the night with his computer.
“I didn’t sleep,” Arima said. “I checked email. I communicated with (Google HQ in) Mountain View to let them know the situation in a real-time basis.”