«by: MA. ALETHA A. NOGRA Civil Def fense Offic III cer Office of Civil D e Defense-Departmen of Natio Defen nt onal nse R Republic o the Philippines ...»
When a disaster occurs or is imminent, it is advised that residents may start evacuating on their own. The mayor of the municipality may also issue n evacuation order or instruction. However, it is effective for municipalities to prepare beforehand, a manual explaining the criteria regarding disaster situations that require the issuance of evacuation orders or instructions which would help the mayor to decide quickly in times of disasters or emergencies. The Cabinet Office, in cooperation with relevant ministries, published the “Guidelines for Producing a Decision and Dissemination Manual for Evacuation Orders and Instructions” in 2005.
Measures for People Requiring Assistance during Disasters have been undertaken by the Cabinet Office in 2005 with the publication of the “Guidelines for Evacuation Support of People Requiring Assistance During Disaster” to be implemented at the municipal level. This is in view of the aging society and the increasing number of the elderly being killed or injured by disasters and with considerations for assistance to physically impaired and to those who require special assistance. The guidelines contain i) improving the information communication system; ii) sharing of information concerning people requiring assistance during disaster; iii) creating a tangible evacuation support plan for them; iv) assistance at the evacuation centers; and v) collaboration among related organizations. Tangible countermeasures include the issuance of information regarding the early evacuation of people requiring assistance and sharing such information among related disaster management and social welfare organizations.
In order to promote various drills and exercises nationwide, the Central Disaster Management Council sets forth an annual “Comprehensive Disaster Reduction Drills Plan,” that stipulates the basic principles for executing the drills and outlines the comprehensive disaster reduction drills carried out by the national government in September 1st is the cooperation with local governments and relevant organizations.
Disaster Reduction Day in Japan and wide-area, large scale disaster reduction drills are conducted in every region across the country in collaboration with disaster-related organizations. In recent years, practical method of disaster reduction drill like impromptu role-playing was introduced but participants are not given any information beforehand.
On disaster response, the national government collects disaster information at the Cabinet Information Collection Center 24 hours a day, and at the time of large-scale disaster, the designated emergency response team comprised of the director-generals of the respective ministries and agencies gather immediately at the Crisis Management Center in the Prime Minister’s Office to grasp and analyze the disaster situation and report to the Prime Minister. Inter-ministerial meetings at the ministerial or high-ranking senior official level are held to decide basic response policies if necessary.
Depending on the level of the damage, the government may establish a Major Disaster Management Headquarters, headed by the Minister of State for Disaster Management, or an Extreme Disaster Management Headquarters headed by the Prime Minister. A government investigation team headed by the Minister of State for Disaster Management may be dispatched, or an on-site disaster management headquarters may be established.
In the case of large-scale disasters that exceed the response capabilities of the affected local government, various wide-area support mechanisms are mobilized the National Police Agency (Inter-prefectural Emergency Rescue Unit), Fire and Disaster Management Agency (Emergency Fire Rescue Team), and Japan Coast Guard. The Self-Defense Forces can be dispatched for emergency response activities upon request from the governor of the affected prefectural government. A wide-area medical transportation system for dispatching disaster medical assistance teams (DMAT) and ambulance parties for transporting seriously injured people to disaster management base hospitals outside the disaster-stricken area is being developed.
The recovery and rehabilitation of disaster-stricken areas focuses on providing support to help rebuild the normal livelihoods of the affected population as quickly and smoothly as possible. Restoring public facilities while giving consideration to mitigating future disasters so that affected communities can be made more resilient and have fundamental conditions for sustainable development. In the case of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995, integrated reconstruction measures with multi-sectoral collaboration were employed through the establishment of the Headquarters for Reconstruction of the Hanshin-Awaji Area headed by the Prime Minister. This was followed by the establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Committee for Reconstruction of the Hanshin-Awaji Area in 2000. The Mt. Usu Eruption in 2000 and the Niigata-ken Chuetsu Earthquake in 2004 prompted the establishment of inter-ministerial recovery and rehabilitation committees where ministries and agencies work together on disaster recovery and rehabilitation, taking into account the opinions of those in the disaster-stricken areas thus, community participation was highly observed.
Livelihood support system for disaster victims is implemented as guided by the Act on Support for Livelihood Recovery of Disaster Victims in 1998. According to this Act, funds of up to one million yen per household, for buying necessary household goods and belongings are available, subject to given circumstances, to victims whose houses are severely damaged by a natural disaster and who have great difficulty in restoring their self supporting livelihoods due to economic and other reasons. The Act was further revised in 2004 to include the establishment of a support system for ensuring stable residences with assistance of up to two million yen to stabilize living conditions such as tearing down collapsed houses. The system is later on applied for cases of damage assessment of houses inundated by flood. To a larger extent, there are eight major areas covered by the disaster recovery and rehabilitation measures. 1) On disaster recovery project, the recovery of damaged public infrastructure facilities, educational facilities, welfare facilities, agricultural, forestry, and fishery is either conducted directly by the national government or put into practice by the local government with subsidies from the national government; 2) on disaster relief loans, persons engaged in the agriculture, forestry, or fishery industries, small and medium enterprises and low-income people who incurred damage are eligible for a variety of low-interest loans and more generous conditions; 3) on disaster compensation and insurance, affected persons engaged in agriculture, forestry or fishery business can obtain compensation for disaster losses through the earthquake insurance system which has been established by the national government; 4) on tax reduction measures, affected persons, there are measures for reduction, exemption, and postponed collection of income and residential taxes; 5) for affected local governments, there are measures for delivery of special tax allocations and permission to issue local bonds; 6) for extremely severe disasters, there are special measures to be taken for disaster recovery projects; 7) assistance for the rehabilitation plan of local governments are provided when necessary; and 8) support for the livelihood recovery of disaster victims for supporting their self-supporting efforts are provided through disaster condolence money, disaster impediment sympathy money, money for support of livelihood recovery of disaster victims and loans such as disaster relief funds and livelihood welfare funds.
On a more proactive stance, several earthquake countermeasures against large earthquakes have been formulated such as the Countermeasures against Tokai earthquake, Tonankai and Nankai Earthquakes, Trench-type Earthquakes in the vicinity of Japan and Chisima Trenches, and Tokyo Inland earthquakes.
The Central Disaster Management Council drafted an Urgent Countermeasures
Guidelines for Promoting the Earthquake-proofing of Houses and Buildings in 2005 which states that earthquake-proofing throughout the country should be urgently and strongly enforced in cooperation with related ministries as a national priority. The subsidy system that provides financial support to promote earthquake proofing diagnosis and retrofit has been expanded with tax reduction measures to promote earthquake proofing retrofit of residences and commercial buildings.
Tsunami countermeasures have been established with the JMA to issue tsunami warning advisory within 2-3 minutes after the quake and follow up with announcement about the estimated height and arrival time of tsunami. The information is transmitted immediately to disaster management organizations and media outlets and further disseminated to the residents and maritime vessels. Tsunami countermeasures also include expediting the announcement or transmission of tsunami forecasts and improving coastal and tidal embankments and tide prevention gates. Guidelines for the creation of a tsunami hazard map, and designation and development of tsunami evacuation buildings by local governments have been formulated and disseminated by the Cabinet Office in cooperation with concerned ministries.
There are also countermeasures for active volcanoes with JMA to monitor and observe volcanic activities through seismometers installed. A Coordinating Committee for the Prediction of Volcanic Eruptions was created and is composed of scholars and related organizations. This committee is tasked to make comprehensive decisions during volcanic eruptions. The committee is also tasked to promote research on volcanic predictions. Further, an Act on Special Measures for Active Volcanoes serves as basis for designation of areas for urgent improvement to serve as evacuation facilities.
Hazard map on 37 active volcanoes have been prepared and the Mt Usu eruption in 2000 experience showed that 16,000 residents were able to evacuate in an orderly manner with JMA issuing alert two days before the eruption. Furthermore, the Basic Framework for Wide-Area Countermeasures against Mt. Fuji Volcano Disaster was formulated by the Central Disaster Management Council in 2006.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) and other relevant organizations install and maintain seismometers that are used for estimating the location of the epicenter and magnitude of an earthquake as well as for tsunami forecasts, and seismic intensity meters that measure the intensity of ground motion in numerous paces nationwide. As soon as an earthquake occurs in or around Japan, the JMA analyzes the date from various seismometers and seismic intensity meters. Within about two minutes, it issues a seismic intensity information report for earthquakes of intensity 3 or greater, and within about five minutes, an information report indicating the epicenter and magnitude of the earthquake and the seismic intensity in the municipalities where strong shaking was observed. For earthquake countermeasures, a Policy Framework or a master plan of a range of activities from preventive measures to post-disaster response and recovery. There is also an Earthquake Disaster Reduction Strategy for damage mitigation and strategic targets based on damage estimation. Guidelines for Emergency Response Activities serve as guide for actions to be taken by related organizations. The Act on Special Measures for Large-scale Earthquakes is for intensified measures against the Tokai Earthquake and large-scale earthquakes.
Under this Act, the observation system has been reinforced and the earthquake response system in the case of prediction report being announced has been developed.
The Central Disaster Management Council also drew up the Earthquake Countermeasures Basic Plan for basic policies for actions to be taken in response to warning declaration. Relevant organizations have their own respective plans to carry out accordingly. Local governments carry out urgent projects to improve facilities for mitigating possible damage of Tokai Earthquake based on their respective plans so there is an increase in national government subsidies and fiscal measures for local governments based on the Special Financial Measures for Urgent Earthquake Countermeasure Improvement Projects in Areas for Intensified Measures.
JMA observes meteorological phenomena that cause storm and flood disasters through the Automated Meteorological Data Acquisition System (AMeDAS) that automatically measures rainfall, air temperature and wind direction/speed. There are also weather radars as well as geostationary meteorological satellites for forecasts and warnings.
On the other hand, the rainfall and water level in the rivers are observed by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport together with prefectural governments utilizing visual observation methods, mechanical observation equipment, and a wireless telemeter system that transmits automatically observed data from remote locations.
Flood forecasts and water level information are provided utilizing the internet and mobile phones. Improving rivers and sewage system are some of the structural measures implemented to reduce damage caused by severe weather disasters. Non-structural measures such as preparing hazard maps and providing disaster information are being promoted in an integrated manner. Warning and evacuation system of possible flood inundation areas and landslide prone areas have been developed as non-structural measures also in accordance with the Flood Control Act and the Act on Promotion of Sediment Disaster Countermeasures for Sediment Disaster Prone Areas. The two laws were amended in 2005 to intensify measures and to incorporate in the municipal disaster management plans including the familiarization of hazard maps and the identification of methods to disseminate disaster information especially to the areas and facilities for those who require assistance such as the elderly people. According to the Flood Control Act the designation and publication of the possible inundation areas in the basins of 248 major rivers and 940 medium to small rivers are a must and municipalities concerned must promote the preparation and dissemination of flood hazard maps.