Disaster Response Forum in ShizuokaIdentifying response capabilities that communities need now
Ensuring that damage is not compounded at shelters

The Nippon Foundation and Shizuoka Prefecture held a forum on March 14 in Shizuoka City to share information on local governments’ response capabilities for the support of victims in the event of a disaster, and to consider concrete ways to respond with effective support going forward.

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The forum venue

Working with Shizuoka Prefecture to facilitate rapid and effective support

The Nippon Foundation, the Shizuoka Prefectural Government, the Shizuoka Prefecture Social Welfare Council, and the Shizuoka Volunteer Association concluded an agreement for disaster support in June 2015. The agreement puts in place a framework that, in the event of a disaster, will allow for the mutual use of each organization’s specialist expertise to facilitate rapid and effective support through public-private sector cooperation. This year’s disaster response forum was held in Shizuoka Prefecture based on this agreement, and was attended by approximately 160 people.

Mitsuaki Aoyagi, Senior Program Director of The Nippon Foundation’s Social Innovation Team and coordinator of disaster prevention and response activities, began the forum with a report on the Foundation’s activities to date, noting, “In addition to reporting on our activities over the past year and the issues involved, I would like to raise the issues of how to avoid adverse effects on people living in evacuation shelters, and how the government and local communities can work together. I’m sure you have many interests in common, and I hope this can be a starting point for further action.”

From Kobe to Kumamoto

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Taro Tamura of the Institute for Human Diversity Japan

Next, Taro Tamura, representative director of the Institute for Human Diversity Japan and an advisor to the Reconstruction Agency, gave a presentation titled “Major Disasters and Social Change – From Kobe to Kumamoto,” in which he reviewed how support activities have changed over the period from the Kobe earthquake of 1995 to the series of earthquakes that struck in Kumamoto and surrounding prefectures in April 2016. He pointed out that from 1995 to 2010, the number of 18-year-olds in Japan declined by more than 30%, while the number of people 75 and older roughly doubled. This trend continues, and means that disaster prevention and response must change accordingly. As examples, the students who volunteered or worked for pocket money on reconstruction after the Kobe earthquake are now adults with families to support, and preventing additional harm to people living in evacuation shelters has received little attention in the past, but will become a bigger issue in the future. He also urged citizens to take the lead in disaster preparedness, rather than relying on the government. Mr. Tamura was joined by Ryo Ijichi, also from the Institute for Human Diversity Japan, who described the confusion immediately after the Kumamoto earthquakes in the town of Mashiki, which experienced some of the most severe damage, and stressed the importance of advance planning, preparations, and drills.

Panel discussion – advance planning is key

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The panel discussion

These speakers were followed by a panel discussion on the subject of what communities are looking for in disaster response capabilities today. The panelists were Shizuyo Yoshimura, who has been involved with community building and disaster response organizations and was a community organizer in an evacuation shelter and temporary housing complex in Mashiki following the Kumamoto earthquakes; Junko Murano, of the City Planning Department of Beppu, Oita Prefecture; Kiyoshi Tachibana, of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications; and Toshiyuki Chikushi, a disaster management official with the Shizuoka Prefectural Government. Mr. Aoyagi of The Nippon Foundation moderated the discussion.

Ms. Yoshimura, who lived in an evacuation shelter for four months, described some of the issues the residents faced and how they addressed them. Emergency exits and evacuation routes were needed because of the large number of people who were living there, and dividers were set up to allocate space for activities including a play area and a study area for children, and a group dining area. Ms. Murano is involved with creating specific support planning models, and stressed the importance of identifying in advance who in the community would require support in the event of a disaster, and who would be able to provide support, noting that as soon as evacuees enter a shelter there will be some who need assistance. Mr. Tachibana explained measures being taken at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications to ensure that non-Japanese residents, older residents, and others who require special information in the event of a disaster receive the information they need. Mr. Chikushi described the various measures being implemented to strengthen Shizuoka Prefecture’s disaster preparedness.

The Nippon Foundation has been coordinating with various NGOs and local governments in carrying out drills and training since October 2012, with the goal of preventing additional hardship for persons living in evacuation shelters and reducing the number of deaths. Since the Kumamoto earthquakes, we have been carrying out research and surveys of people living in evacuation shelters and temporary housing, and of people who have already moved into new houses. We will incorporate these findings in our disaster response activities going forward.

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