New Tsunami Warning Signal – “Orange Flag”Leave the ocean and flee to safety
Summit held to promote awareness
An orange flag near the beach means a tsunami is coming – leave the ocean!
The Nippon Foundation and Bosai Girl, a Tokyo-based NGO that is operating the Orange Flag project for tsunami warnings and evacuation, held a tsunami preparedness summit in Tokyo on October 20, bringing together roughly 70 representatives of organizations working in this field. There are 139 cities, towns, and villages in Japan that are designated as areas for reinforced countermeasures in the event of tsunami triggered by an earthquake in the Nankai Trough off the Pacific coast of Japan. The summit announced its own ranking evaluating these municipalities’ countermeasures, and featured presentations on project activities and successful examples. There were also discussions on human resource development, fund procurement, and other issues to be addressed going forward.
Bosai Girl was accredited as an NGO in March 2015, and launched the #beORANGE project, based on the theme of orange being the tsunami warning color, together with The Nippon Foundation in June 2016. This summit was part of The Nippon Foundation’s Umi-to-Nippon Project (The Ocean and Japan Project), which aims to pass on the importance of the ocean to the next generation. The October event was named #beORANGE Summit 2017, and was held in advance of the UN’s World Tsunami Awareness Day on November 5, as an opportunity to learn and think about tsunami together.
An orange flag can easily be seen against the backdrop of the ocean, and when one is raised on a designated tsunami evacuation building or tower, provides an easy-to-understand direction for where to evacuate. As people leave the ocean and the beach, they can visually confirm where the evacuation place is located, and flee directly to the safe location in a building or tower that is flying the flag. The #beOrange project is carrying out public awareness activities and distributing flags to promote the visualization of safe places, to alert people who are in the ocean or cannot otherwise hear warnings issued via loudspeakers.
Misaki Tanaka, who founded and leads Bosai Girl, commented, “We started Bosai Girl to spread tsunami response measures that could be understood by visitors from overseas and persons with difficulty hearing. By our own count, we now have more than 400 orange flags in place in 70 municipalities across Japan. We also have hand flags that can be waved by someone on the beach to warn people in the ocean that a tsunami is coming, and they need to come ashore quickly.” She added, “I am confident that this project will raise the level of disaster preparedness in Japan and around the world. I hope more people will work with us as we move forward.”
In light of the concern regarding a major earthquake in the Nankai Trough, the government has designated 139 cities, towns, and villages from Chiba to Kagoshima prefectures for reinforced countermeasures. The #beORANGE project has evaluated and ranked these municipalities in terms of the planning and procedures they have in place (excluding physical infrastructure), and Takashi Onoda, a lawyer who works with Bosai Girl, announced that the No. 1 municipality was the town of Hayama in Kanagawa Prefecture, followed by Kyonan town on the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture at No. 2, and the city of Hyuga in Miyazaka Prefecture at No. 3.
Mr. Onoda explained, “We did not compile the ranking to criticize the municipalities that do not have countermeasures in place, but rather to recognize those that had made superior preparations, so that they would become more widely known. It is also important to remember that this used a simple scoring based only on each municipality’s disaster response plans, and had no academic purpose. In addition to what the local governments are doing on their own, many have quality programs in place through public-private sector cooperation, and it is important to remember that these efforts are not included in the scoring.” He also called on all of these local governments to learn from the experience of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and share information and learn from each other as they put countermeasures in place.
Toy Takeda, a sophomore at the University of Miyazaki who has been active in the project, gave a report on his local #beORANGE group’s activities. Satoshi Nagasaki, an official in the city of Kamakura’s disaster countermeasure division, which this year decided to install 250 orange flags, reported on activities in Kamakura. The main items of discussion included public relations, human resources, and fundraising as issues to overcome, and how to expand orange flag activities.
The Nippon Foundation