Disaster prep is urgently important in era of pandemic, global warming

In recent years, in addition to earthquakes, there has been increasing concern about typhoons and torrential rains causing more severe disasters. Considering the novel coronavirus spreading as well, it is essential to be prepared for complex disasters.

On Disaster Prevention Day (Sept. 1), just as last year, many local governments around the country canceled or downsized their emergency drills for the sake of preventing coronavirus infections. It is vital to think about what can be done at our homes or workplaces, even without physically going to the sites of emergency drills. It is necessary to take this opportunity to check the items on hand to be used in time of emergency and also to confirm potential evacuation routes on foot.

Under the current circumstances, if a natural disaster such as an earthquake or flood occurs, the coronavirus will inevitably make it a complex disaster. It is necessary to prepare for natural disasters under the assumption that the damage will become even more serious.

To avoid crowding in evacuation centers, it is effective to evacuate separately and relocate to hotels or acquaintances’ homes at an early time. If there is a stock of water and food, staying on the upper floors of an apartment building is an option.

In many cases, the best-before dates of emergency food stored in case of disasters may have passed. Recently, the rolling food stockpile method has also been spreading as a way of constantly updating disaster food supplies, such as retort pouch and instant food, in which old food stock is regularly replaced with new items by consuming the old food stock little by little before their best-before dates.

It is important to consider disaster prevention measures suitable for each household and area on a daily basis.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has designated 39 Michi-no-Eki roadside rest areas in various parts of the country as bases for disaster response and reconstruction. The ministry plans to facilitate the purchase of stockpiles and the building of solar power generation facilities at the designated roadside rest areas. It needs to have these roadside areas hold repeated drills so that they will be able to function in emergencies as the bases for disaster response, with a focus on other aspects of preparedness, such as securing traffic routes from the areas.

Heavy rain disasters are increasing due to global warming. This summer, a mudslide occurred in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, killing many people. Record rainfall was observed over a wide range of areas centering on western Japan, and rivers overflowed in various places.

Three years ago, a ship was swept away by a typhoon and collided with a bridge connecting the mainland to the island housing Kansai Airport, forcing the airport to close completely. It is important for companies to constantly review their business continuity plans in the event of a disaster, on the assumption that unexpected events could occur.

Currently, with medical care services under strain due to the expansion of the coronavirus pandemic, patients cannot be hospitalized immediately. If natural disasters take place under such circumstances, the medical care system will inevitably collapse. It is absolutely necessary to consider, on a daily basis, how to build a medical care system that can respond to emergencies.

To create a disaster-resistant society, it is important for the central and local governments, electric power companies and other entities to cooperate closely with each other. Ten years have passed since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. An earthquake directly beneath the Tokyo metropolitan area or an earthquake in the Nankai Trough could occur at any time. Lessons learned from the past must be used for future disaster prevention.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sept. 2, 2021.