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2013年8月30日 (金)

「特別警報」 災害の被害軽減に生かしたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 30, 2013
New system must work to reduce disaster damage
「特別警報」 災害の被害軽減に生かしたい(8月29日付・読売社説)

The Japan Meteorological Agency will start operation of an emergency warning system Friday. Emergency warnings will be issued to alert people of the significant likelihood of catastrophes associated with natural phenomena of extraordinary magnitude, such as torrential rain.

Again this summer, there have been localized downpours of heavy rain in various areas. We hope the agency will make the new system function as a means to reduce damage from natural disasters as much as possible.

The agency has so far been issuing an “advisory” when there is a significant possibility of a disaster and a “warning” when there is a strong chance of a major disaster. The new emergency warning system is designed to inform people of danger that surpasses a warning, and will be the most dangerous level of warning that the agency issues.

In case of heavy rains, an emergency warning will be issued when the agency predicts heavy rainfall with a level of intensity observed only once about every 50 years. It will also be used for storms and tsunami. The agency will ask local governments involved to take appropriate actions and simultaneously ask residents in affected areas to “immediately take all steps to protect their lives” through the media.

The agency has decided to employ the new warning system because weather, climate and earthquake information for disaster management purposes issued by the agency has not been fully utilized by the public or local governments. As a result, residents continue to fail to evacuate quickly to safety in various disasters.

In the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, the risk of gigantic tsunami was not sufficiently conveyed to residents. As a result, many people failed to evacuate. There are many cases of typhoons and heavy rains in which the weather situation worsened to levels at which residents could not evacuate when municipalities issued evacuation instructions.

Evacuate immediately

Advisories and warnings are issued slightly before a situation enters its worst stage. Because of this, city, town and village governments, as well as residents, tend to take a wait-and-see attitude because they think there is still time to go. However, when an emergency warning is issued, such a response is life-threatening.

Local governments should play an important role under the new system. The revised Meteorological Service Law obliges local governments that receive an emergency warning to swiftly and thoroughly disseminate information about the warning to residents. Municipalities must decide whether evacuation is necessary and where to go, and inform residents of their decisions.

There are many problems to be tackled even at normal times regarding disaster management measures and other issues, such as expanding the means by which information can be distributed and securing evacuation places. The central and local governments must closely cooperate to put such antidisaster meaures in place.

Current information distribution measures include using the disaster management radio communcation system and municipal vans with loudspeakers. In addition, the government needs to study as soon as possible new measures such as active utilization of the Internet.

The agency’s information for disaster management covers a wide range of subjects, from weather and climate-related areas such as heavy rains and storms to earthquake and volcanic eruptions. Some critics say they are too complicated, and with the addition of the special warning system, we fear they will be even more confusing.

It is important to remember that emergency messages should be accurately understood by the public. The meteorological agency is now examining the possibility of reviewing the overly segmented information. We think the agency should improve the situation as soon as possible.

Needless to say, it is important for the agency to improve its observation and forecast technologies for transmission of accurate information.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2013)
(2013年8月29日01時38分  読売新聞)


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