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2014年3月 6日 (木)

自衛隊災害派遣 訓練重ねて「想定外」を防ごう

The Yomiuri Shimbun March 05, 2014
Repeating disaster drills essential for preventing the unthinkable
自衛隊災害派遣 訓練重ねて「想定外」を防ごう(3月5日付・読売社説)

Achieving success in minimizing damage from a large-scale calamity requires ensuring lessons learned in disaster-response drills are steadily reflected in plans on how to deal with such a situation, especially in the initial stages. This is essential for preparing for various situations that could arise from a major disaster.

From Feb. 4 to 6, an earthquake disaster simulation exercise was conducted by the general headquarters of the Ground Self-Defense Force’s North Eastern Army, a Sendai-based GSDF organ that played the role of chief commander in working to rescue and aid victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

The mock disaster exercise was based on the premise that an earthquake measuring a magnitude of 9 on the open-ended Richter scale had occurred in waters off Miyagi Prefecture. The scenario also stipulated the quake had generated tsunami up to 10 meters in height, and caused fires in urban sections of the area and a loss of power at a local nuclear power plant. About 960 personnel participated, mainly from the GSDF and other organizations in charge of disaster management, including local governments, police and fire stations.

The simulation drill required these participants to act with a great deal of uncertainty, which they would have felt in the initial stages of response to the 2011 disaster. During the three-day exercise, a computer screen displayed moment-to-moment changes in hypothetical damage from the quake. Telephone services were disrupted, making it impossible to determine the extent of the damage.

A key task facing disaster-management authorities is to save as many lives as possible by obtaining accurate information about the scale of damage. Success in such an endeavor requires cooperation among the SDF, local governments, police and other relevant institutions—not only during disasters, but at any time—in creating a setup in which pertinent information will be effectively shared among them while also deploying necessary personnel and equipment for the plan.

The latest simulation exercise clarified what kind of problems need to be resolved. It has been learned that SDF units must be flexibly managed in accordance with changes in a given situation, while abilities possessed by organizations other than the SDF should be effectively utilized. During the simulation drill, for instance, an SDF helicopter arrived at one site, only to find a chopper from another organization already at the scene. On the other hand, neither organization had sent a helicopter to a different site, where such an aircraft was needed.

Learning from the past

In fact, such errors were committed after the 2011 earthquake. “I still regret I was unable to fly because of a lack of information,” said a GSDF helicopter pilot who had worked to rescue people affected by that disaster.

It is essential to consider the lessons from the latest disaster drill and discuss what roles should be played in responding to a major disaster by the SDF and other relevant organizations. It is also necessary to debate how to effectively coordinate procedures in that respect. Decisions must be made about all such matters—a task essential for fully utilizing personnel and equipment that could be mobilized from the SDF and the other organizations in the event of a major disaster.

Undoubtedly, a prediction about possible disaster damage will not necessarily come true if an actual calamity takes place. A disaster may evolve in a manner unforeseen to the authorities.

However, it should be noted that grasping the basics of disaster response and making necessary preparations is essential for dealing with a situation that has unfolded beyond all expectations.

The authorities must examine the adequacy of their disaster-response plans through simulation drills and field training exercises, modify the plans based on the results of such exercises, and then conduct new drills. Constant efforts to repeat such a cycle could minimize damage from a calamity that has evolved in an unforeseen manner.

The SDF, particularly the GSDF, excel in planning carefully thought-out disaster responses and mobilizing troops for necessary operations on the strength of their military expertise. Such knowledge and skills should also be imparted to local governments.

In the wake of the 2011 disaster, the Defense Ministry revised plans on how to respond to a near-field earthquake in Tokyo and a nuclear accident. The ministry has also put together a new plan to manage damage from a quake feared to strike with its focus in the Nankai Trough. The ministry has also considerably increased the number of agreements signed with private-sector companies, such as highway corporations and the NTT Group, regarding cooperation during disasters.

It has been predicted that the so-called Nankai Trough quake will cause damage greater than that of the 2011 disaster. The ministry should further shore up tie-ups with organizations related to disaster management.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 5, 2014)
(2014年3月5日01時27分  読売新聞)


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