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PRINCIPAL POLICIES OF THE TOKYO METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT
The New Disaster Management Policy
TMG Disaster Response Guidelines
The Great East Japan Earthquake, which hit the Tohoku region of Japan in March 2011, was an unprecedented, compound disaster. In addition to an earthquake that surpassed estimations and the massive tsunami that followed, the disaster was complicated by the accident at the nuclear power plant. This had severe consequences on Tokyo as well, although the city was located far from the epicenter.
It became essential to formulate a new set of guidelines that sets forth the direction and concrete approaches for Tokyo’s disaster management based on the lessons learned from this earthquake. This led to the formulation of the TMG Disaster Response Guidelines in November 2011.
Three Possible Earthquakes
Three types of earthquakes have the possibility of striking Tokyo. Because three continental plates converge directly under the capital, a trench-type earthquake with a seismic magnitude of 8 could occur at the boundary of the plates. A M7 earthquake could also directly strike the capital region in the period between earthquakes the size of the Great Kanto Earthquake — a M8 earthquake that hit Tokyo in 1923 — which are said to occur every 200 to 300 years. In addition, there are concerns over the possibility, albeit low, of an earthquake occurring at an active fault such as the Tachikawa fault zone.
The Vision of TMG Disaster Response
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been bolstering its disaster response measures with the objectives of protecting the lives of the residents and securing their safety, as well as ensuring that Tokyo, the life source and nerve center of Japan, continues to function.
The importance of “self-help,” or protecting one’s own life, and “mutual-assistance,” in which neighbors help each other to protect their communities, invaluable in the event of disaster, was once again strongly reconfirmed during the Great East Japan Earthquake. In addition, it need not be mentioned that “public-assistance”— the role of the government authorities in preparing for disaster in normal times and their activities at the time of disaster, such as the search and rescue of residents — is also essential.
In order to boost Tokyo’s disaster response capabilities to further heights, it will be necessary to strengthen the disaster response capabilities of the various parties concerned with self-help, mutual-assistance, and public-assistance. It will also be important to mitigate damages from an earthquake by strengthening cooperation between these parties and organically linking their respective efforts in the implementation of measures.
Moreover, disaster response policy will be reshaped. This will be based on thoroughly strengthening individual measures and promoting the development of more multi-track, compound policies in order to be prepared for any kind of situation.
(1) Establishing Disaster Management Neighborhood Units
In order to raise the disaster response capabilities of communities, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will strive to establish disaster management neighborhood units by reviving community bonds. Through these units, close neighbors as well as various parties of the community, such as neighborhood and resident associations, PTA, youth groups, companies, shop associations, and schools take the initiative in activities to help each other. Concrete measures include certifying pioneering practices, selecting model communities, and attracting the participation of young people by effectively using community events. Leader training sessions and practical drills and guidance will also be provided to cultivate leaders who will play a key role in mutual assistance activities.
(2) Dealing with stranded commuters
A great number of commuters were left stranded in Tokyo when transit operations in the metropolitan area were largely suspended in the immediate aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. In response to this situation, an ordinance concerning measures for stranded commuters will be established. Thorough measures such as encouraging companies to keep their employees from leaving en masse for home and to secure the safety of people inside facilities will be taken, and public-private collaboration will be promoted as well to secure temporary facilities that can take in and protect people who do not have a place to stay.
(3) Securing a system for stable communications at the onset of disaster
In addition to enhancing the functions of the municipal disaster management radio systems and disaster information systems, efforts will be taken to secure stable communications with government agencies and outside organizations by deploying a variety of alternative, supplementary communication methods such as satellite phones. In addition, the functions of the TMG and municipal websites will be bolstered so that the sites will not crash due to high traffic in the event of disasters.
(4) Bolstering measures for logistics and stockpiles
Logistics measures will be developed under the collaboration of various parties in order to prepare for a disruption of the distribution network. In addition, systems to build emergency stockpiles and transport them will also be reestablished.
The seismic resistance of buildings along emergency transportation roads will be advanced to ensure that roads function after the onset of disaster, and infrastructure will be developed to enable the transportation of goods through utilization of port functions. In addition, residents will be encouraged to prepare their own emergency stockpiles during normal times, and studies will be conducted with related industry associations on ways to grasp information on the distribution of goods in times of emergency and how to provide this information to the consumers. Investigation is also underway on methods to manage stockpile sites and the shipment of goods from these sites, as well as how to accept and ship goods from regional transportation bases. This includes the effective use of private logistic companies.
(5) Promoting fire-resistance in close-set wooden housing districts
The collapse of houses and the outbreak of large-scale fires in the event of an earthquake are more likely to occur in areas with a dense buildup of old wooden houses. The improvement of such districts through the reconstruction of houses will be advanced through new methods such as community redevelopment measures, which include the easing of building regulations, and beneficial tax treatment.
Awareness of the risk of disaster will be heightened among the residents through events such as lectures by disaster management experts and survivors of disasters. In addition, water for fire-fighting activities will be secured by, for instance, building deep wells that can also be used to secure domestic water. Efforts will also be taken to strengthen systems for initial fire-fighting activities by voluntary disaster management groups.
(6) Promoting the creation of bases for disaster response in cooperation with developers
Bases for disaster response will be developed in the city center and subcenters by working in collaboration with the respective local wards, private developers, and other parties to transform city blocks into large blocks that will create open spaces as well as roads that can function in emergencies, and improve the disaster-resistance of urban areas. This will also include encouraging developers to construct buildings that can serve as temporary evacuation facilities for people having difficulty returning home, have storage facilities for emergency stockpiles, and are equipped with standby power generators. In addition, undeveloped city planning parks with land that can become evacuation sites or bases for rescue activities in the event of an earthquake will be positioned as priority development areas. Along with promoting the systematic and focused development of these parks, construction of temporary heliports and emergency toilet facilities in existing parks will also be advanced.
(7) Strengthening preparations against flooding on the coast of Tokyo Bay
The earthquake resistance of levees and embankments will continue to be promoted, and measures to raise the seismic resistance and water resistance of equipment in key facilities such as floodgates will be implemented.
Backup functions will be strengthened by establishing another center for storm-surge control and multiple networks for communication. Studies will also be conducted on matters such as strengthening the system for prompt closure of floodgates and floodwall gates, and enhancing the operation of floodwall gates through remote control.
A study council made up of municipalities, disaster management organizations, and academics/experts will be established to advance an inter-municipal evacuation project. Studies will be conducted on how to secure evacuation sites and shelters and how to appropriately guide people to safety, including inter-municipal evacuation.
(8) Maintaining urban functions through diversification of energy sources
The construction of high-efficiency natural gas-fired power plants with 1-million-kilowatt capacity, which have low impact on the environment, will be examined with the view to address the issue of unstable power, generate locally produced and locally consumed energy, and ensure eco-friendly urban development.
In addition, the introduction of independent and distributed power generation will be encouraged to help uphold the lives of residents and maintain urban functions at the onset of a disaster.
In order to ensure a stable supply of fuel for standby generators, supply systems will be improved by verifying the contents of agreements with oil-related organizations and implementing drills with them. Efforts will be taken to ensure fuel diversity as well.
By rallying all available resources to promote 23 items of policy for disaster management, including the abovementioned measures, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will raise the level of Tokyo’s disaster resilience. This will protect the lives of Tokyo residents, people commuting to work or school in Tokyo, and visitors to the capital, and ensure that activities of government, economy, and society as a whole do not grind to a halt in the event of any kind of disaster.
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