Municipal governments and the local committee for disaster prevention have local disaster prevention plans. The plans, however, proved almost dysfunctional in the Great Hanshin Earthquake. The traditional disaster plans have a couple of weak points; The system to cooperate with to-be-disaster-victim residents and the cooperative activities for disaster prevention were not clear and; Local residents are not even informed of the details of the prevention plan.
Nowadays, it is regarded as quite natural for residents to participate in making governmental plans including urban master plans.
In the case of the local disaster prevention plans drawn by Kamifukuoka city and Sakato city, both in Saitama prefecture, they made plans with the residents' participation, having learnt lessons from the case of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. The plans clearly define the system and actual activities which should be performed by governmental bodies, citizens and enterprises in the case of disaster. The outline of the plans have been distributed to all the houses and a cooperation system has been created based on the plans.
Measures to Protect the Community through Collaboration
It is important, first of all, to have the common recognition between the residents and the government based on the supposed damages. If an earthquake of level 5 to 6 on the Japanese earthquake scale happens, buildings with poor earthquake-resistance will likely collapse and multiple fires will occur, which cannot be coped with by the capacity of the present fire service. Also if a disaster happens on a holiday or during the night, it will be difficult for the administrative bodies to respond.
Disaster prevention measures so far have been emphasizing on evacuation -- designating evacuation areas, evacuation centers, and evacuation routes. Accordingly, people have a strong idea that they should evacuate first of all when an earthquake happens. However, it will increase the damage if people only evacuate when the responding capacity of the fire service and the administration is poor. It is necessary for people in the community to be well-prepared with prevention measures. They should be able to conduct immediate fire fighting, to secure water supply, and people should get to know each other well in the neighborhood on the daily basis. Measures should be decided through a frank opinion exchange on what can be done by the administration and by the residents. The idea of "evacuation" should be replaced by "protection".
Creation of the Collaboration System
In the system for action, a disaster relief headquarters and an on-site headquarters should be established as well as community headquarters composed mainly of neighborhood associations. It should be planned in the system for administrative bodies and residents to perform the activities in cooperation.
Schools designated as an evacuation center should be characterized as local bases for disaster prevention where administrative bodies and residents can cooperate in activities. Necessary personnel should be allocated. Neighborhood associations should take a leading role to draw up a disaster prevention plan and to perform actual activities centering around a local base. Local residents themselves should consider and discuss where to set up the community headquarters. A system to practice activities and to collaborate with the local bases should be created.
Who, Where, and with Whom?
Local bases for disaster prevention should be managed by the government and the residents in cooperation. Names of officials who are supposed to be in action in the time of a disaster should be disclosed to the residents. They should be chosen from staff members at the institute designated as a local base and/or those who live nearby. Residents' associations also should appoint some people as staff members of the local base in the case of a disaster. It is important to have opportunities for officials, staff and residents to see and get to know each other on the daily basis.
Local Disaster Prevention Planning and a Safety Net
After the great earthquake, it seems to be that the reconstruction plans have been given importance in disaster prevention planning. It is necessary to lay stress on reconstruction planning in an area already hit by the disaster, but it is also important to improve the situation in the area where earthquakes are predicted to occur in the near future.
It is said that if an earthquake occurs directly underneath central Tokyo, 2,000 people will be killed by building damage. Community development in the 21st century should include more advanced earthquake-resistant housing to protect the 2,000 potential victims, concentration of public investment on disaster prevention planning and environment improvement, and the establishment of a safety net for residents. Large-scale development under the pretense of city renaissance is not only obsolete but also can lead to the expansion of disaster damage.