This Japan Earthquake Report was written by a British private firm. It is 38 pages. The subtitle is “A Preliminary Briefing on the Japanese Government’s Disaster Response Management.”
The events in Japan in March 2011, involving an earthquake and subsequent tsunami, fell exactly within the risk profile of Japan’s disaster management programme, and there were no contributing factors to the disaster that couldnot or should not have been predicted and accounted for.The failures in disaster response management came about through systemic weaknesses that were entirely predictable, and had been identified in previous similar events, including the 1995 Kobe-Hanshin earthquake.The systemic failures of the Japanese government and disaster management system were not unique to Japan. They reflect almost completely the same weaknesses that were identified in America following Hurricane Katrina and9/11.Japan’s planning and construction laws have clearly made a difference to the ability of large buildings to survive even major earthquakes, and this can be seen as a major success in their long-term earthquake management policy.Despite the fact that individual agencies have developed a high-level of expertise and capability (and often have world-class equipment and technology unavailable to other countries, including US), Japan still lacks a unified Disaster Management framework that allows the swift mobilisation of separate agencies under a unified operational command.There needs to be a clear distinction made between ‘Major Incidents’ and ‘National Disasters’. They require a different class of response, and as one USFEMA commentator noted, it is no use responding to a Class 5 Disaster with Class 1 frameworks.Failures at the tactical and operational level were reflected in, and in many ways caused by, a lack of leadership at the political level. Disaster management on a national level is a political issue, and responsibility for that needs to be accepted by national political leaders, whether in terms of long-term capability preparation or in the immediate post-incident response.Despite these failures, there is a clearly-defined development road-map that would allow Japan to use its existing technical, personnel and organisation and lresources to create an appropriate, effective and integrated unified Disaster Management framework.None of the points above are new or unknown. They reflect almost completely the conclusions reached following the 1995 Kobe-Hanshin earthquake and the Hurricane Katrina….