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SDF, police, fire departments boost disaster readiness, cooperation with USFJ after 3/11

  • 2016-03-14 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: March 12, 2016 – p. 4)


 Learning lessons from the Great East Japan Earthquake, the government has strengthened systems for responding to disasters in the past five years. The Self-Defense Forces (SDF), the police, and the fire departments have increased personnel for initial response to disasters. The development of unmanned vehicles to dispose of debris in a nuclear power plant accident or disaster-response robots for major fires has also begun. Preparation for crisis management has moved forward despite many issues encountered in this process.


 The Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the SDF created a “Fast Force” for initial response during a disaster. Information collection will start immediately in case of a magnitude-5 or stronger earthquake. The Ground SDF has around 3,900 members stationed nationwide who can be mobilized within one hour after receiving an order. The Maritime SDF has at least one ship on standby in each district, while the Air SDF has 20 aircraft on standby for emergency transport operations. Disaster response exercises with the local governments have also increased.


 A manual for forming “integrated operational units” with one field officer commanding members from the three SDF services has been drawn up. This is because 3/11 showed how important an integrated command and control system is for efficient rescue and reconstruction efforts.


 Progress has also been made in terms of cooperation with the U.S. forces. The revised Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation Guidelines of April 2015 incorporated provisions on bilateral cooperation during major disasters for the first time. Guidelines were drafted on cooperation during disasters and joint exercises for this purpose have been held frequently.


 The MOD has proceeded with the development of equipment as well. Envisioning a situation where personnel cannot go near a nuclear plant accident site affected by radiation or the scene of chemical pollution, it is developing unmanned vehicles capable of site evaluation and disposal of debris. A research project will continue until FY19, aiming at actual operation in FY20.


 The SDF has also increased equipment for dealing with major disasters, including the world’s first voice-encryption field radio system. It has also increased the number of transport helicopters and wheeled armored vehicles to upgrade the SDF’s disaster response capability.


 The National Police Agency created in May 2012 a “police disaster dispatch unit” involving the speedy dispatch of some 10,000 officers from the prefectural police departments. This is aimed at sending police officers from areas not affected by disasters to help in rescue operations in the event of major and wide-area disasters.


 In preparation for a massive Nankai Trough earthquake in the future, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency (FDMA) under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has reinforced its “emergency fire department support units” for dispatching fire fighters to disaster areas from all over the country. There are currently 5,000 such units, with plans to increase to 6,000 units by the end of FY18. (Abridged)

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