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The Green Bar Project:
Japan's Deadly Gap in Earthquake Preparedness

Surprise !

During an emergency, it is hugely difficult to supply information and coordinate resources & rescues. How robust and well designed are the coordinating headquarters?

Tokyo's Disaster Prevention Center is on the 8th and 9th floors of the 48-floor Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. In visiting this high-technology center in March 2000 and April 2002, city planners were quick with assurances that the many systems could function even in a massive disaster. Reserve generators would run the elevator and essential power services, the fax machines could operate on radio links, etc. But on 11 Sept. 2001 New York City's Emergency Command Center burned and collapsed when damaged by the nearby twin tower collapse. That newly-built Emergency Command Center was on the 23rd floor of a 47-floor building (7 World Trade Center). New York City's Office of Emergency Management had designed the 4500 m² command center to withstand winds in excess of 300+ km/hour, with a ventilation system for clearing chemicals or biological agents, and multi-agency facilities for 230 key emergency staff. But very large diesel fuel tanks for backup power generation were also installed, and the fuel reportedly contributed to the fire that brought down the building. Disaster response suddenly had to be moved elsewhere.

The Kobe disaster gave further warning of future logistic troubles. Many key evacuation and rescue routes were disabled or obstructed. The Hanshin Expressway fell over, Daikai and Hankyu Itami Stations collapsed, as did Kobe's Hyogo Police Station, burying 10 duty officers (Yomiuri 1996 p90). The earthquake damaged many city water pipes, and local emergency underground cisterns split open and leaked, leaving little water for firefighting. Getting the water flowing again was made substantially more difficult because the sixth floor of Kobe City Hall had totally collapsed, and all essential documents of the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage were made inaccessible (Katayama 1996).

Each person and every family must prepare for the unexpected. Even top professionals cannot suitably predict and prepare well enough to assure public safety.

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