How Japan deals with a crisis

How Japan deals with a crisis

14 Mar 2011

On January 17 1995 an earthquake struck the Kobe region of Japan and was recorded as 7.2 on the Richter scale.  Japan is a nation which prides itself on being prepared for disasters such as these, however while the region was rebuilding itself things did not go according to plan says Dr Michael Seigel.

Emergency preparation list ‘When the Kobe earthquake first occurred a story was broadcast of a young man who followed instructions recommended by the city office for volunteering. He went first to his local office and got a letter of introduction.

He then went through massive amounts of destruction to get to the city office in Kobe.  That office was destroyed and the staff there simply told him to act on his own initiative. He wound up doing exactly what he would have done if he had ignored both city offices and gone directly to work in Kobe,’ says Dr Seigel.

Dr Michael Seigel who is an associate for La Trobe University’s Centre for Dialogue says the media portrayed Japan’s response to a crisis as slow but did not get the full story as to why this would be the case.

‘That story along with a number of others was broadcast in the media and it is important to remember that no culture is static.  Japanese people know that when the public authorities themselves are destroyed, then ordinary people have to take the initiative,’ he says.

He is certain that Japan is better prepared for this earthquake, with a magnitude of 9 on the scale, compared to the quake of 1995.

‘Progress can be seen in the way teams with dogs from overseas have not had the troubles at the border that they did at the time of the Kobe earthquake.

At the moment, I think the biggest problem is the lack of information and access to the disaster area. Many people are ready to move but with no idea of where to go or what to do,’ Dr Seigel says.

For more information please contact:

Lisa Prowling
Media and Communications Officer
T (03) 9479 5517
M 0401 044 784
E l.prowling@latrobe.edu.au

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