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Local Community’s Prompt Actions Minimizes Earthquake Damages:

"Elderly People Map" Proves Effective

At 9:41 on the morning of Sunday, March 25, a powerful earthquake, with the magnitude of 6.9, struck the Noto Peninsula, which juts into the Sea of Japan. Municipalities in Ishikawa Prefecture such as Wajima, Anamizu, and Shika townships were most seriously affected. According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency (as of June 14), 638 homes in the prefecture were destroyed totally, and 1,563 partially. The majority of these totally or partially destroyed buildings were old timber-framed residential homes, storage facilities and barns. . The human toll was light relative to the scale of the earthquake, with one fatality, 341 injured (of which 69 were injured seriously) and no one missing. It is particularly noteworthy that casualties among elderly and disabled persons, that is, those most likely to be affected by a disaster of this magnitude, were not extensive. A number of factors appear to have contributed to this outcome.

First, not a single fire broke out as a result of the quake. Second, the districts where the magnitude of the tremors was recorded at six or above, such as the town of Wajima, enjoyed relatively low population densities.Third, the timber-framed houses in the disaster area are built with broad and strong support pillars characteristic of the houses in the locality that support heavy snowfall accumulation in winter. And fourth, a slight lag between the vibration cycle of the earthquake and that of houses reduced the collapse of living units. These factors appear mostly responsible for minimizing death and injury figures.

Active Use of "Elderly People Map" in Safety Checks and Evacuation of Residents

In addition to these factors that helped to reduce casualties in Monzenmachi, the local community also played an important role at the time of the earthquake. Although there was considerable structural damage in the hardest-hit place–the town of Monzenmachi in Wajima, with 44 buildings destroyed totally and 96 partially, no deaths were caused by the collapse of dwellings, and no one was reported missing. This was achieved in the town where as many as 3,700 of its 7,800 residents were elderly people aged 65 or above, accounting for 47% of the total population: well above the national average.

The municipal government of Monzenmachi could identify the status of all elderly residents within approximately four hours after the earthquake struck. With only four of them seriously hurt and 11 sustaining light injuries, the human cost was minimal. The "Elderly People Map" of the township played a major role in confirming the safety of the town's elderly people. With this map one can immediately identify the location of elderly and disabled people in different stages of disability, because they are color-coded as "bedridden," "living alone," or "living as a couple." Immediately after the earthquake the township administrators requested social workers in the town's eight districts to visit elderly residents and lead them quickly to safety with the use of the map. Social workers were also requested to examine other matters such as the physical condition of the housing. Monzenmachi made this unique map after they experienced the deaths of three old people who were living alone.In this earthquake the map showed its worth.

Maps for Planning Effective Evacuation and Relief of Disaster Victims

The National Institute for Land and Infrastructure Management of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (Kokudo cho) published a manual “Operational Guides for Providing Evacuation and Relief Measures for Disaster Victims.” The Elderly People Map” of Monzenmachi Township in Wajima is an effective example implementing the concept promoted in the manual.

“Operational Guides for Providing Evacuation and Relief Measures for Disaster Victims.”

Guideline for Drawing Disaster Evacuation and Relief Maps

1.Creation of Base Map

First, it is necessary for a maker of “Guidelines for Providing Evacuation and Relief Measures for Disaster Victims” to determine the physical size and scale of the map appropriate for its function. The map should be sufficiently large to show clearly individual residential units and evacuation routes to shelters. A scale of 1 to 2,500 – 5,000 is recommended as the general guideline. The map shall utilize a blank map commonly used for residential or city planning maps. The size of the map should be large enough to cover the entire geographical area of concern, but at the same time small enough to be convenient for use at internal and external meetings and workshops. It is necessary to update the map to reflect changes in street and housing locations made since its initial creation.
Image of Drawing Disaster Evacuation and Relief Maps
Image of Drawing Disaster Evacuation and Relief Maps

2.Selection of Items to Be Included in the Map

The Disaster Evacuation and Relief Map shall contain, in an orderly fashion, the following:

Information contained in the hazard maps (e.g. flood water levels) Addresses of persons needing help at the time of disaster Hazard areas at the time of disaster Location of shelters as well as their coverage area Other information which is necessary for the implementation of disaster evacuation and relief plan

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