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Broken utilities and transportation systems forced more than 100,000 into Sendai's evacuation centers. We used our people-centered techniques to survey and analyze these centers, highlighting challenges and urgent needs, while proposing solutions.
In Sendai, the disaster took 872 lives, while the tsunami damaged or destroyed more than 8,000 homes. Local government authorities opened evacuation centers, even though City Hall was undamaged.
Hirohito Kojima from Sendai City's Disaster Reconstruction Headquarters says, "When considering recovery and disaster prevention plans in the future, Sendai City and local government authorities around the country first want to know about conditions in evacuation centers: What would happen there, and what issues might arise?" After the disaster, many companies offered help, and Sendai City asked Hitachi to jointly survey the evacuation centers. "We wanted to assess the challenges together with a global company like Hitachi in the hope that they might develop technologies and widely spread the information gained," notes Kojima. This was the first joint disaster survey in Sendai conducted by government authorities and a company. The survey team went into evacuation centers in August and September 2011.
At a workshop at the City Hall, events and victims, then issues from the time of the earthquake to evacuation center closure were drawn from City Hall staff's daily reports and accounts of interviews with disaster victims then arranged chronologically for analysis and identification of issues, together with those staff members.
We used the experience-based Ex-Approach* for the survey, interviewing 27 people in seven shelters on items such as nearness to transportation or devastated areas. For easy analysis, events and problems were arranged chronologically from when the earthquake occurred to closing the centers. The survey showed life in evacuation centers moving through three phases: "gathering," "living," and "leaving." We then held two workshops with Sendai City to assess the key issues, later developing disaster prevention and mitigation proposals, including clustering evacuation centers in communities and using information systems to gather and collate information.
"In government, we tend to focus on the 'living' phase of operations, but the survey gave us a bigger picture. We will need similar cooperation from companies in the future," Hirohito Kojima commented. Atsushi Okawa, also from Sendai City, praised the impartial way issues were identified.
Sendai City is improving its disaster mitigation and energy policies to become a "disaster-resistant, environmental city on a new level." Another aim is to strengthen "civilian power" by intensifying collaborations with companies and people's ability for self-help. Hirohito Kojima notes, "Sendai's mission is to create a disaster-resistant model through the lessons learned during and after the disaster and to communicate this to the rest of Japan and the world. We hope that Hitachi will contribute both 'hard' and 'soft' technologies to increase social satisfaction and to work together with us to pass on these innovations to Japan and beyond."
We look forward to making maximum use of our people-centered and experience-focused survey and analysis techniques, as well as our technological strengths. We will continue to collaborate with local authorities to resolve the issues faced by their communities, helping to build systems that provide a safer, more secure society for everyone.