Japan mulls expanding plan for disaster information

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Japan mulls expanding plan for disaster information

The government is planning to expand the already limited online municipal system that lists natural disaster-related damage to nursing care facilities.

The system is currently limited to prefectural governments and local governments of 20 major cities. By expanding the program's scope, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry hopes to establish a framework to provide prompt support to senior citizens in the event of earthquakes, typhoons and other natural calamities.

From next fiscal year, the ministry plans to review the current system, with an eye on connecting 264,000 institutions across the country, including special care facilities for the elderly. The envisioned project would allow central and local governments, including 1,741 municipal authorities, to share disaster information related to nursing care.

Under the plan, staff at each station would digitally input information relating to casualty numbers, available supplies and power or water outages, among other information, the ministry said.

Local governments would then prioritize specific facilities, assess necessary relief measures, such as food and diapers, and coordinate the dispatch of necessary personnel.

The government faced difficulties assessing the extent of damage to nursing care facilities when Japan was hit by a series of typhoons in autumn 2019.

In 2021, following this lesson, the government established the current system to facilitate information-sharing in the event of a disaster.

The ministry restricted the number of municipalities that could access the system to prevent it from becoming overloaded during a potential disaster. However, given that municipalities other than the 20 major cities would still have to place phone calls or request related information from prefectural governments in the event of a disaster, the ministry was urged to review the system's use.

By the end of the next fiscal year, the ministry plans to change the current system to provide access to all municipalities.

In order to avoid system malfunctions due to server overloads, only directly affected municipalities will have immediate access to the necessary information during a disaster.

We hope that municipalities use the system will lead to prompt rescue efforts and local facility support, he said.