Evidence-Based Analysis of Search and Rescue Operations Following the Great East Japan Earthquake
Fire and Disaster Management Agency (FDMA), Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, 2-1-2 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8927, Japan
The March 11, 2011 earthquake off Japan’s northeast (Tohoku) Pacific coast and the resulting gigantic tsunamis took the lives of nearly 18,000 people in the devastated coastal communities. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, now called Great East Japan Earthquake, search and rescue (SAR) for those who were trapped in tsunami waters and debris and who were missing was the top priority in the integrated emergency response. Eventually, SAR operations were performed on an unprecedented scale and complexity. This being the case, a strong interest in the details of these activities has surfaced and frequent enquiries have often been made both from within Japan and from overseas. Still, few studies have been conducted to-date on how SAR operations were performed and what lessons have been learned as a result. By analyzing the experiences of fire service rescue workers, this paper identifies challenges and gaps that the SAR system – institutions, policy frameworks and instruments, skills and techniques, equipment, etc. – could not fully deal with. This paper also looks at the lessons learned to examine the reasons behind them and to explore ways forward that may enable us to be better prepared for future disasters of a similar kind.
-  The Extreme Disaster Management Headquarters, “About the 2011 Earthquake off the Pacific Coast of Tohoku” (in Japanese),
http://www.kantei.go.jp/saigai/pdf/201303261700jisin.pdf [accessed March 27, 2013]
-  H. Nakachi, N. Maki, and H. Hayashi, “Proposal on the Effective Use of Relief Helicopters Based on Experience in the Great East Japan Earthquake,” Journal of Disaster Research, Vol.7, No.sp, pp. 500-510, 2012.
-  N. Takanashi, “Actualities of Rescue Activities at the Time of Disasters: How Many Lives Did Fire Service Save?,” Monthly FESC, June 2013, Fire Equipment and Safety Center of Japan (in Japanese).
-  L.-R. Sheu, B.-J. Shih, and C.-W. Wu, “The Search and Rescue Operation in Collapsed Buildings Caused by Earthquakes – A Case Study,” 2000 Proceedings of the 17th ISARC, pp. 1-4, 2000,
http://www.iaarc.org/publications/fulltext/isarc2000-183_TC1.pdf [accessed March 27, 2013]
-  United States Fire Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Search and Rescue Operations Following the Northridge Earthquake: Technical Rescue Incident Report,” 1994.
-  Fire and Disaster Management Agency, “the 2012 White Paper on Fire and Disaster Management,” 2013 (in Japanese).
-  Fire Chief’s Association of Japan, “the Record of Activities on the Great East Japan Earthquake,” 2012 (in Japanese).
-  Monthly SHOB: special edition, “Great East Japan Earthquake: Testimony from the Front Lines,” Tokyo Horei Publishing Co. Ltd., Tokyo, 2012 (in Japanese).
-  N. Aoki, A. Nishimura, E. A. Pretto, K. Sugimoto, J. R. Beck, and T. Fukui, “Survival and Cost Analysis of fatalities of Kobe Earthquake,” Prehosp Emerg Care 8, pp. 217-222, 2004.
-  Y. Kawata, “Synthesis of Lessons Learned from the hanshin-Awaji Earthquake,” Journal ofMunicipal Problems, Vol.49, No.1, 553, pp. 14-32 (in Japanese).
-  Y. Ohota and T. Nakashima, “An Extreme Value Analysis on Survival Times of Entrapped People under Collapsed Buildings by Earthquake,” Report of Tono Research Institute of Earthquake Sceience, Vol.26, pp. 173-176, 2010 (in Japanese).
-  National Police Agency, “White Paper on Police 2011,” Digest Edition (in Japanese),
www.npa.go.jp/hakusyo/h23/youyakuban/youyakuban.pdf [accessed March 27, 2013]
-  Fire and Disaster Management Agency, “The Report of the Study Group on Fire Service’s Activities to Tsunami Disaster of the Great East Japan Earthquake,” 2013 (in Japanese).
-  T. Yamanome, “the Acute Stage Disaster Medical Action at Iwate Prefectural Ofunato Hospital and Chronic Stage Disaster Medical management in Ofunato District in Tohoku Region Pacific Coast Earthquake and Tsunami,” Japanese Journal of Disaster Medicine, Vol.17, No.1, July 2012 (in Japanese).
-  Fire and Disaster Management Agency, the Proceedings of the 14th National Fire Service Rescue Symposium, 2012 (in Japanese).
-  Shiogama District Firefighting Union Affairs, “The Great East Japan Earthquake: Voices at the Secenes,” 2012 (in Japanese).
-  Sendai City Fire Department, “the Record of Activities on the Great East Japan Earthquake,” 2012 (in Japanese).
-  Cabinet Office, “the Interim Report of a Task Force on Emergency Response,” 2011 (in Japanese).
-  Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 2012 International Search and Rescue (SAR) Workdhop: Summary Report, 2012.
-  A. Yoshimura, H. Shimizu, F. Satoh, Y. Kako, and S. Tadokoro, “A Study on Perspectives of Desgins and Operations for US&R Infrastructure – Consideration from a Survey on Disaster City Training Facility –,” Institute of Social Safety Sceience, No.13, Nov. 2010 (in Japanese).
-  A. Yoshimura, F. Saitoh, S. Akitomi, S. Rodgers, F. Oyama, and Y. Kako, “A Study on the Implementation Strategy of Urban Search and Rescue for Japan Based on Comparative Surveys in the Unitted States and the United Kingdom,” Institute of Social Safety Sceience, No.10, Nov. 2008 (in Japanese).
-  Y. Okita, “My Thoughts on International Urban Search and Rescue (USAR),” Institute of Social Safety Sceience, No.19, Mar. 2013 (in Japanese).
-  Y. Okita, “The UNDAC Team in Response to the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake,” Journal of Natural Disaster Science, Vol.30, No.2, 2011 (in Japanese).
This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internationa License.