Sample Essay on Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief Logistics

The present emergency management system in Japan developed in 1961 after great losses from Typhoon Ise-wan (Vera) two years earlier. The system was founded on lessons learned from this disaster, mainly that the localities were not ready to respond to disasters and the central government had not put enough measures to prepare the region. This thought resulted in a directive approach to disaster preparedness and response. Japan’s system has the local, prefectural, and central levels of government sharing responsibilities. Local governments (village, community, and city) are in charge of creating local disaster plans, performing several first responder duties, and supervising recovery efforts. The prefectural and subsequently the central governments are mainly engaged in a planning capacity and involve in disaster response only after the local government is overcome and is not able to respond in a manner that guarantees the safety of the public. This safety has been freely interpreted, and historically, the central government has rarely come in to assist. The central government is in charge of numerous duties for funding mitigation and resiliency building including certain first responder responsibilities (Cho, 2014).The figure below represents the structure of disaster management in Japan.

Figure 1.The structure of disaster management in Japan(Greer, 2012)

In Japan’s disaster management program, the lawful ground for action is offered by several acts, whereby the most significant is the Disaster Countermeasures Basic Act of 1961. The act outlines the authorities and duties for all parties involved in disaster management: disaster plans; disaster prevention, emergency measures; rehabilitation; declaration of state of emergency and financial measures. Additionally, there is a Disaster Relief Act, which controls the delivery of relief services in emergency cases through collaboration with local public entities, the Red Cross, and other players. The act regarding support for Reconstructing Livelihoods of Disaster victims specifies the financial support of reconstructing livelihoods of disaster victims (Greer, 2012).

Another piece of legislation in Japan that deals with earthquakes is the Special Measures Law for Countermeasures Against Large Earthquakes of 1978. The act mandated the plans for the projected Great Tokai earthquake threatening Toyo to be started. This act assisted the central government to compel the prefectural and local governments to take measures of increasing their resilience. After this act, the next big change to disaster management in Japan was the formation of the Disaster Prevention Bureau and the National Land Agency in 1984. The Disaster Prevention Bureau is majorly involved in mitigation activities. The National Land Agency addresses all disaster related concerns associated with sustainable development like utilization of resources (Greer, 2012).


Mitigation or prevention refers to the evasion of adverse effects of hazards by minimizing exposure or lessening human vulnerability to the hazards that may result in injury or illness. Hazard avoidance is aimed at eradicating hazards whereas exposure reduction tries to remove or protect individuals from the hazards that cannot be eliminated. There are two types of mitigation. Firstly,structural mitigation activities strengthen the facility infrastructure, such as truck barriers, strengthening of a building, and traffic deterrents. Non-structural mitigation activities are meant to avoid or minimize the impact of potential hazards, such as laws, guidelines, and surveillance measures, and executing triage outside the facility to minimize staff exposure to probable biochemical hazards (Ikeuchi, & Isago, 2011).


Preparedness focuses on actions taken in advance or during the early stages of a disaster to minimize its impact, which increases the resilience of a population. Preparednessactivitiesinclude planning by conducting a hazard vulnerability examination, training and exercises, drills or simulations, public education, surveillance and monitoring hazards (Katayama, 2004).

The Measures Taken by Japan to Prepare foran Earthquake

Japan has invested a lot of resources into awareness raising among its citizens. The highly prominent example is the ‘Disaster Prevention Day’, 1 September each year is an occasion that occurs within the framework of the ‘Disaster Prevention Week’ and which has been arranged since 1982. The ‘Disaster Prevention Week’ comprises shows, drills, distribution of information material, and is determined to educate people about disaster preparedness. On this day, the government conducts a thorough emergency drill, every time in a different place in Japan. Japan uses Earthquake drills andSeismic Safety Inspections and land use planning as some of ways of preparing for earthquakes (Medina, 2016).

Earthquake Drills and Seismic Safety Inspections

Earthquake drills are activities, which notifyand teachthe habitants of a building concerning earthquake dangers and possible strategies of mitigating them. For instance, manydamages in the events of earthquakes take place when building inhabitantstry to get out of the buildings or shift to a different place in a building. Earthquake drills are capable of improving preparedness and reduce risk of injury when earthquakes occur. For instance, the Great ShakeOut is a state program, which annually inspiresindividuals in homes, schools, businesses, and other structures to learn what to do in the course of earthquakes, which entails dropping, covering, and holding on (Mutch, 2014).

Earthquake drills and seismic safety inspections are significant for structures in all earthquake intensity regions as stated by FEMA, since even new buildings canbe destroyed by a large earthquake, for example,broken windows, fallen ceilings, and displaced furniture that can lead to injury to individuals who fail to take protective measures. FEMA states that, effecting earthquake drills into emergency management programs is vital sinceunderstanding what to do and where to go in the course of an earthquake can be crucial to life safety. Moreover, FEMA guidance assertsthat seismic safety inspectionslikethose thatcan be part of regular housekeeping or maintenance practicescan minimize or eradicate risks from earthquake damage to equipment, furnishings, and unsafe objects in structures. Nevertheless, there are gaps in the level in which agencies have adopted earthquake drills and seismic safety inspections as part of a thorough approach to seismic safety (Naoi, Seko, & Ishino, 2012).

Japanese schools also hold an earthquake drill yearly. On the first day of classes, children are trained to hide under desks, identify the evacuation routes, and use helmets. Additionally, Private companies and businesses run drills for rescuing stranded motorists. The national government has trucks with a model of a living room that can be shaken by a system of springs to mimic different magnitudes of an earthquake(Greer, 2012).Drills entail numerous participants and needs the intervention of regional and local authorities, including the main disaster management players in the central government.


Figure 2. Image of Japanese schoolchildren during an earthquake drill (Mutch, 2014).


Skills Required In Designing And Implementing Earthquake Drills And Seismic Safety Inspections

Design and implementation of earthquake drills and seismic safety inspections requires excellent communication skills among the parties involved. This measure entails several players, including regional and local authorities and the central government. Therefore, they should be able to listen to each other keenly, express their concerns at every level, and pass information to the public concerning the manner they should conduct themselves during the drilling activities. Individuals are supposed to understand and follow all the instructions involved, failure to which they might be a problem. Additionally, the parties involved also need to work as a team by cooperating, hence, teamwork is necessary. The departments should execute their responsibilities accordingly and address the raised concerns (Veenema et al., 2016).

Land Use Planning

State or local land-use programs can assist in guidingdevelopments that are more cautious in seismic hazard regions. Land-use planning might compriserestricting growth in hazard-susceptible regions. At the state level, for instance, the law requires the State Geologist to demarcate seismic hazard regions. Additionally, cities, counties, or other authorizingagenciesare supposed to control certain development projects based on the hazard level determined for the development site. Regulatory action may entail withholding development licenses for a site until the geologic conditions are examined and propermitigation measures, if needed, are integrated into the development plans. With regards to local programs, land-use planning regulations or guidance are used in several cities (Suganuma, 2006).

Figure 3. Land use planning in Japan (Suganuma, 2006)

Skills Required In Designing And Implementing Land Use Planning

Designing and implementing this measure requires problem-solving skills, especially in areas prone to hazards. Geologists demarcating seismic hazard regionsneed to analyze land conditions in order to come up with a suitable solution that guarantees public safety. They should provide solutions to individuals living in dangerous regions prone to earthquakes by recommending safe areas. Teamwork is also necessary because other disaster management agencies need to be involved in all stages and make practical decisions. They also need to solve public complaints od individuals who feel they have been handled unfairly in terms of being allocated to different areas for safety reasons.

The Measures Taken by Japan to Mitigate an Earthquake

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) is a major government agency in Japan involved with the mitigation and prevention of natural hazards. The agency works with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport within the Courts branch of government. The JMA is a highly engaged group, executing tasks performed by at least three U.S. government agencies. The agency is in charge of tracing all weather-related occurrences, including tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcano eruptions. Concerning earthquakes, the JMA responsible for sensing earthquakes and devising a cautionary message that is sent to the proper end user; If  a major earthquake occurs, the JMA sends a cautioning  note to the prime minister, the Disaster Management Headquarters, the Emergency Team, local governments, the mass media, and sometimes the general public(Greer, 2012).

The JMA’s Earthquake Phenomena Observation Center in Tokyo gathers data from over 3,200 seismographs and seismic intensity meters established in the nation. The JMA also has 200 sensors that can detect primary waves; the first warning that comes when an earthquake has been activated. The waves are in most casesinvisible to humans, but the sensors can apply the waves to inferthe central point of the earthquake, its greatness, and estimate appearance of secondary or harmful waves (Greer, 2012).

Structural Retrofits

Retrofitting current buildings is a process that can enhance their capability of withstanding earthquakes. FEMA States that several seismic-related losses have emanated from the failure of structural building elements. Several countries, including Japan have startedretrofitting their public buildings and have implemented regulations that need seismic advancements to privatestructures. Although retrofitting might not make a structure conform to code standards, especially new ones, it helpscurrent structures to resist seismic actions.

Figure 4. Retrofitting Techniques (Tatsumi, 2012)

Skills Required In Designing And ImplementingStructural Retrofits

This measure requires initiative and enterprise skills because of multifaceted procedures involved. The management team needs to establish strategic and lasting visions of retrofitting buildings to enable them withstand earthquakes. Proper communication skills are also required to ensure seismic advancement regulations are understood and adhered to. They need to generate a variety of options that enhance protection of people from earthquake problems. Moreover, planning and organization skills are necessary  to understand what is needed in the implementation process and manage individuals and resources efficiently to attain the desired outcomes.

Earthquake Early Warning (EEW)Technology

The technology is currently available to sense earthquakes so fast that an alert can reach some regions before strong shaking resulting from the earthquake occurs. The objective of an EEW system is to recognize and typify an earthquake shortly after it starts, determine the possible intensity of ground shaking that will follow, and send warnings to individuals and infrastructure in damage’s way. The Japan EEW system has been collaborating with western state governments, educational institutions, and several seismic networks to leverage the current infrastructure.Numerous sources from the academic world, a philanthropy foundation, and federal, state, and local governments have donated fundsand resources to the development of the programby purchasing and installing seismometers, researching and developing detection algorithms, and storing and maintaining servers required to host the system. ShakeAlert is presentlyat the beta testing phases in Japan(Tatsumi, 2012).

ShakeAlert shareholders state thatadoption of an Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system hasseveral advantages, such as providing warnings to the public before shaking and allowing more time for people to take protective measures like dropping, covering, and holding on. Stakeholders’ prospects of public gains are based on the experience Japan has attained in the operation of its EEW, which has been in place since 2007. For instance, Japanese officials asserts  that during the 2011 Tohoku-oki magnitude 9 earthquake, many millions of individuals near the epicenter got a warning about 10 to 15 seconds before shaking. The Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) states that a researchmeant for assessing Japan’s EEW system’s performance showed that the majority of these individuals managed to take advance actions before shaking took place (Tekeli‐Yeşil et al., 2010).The figure below illustrates how EEW systems offer advanced warnings

Figure 5. Japanese Earthquake Early Warning System(Tekeli- Yesil et al., 2010)


Skills Required In Designing And ImplementingEarthquake Early Warning (EEW) Technology

This measure requires a lot of technical skills because of the complex procedures entailed in designing and implementing the system. The technology is also new in most countries and therefore proper communication is necessary to ensure that all the precautionary measures are taken and all challenges entailed are addressed accordingly. Therefore, effective communication skills are necessary to facilitate cooperation and clear understanding between several stakeholders involved in its design and implementation. This measure requires skills for using technology as many current technological programs are involved and the stakeholders engaged need to possess a variety of basic information technology skills. They should also be ready to learn new developing skills in order to choose suitable technology measures for addressing earthquake challenges. Moreover, self-management skills are required for stakeholders to assess and monitor their performance during the implementation stage. They should be able to take responsibility and ensure appropriate preparation for and mitigation of earthquakes.


Japan still needs to do a lot in order to attain earthquake resilience. The nation utilizes vastly different emergency management systems to deal with hazards. Additionally, Japan puts too much faith in mitigation structures and little is done in building up its body of emergency managers and organizational resilience. What the nation requires is a complete lawandpolicythat team up allthebillsaddressing disaster management into one and balance mitigation and preparedness determinations more evenly. The Great East Japan earthquake need tomake it clear that structural mitigation is just one of the strategies involved. Japan, which executesprobably the most mitigation globally, was not ready for the events on and following March 15, 2011. The country might have mitigated fairly well for the earthquake, but sea walls were required in all regions to prevent the 10-m waves. Moreover, mitigation was inadequate to end the damage that happened at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. It is evident that building resilience is not only a structural mitigation but also entails capacity building, preparedness, and a citizenry awareness about all the hazards that endanger them and modestly get ready for rogue hazards they cannot forecast.Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) technology is capable of enhancing public safety and benefiting users by offering time for protective measures to be taken before shaking takes place. Additionally, for all buildings, making risk-informed mitigation decisions, such as implementing lower-cost mitigations like land planning, seismic safety inspections, and earthquake drills as part of a complete seismic safety program can assist the agencies in protecting their resources from earthquake damage and minimizing injuries to building residents. Japan as a nation is a good example to other countries, which are yet to implement earthquake preparedness and mitigation measures.



Cho, A. (2014). Post‐tsunami recovery and reconstruction: governance issues and implications of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Disasters38(s2), s157-s178.

Greer, A. (2012). Earthquake Preparedness and Response: Comparison of the United States and Japan. Leadership and Management in Engineering12(3), 111-125.

Ikeuchi, K., & Isago, N. (2011). Earthquake disaster mitigation policy in Japan.

Katayama, T. (2004, August). Earthquake Disaster Risk Mitigation Before and After the 1995 Kobe Earthquake. In Proceedings of the 13 TH World Conference on Earthquake Engineering, Vancouver, Canada. Paper Nº5005.

Kitagawa, K. (2015). Continuity and change in disaster education in Japan. History of Education44(3), 371-390.

Medina, A. (2016). Promoting a culture of disaster preparedness. Journal of business continuity & emergency planning9(3), 281-290.

Mutch, C. (2014). The role of schools in disaster preparedness, response and recovery: what can we learn from the literature? Pastoral Care in Education32(1), 5-22.

Naoi, M., Seko, M., & Ishino, T. (2012). Earthquake risk in Japan: consumers’ risk mitigation responses after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Journal of Economic Issues46(2), 519-530.

Suganuma, K. (2006). Recent trends in earthquake disaster management in Japan. Science and Technology Trends19, 91-106.

Tatsumi, Y. (2012). Great East Japan Earthquake: Lessons Learned for Japan’s Defense Posture. Asia-Pacific Review19(2), 26-45.

Tekeli‐Yeşil, S., Dedeoǧlu, N., Tanner, M., Braun‐Fahrlaender, C., & Obrist, B. (2010). Individual preparedness and mitigation actions for a predicted earthquake in Istanbul. Disasters34(4), 910-930.

Veenema, T. G., Griffin, A., Gable, A. R., MacIntyre, L., Simons, R. A. D. M., Couig, M. P., … & Larson, E. (2016). Nurses as Leaders in Disaster Preparedness and Response—A Call to Action. Journal of Nursing Scholarship48(2), 187-200.