At 14:46 on March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami occurred off the coast of Honshu, Japan. In the acute phase of this catastrophe, one of our teams was deployed as a Tokyo Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) to Kudan Kaikan in Tokyo, where the ceiling of a large hall had partially collapsed as the result of the earthquake, to conduct triage at the scene: 6 casualties were assigned to the red category (immediate), which included 1 case of cardiopulmonary arrest and 1 of flail chest; 8 casualties in the yellow category (delayed); and 22 casualties in the green category (minor). One severely injured person was transported to our hospital. Separately, our medical team was deployed to Miyagi 2 hours after the earthquake in our multipurpose medical vehicle as part of Japan DMAT (J-DMAT). We were the first DMAT from the metropolitan area to arrive, but we were unable to start medical relief activities because the information infrastructure had been destroyed and no specific information had yet reached the local headquarters. Early next morning, J-DMAT decided to support Sendai Medical Center and search and rescue efforts in the affected area and to establish a staging care unit at Camp Kasuminome of the Japan Self-Defense Force. Our team joined others to establish the staging care unit. Because information was still confused until day 3 of the disaster and we could not adequately grasp onsite medical needs, our J-DMAT decided to provide onsite support at Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital, a disaster base hospital, and relay information about its needs to the local J-DMAT headquarters. Although our medical relief teams were deployed as quickly as possible, we could not begin medical relief activities immediately owing to the severely damaged information infrastructure. Only satellite mobile phones could be operated, and information on the number of casualties and the severity of shortages of lifeline services could be obtained only through a "go and see" approach. Because there was no way to transmit or receive this vital information, disaster workers in the affected areas faced many challenges. For the future, network data links need to be made more resistant to infrastructure damage, and redundant or reach-back systems involving multitiered satellite, wireless, and radio frequency data links would provide definitive solutions. Such integrated systems should be designed around seamless connectivity based on an "always best connected" principle for maintaining communication quality.
2011 by the Medical Association of Nippon Medical School