Following its two special issues on the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster, the Journal of Disaster Research is now publishing this third issue focusing on risk communication.
The earthquake and tsunami killed over 20,000 people, destroyed houses, farmlands, and communities, and led to a large amount of radioactive materials being released from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. These materials contaminated the environment and foods and forced almost 160,000 people to be evacuated from the highly contaminated district.
Ruined buildings are now being reconstructed and adversely affected farmland is being decontaminated. The victims remained concerned, however, about their future, especially those exposed to even very low-level radiation.
Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts, a landmark report released by the Chernobyl Forum in 2005, assessed the 20-year impact of the nuclear explosion at the Chernobyl power plant in 1986. One of its important findings was that 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer, mainly in children, had occurred but that except for nine deaths, all of the children recovered and that there was no evidence of any increase in the incidence of leukemia or cancer among affected residents.
Such facts as these are not generally known, however, many health conditions have been erroneously attributed to radiation exposure and myths and misperceptions have persisted about the threat of radiation, resulting in a “paralyzing fatalism” among residents of affected areas.
The Chernobyl report recommends developing new and innovative ways of risk communication to increase knowledge about the actual health effects of radiation and providing accurate information on the incident’s physical and mental health consequences.
Over the last three years, experts in risk communication in Japan have continued working to disseminate scientifically accurate information about radiation. This issue discusses the current status and questions related to the incident.
The notion of risk was introduced in Japanese academia in the 1970s. Following this initial period of interest, the Society for Risk Analysis, Japan, was launched in 1988, coinciding with the first study of “risk communication.” However, the concept was not widely embraced by the public at that time. This situation changed after the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, and risk communication gradually came to be acknowledged in Japanese society. Following the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant incident of March 11, 2011, a boom in risk communication occurred due to anxieties among residents about the possibility of low-level radiation exposure. Regrettably, however, the government’s risk communication system did not work well, and consequently, the general public did not know who or what to believe. Underlying this confusion, we can observe the differences between the “risk cultures” of Japan and the West. Thus, it remains to be seen in what manner Japanese people will come to accept risk communication.
The first BSE case in Japan was found in 2001. The BSE risk in Japan was small and the measures taken by the government successfully prevented the spread of BSE. However, because consumers did not have accurate information, they did not trust the government and refused to consume beef. Based on the lessons learned, the government enacted the Food Safety Basic Act in 2003, and risk communication in the food field was started. In 2003, the first BSE case was found in the U.S. that were supplying nearly one third of the beef consumed in Japan, and the government banned beef import from the U.S. The BSE risk in the U.S. was also small and it was possible to resume imports of beef after the appropriate measures. Despite the government efforts of risk communication, consumers rejected the resumption of imports. In 2011, food was contaminated with radioactive substances discharged from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Although government eliminated the contaminated food from the market, some consumers rejected all of the agricultural products of the Fukushima region, again a failure of risk communication. Here, the current situation and problems of the risk communication in Japan will be described.
Chemical related risk analysis and communication were discussed in connection with the role of risk assessment. Some of the chemicals are thought to be one of the hazards that tend to consider as dread and unknown risk. Owing to the institutionalization of Pollutant Release Transfer Register (PRTR) and development of risk assessment have gradually revealed new aspect of risk analysis and communication. In this review, we briefly discuss about the representative cases and discuss the role of risk assessment to risk communication.
The handling of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant (FNPP) operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company further underscores the importance of clear risk communication. The quality of risk communication during this crisis and in its aftermath was evaluated, however, as unsatisfactory by the government, the mass media, and experts to date. Risk communication problems are divided into those derived from risk and those derived from communication. A lack of skill in communicating the risks involved was major point raised concerning the present situation, but we also face difficulty in informing the general public of radiation risks due to insufficient communication about these risks, a lack of education about radiation before the accident, the uncertainty of risks assessed as due to low-dose radiation, and confusion regarding knowledge about radiation effects and policy for protecting ourselves from radiation. These problems are specific to radiation and cannot be solved by communication skills alone. In this paper, I summarize concepts of radiation protection, low-dose radiation risk assessment, and the Japanese population’s recognition of radiation related to actual and potential risk communication problems about radiation. I will also briefly examine the actual problems of crisis, care, and consensus communication in response to the FNPP accident. These are categorized as either radiation-specific or general problems to discuss the elements needed to solve risk communication problems problems.
Investigation reports of Fukushima nuclear disaster have been analyzed with emphasis on deriving deeper understanding of factors contributed to the disaster. Through the present analysis, lack of convincing risk communication to citizens has been identified as the main factor. Some proposals have been made to improve the risk communication concerning nuclear technology.
This paper concerns controversial risk communication issues related to emerging environmental and technological risks in postindustrial risk society. The interdisciplinary risk communication framework is set up to discuss communication issues originating in the high uncertainties and stakes involved in framing and evaluating scientific evidence attached to environmental risk events. Three controversial cases of risk communication – 1) the 1999 Amendment of Air Pollution Control Law, 2) dioxins as endocrine disruptors, and 3) EMF risks – are discussed based on an interdisciplinary risk communication framework focusing on communication issues in terms of “peer review,” “risk characterization,” and “precautionary approach.”
Appropriate mitigation measures are not always taken even if individuals perceive a high risk of a natural disaster; therefore, merely sharing information on the degree of risk is insufficient when communicating the true danger in a situation. Which aspects should be taken into account in designing a risk communication program against natural disasters? This article reviews this issue based on findings of risk perception studies and theories of social psychology. The focus was placed upon four topics in addressing the link between risk perception and preparedness for action: (1) perceived efficacy of recommended mitigation measures, (2) trust in risk managers, (3) direct or indirect experience of the disaster, and (4) use of heuristics. This article also addressed the social aspects of human nature in disasters. Immediately after 2011 Tohoku earthquake shocks subsided, mobile phone communication was disabled by the sudden and extremely high demand of users attempting to contact significant others. Emergency evacuation systems, therefore, must be designed with an allowance for the social nature of people trying to confirm the safety of others even when this may conflict with immediate evacuation requirements. The development of an information environment which enables residents to evacuate rapidly, based on psychological findings and advanced technology, was finally discussed.
This paper explores problems related to verbal expressions of risk communication. In particular, we analyze several problems that arose during the critical situations caused by the accidents at the Fukushima nuclear plants following the Great East Japan Earthquake from pragmatics, linguistic psychological and social psychological perspectives. e focus on verbal expressions with implicatures and expressions incongruent with the sender’s right of involvement, underscoring that these expressions can lead to inferences on the part of the receiver that were intended by the sender and/or to negative images about the sender.
This study analyzes Japanese management of international assistance, focusing on the role of search and rescue teams based on lessons learned from the response to the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake. It first reexamines lessons collected from different sources. Applying root cause analysis to them, it then explores why the system did not perform as expected and what causes were responsible for such performance. Identified root causes include: a reactive approach to international assistance, a lack of operational management coverage, a lack of stakeholder involvement – especially at the local level, insufficient preparation for difficult or sensitive issues, and deviation from international standards and practices. The study then implements comparative analysis by applying a set of selected benchmarks to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese system compared to selected leading practices of other nations. Results of analysis identified areas requiring improvement and provided ideas on how to improve the system. The study also suggests ways to improve the system’s nature and scope, its content, and its management structure.
This study, which is based on an online social survey, confirms that Japanese citizens after the Fukushima nuclear accident are willing to participate in both a national, random sampling deliberation on the management of nuclear power plant accidents or of nuclear waste and spent fuel as well as in local deliberations on disaster preparation. At the same time, citizen eagerness to join national public deliberations on decontamination and human support after the Fukushima accident is less than that of local disaster preparation. The personal damage experienced in the Fukushima accident enhanced the inclination to engage in national public discussions on nuclear related issues. The Japanese national government should continue random sampling-based deliberations on nuclear and energy policy (accident and waste), following the examples of local governments on local themes.
This paper clarifies recovery status and life recovery processes based on victims’ feelings following the March 2011 Great East Japan earthquake. Specifically, a questionnaires were given to about 3,000 quake victims to determine their status and any issues they may have had. The overall recovery picture was obtained using measurement called a “recovery calendar.” The structure of the recovery process was compared to disasters such as the Great Hanshin-Awaji (Kobe) earthquake in 1995. The recovery calendar indicated that 80% of respondents felt that local activities have not been restored to their original state and saw themselves as victims three years after the earthquake, indicating that recovery had progressed slower than it had following the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake. In a comparison of the three prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi displayed the same recovery trends. Fukushima recovered later than the other two prefectures. For the item “The local economy was no longer influenced by the earthquake,” it was indicated that the economic situation in Iwate was worse than that in Miyagi or Fukushima. General characteristics of the life recovery process were also investigated through a comparison to other earthquake and water disasters. Life recovery proceeded in five phases:
1) Victims prepared to have an uncomfortable life for a while and understood the extent of the damage.
2) Victims felt safe and office and school activities had resumed.
3) Everyday life settled down, housing problems were finally settled, and personal financial situations were no longer influenced by the earthquake.
4) Respondents no longer defined themselves as victims.
5) The local economy was no longer influenced by the earthquake.
In cluster analysis for classifying life recovery processes, 12 items were classified into five clusters corresponding to the above five phases, statistically showing that victims’ lives recovered through these phases. As a result of decision tree analysis for predicting causes of “they no longer defined themselves as victims” in an attempt to organize life recovery processes, the same structure of life recovery processes was found as for the three-layer recovery model of the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake. In short, physical and economic recovery such as of houses and regions was achieved based on the reconstruction of infrastructures, followed by the achievement of life recovery. It is predicted and proposed that life recovery in areas affected by the Great East Japan earthquake took the course of infrastructure reconstruction at first, then achieved physical recovery in local areas by supporting house recovery on a parallel with economic support. To achieve them, a long-term plan from a perspective of at least 10 years is required, as was the case of the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake.
After the nuclear meltdown incident at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011, citizens are increasingly concerned about the adverse effects of radiation on health. Perception and anxiety about risks have been worsened by inaccurate news reports and a lack of information about the incident. In this research, newspaper headlines from March 2011 to January 2012 on the Fukushima incident were comprehensively collected and analyzed using text mining. Extracted data were also compared to information transmitted via social media such as Twitter during the same period to examine the following four issues related to features of the two types of transmission, i.e., newspaper headlines and social media, and the relationship between information from the media and anxieties about the adverse effects of radiation on health.
1) Over 10 months after the nuclear meltdown incident, the information most frequently provided by newspapers was that related to radiation measurement and surveys but providing few articles directly related to adverse effects of radiation on health.
2) Newspaper headlines combined multiple topics in short transmitted text while, at the same time, the limited information transmitted by social media was exaggerated.
3) Newspapers indirectly explained the adverse effects of radiation on health using concepts such as “danger/risk,” “safety,” “anxiety/dissatisfaction,” and “security.”
4) Many articles used the term “danger/risk” in March 2011 before the degree of radiation exposure had been evaluated reliably.
The purpose of this study is to explore the impact of disasters on international tourism demand for Japan by applying Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) intervention models that focus on evaluating change patterns and the duration of effects by observing variations in parameters. Japan suffered a variety of disasters, especially natural disasters due to its geographical location, so we have divided these disasters into three types: geological disasters, extreme weather events and “others” such as terrorist attacks, infectious diseases, and economic crises. Based on the principle of preparing for the worst, we selected 4 cases for each disaster type, for 12 in all. Results suggest that (1) large-scale disasters such as great earthquakes impacted negatively on inbound tourism demand for Japan; (2) not all disasters resulted in an abrupt drop in inbound tourist arrivals, extreme weather events, for example, did not decrease inbound tourism demand significantly; (3) impact caused by disasters was temporary.
During the 2011 Earthquake off the Pacific Coast of Tohoku, high acceleration records with a PGA of 2.7 G were reported at the K-NET Tsukidate station (MYG004), where a maximum seismic intensity of 7 on the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) scale was observed. However, no major damage to the wooden houses in the area surrounding the station was reported. The objectives of this study are to obtain a 2D shallow soil profile of the area around the Tsukidate strong motion station (MYG004) located on the top of a 5 m cliff, and also to provide basic material for a detailed understanding of the high accelerations during the earthquake. We conducted a seismic refraction survey west of the station, and we used a full-waveform inversion of the acquired seismic data to retrieve a 2D shallow soil profile. The inverted 2D soil model underlines a clear lateral S-wave velocity variation in the surface layer, and comparisons to results of the microtremor measurements using an array and horizontal-to-vertical ratio conducted along the seismic survey line show significant similarities to the lateral velocity variation revealed by our 2D inversion. We also examined the effect of this lack of velocity homogeneity on the soil response, and we found that it could play an important role in amplifying the content of the high frequencies.
Tsunami evacuation plans have been deliberately developed by local governments in coastal areas in Japan under guidance from the national government since before the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011. These plans, however, do not mention the time required for all local residents to evacuate to evacuation areas. This paper reports a procedure to design an effective tsunami safe town planning using multi-agent simulator (MAS) which identify a degree of evacuation risk in objective area. A case study is applied to one of the worst hit town of tsunami, in which additional facilities such as evacuation areas, safe buildings, and evacuation routes are proposed as well.
Over 18,000 people were killed or went missing in Tohoku district Pacific coast communities during the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster. The author proposes a victim index, a simple index to evaluate tsunami evacuation potential, for comprehensively evaluating the ease of evacuation and the evacuation capability of residents in communities based on field research data, and determined the index values for 13 villages of Yamada town, Iwate prefecture. Whether the index values matched regional features was analyzed using interview survey data on evacuation actions of residents by the Joint Survey Group on Tsunami Evacuation during the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster (team for Yamada and Ishinomaki) (Appendix A). As a result, under some restrictions, the difference in features related to the evacuation capability of affected communities could be explained well using the victim index. This index is applicable to compare damaged factors among the communities and allows for the objective analysis of damage potential of each community.
After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, local governments in six prefectures produced their own post-tsunami urban recovery plans. The authors collected 50 recovery plans from the Internet from May 2012 to March 2014 to study their contents and planning processes. This paper focuses on post-tsunami recovery-planning situations, clarifying the following:
(1) Features of damaged areas are clarified regarding population and area size.
(2) Individual local government planning processes for making recovery plans, including the number of committee members and time period, are demonstrated,
(3) Recovery plan contents such as concreteness and strategies for relocating to higher lands are analyzed.
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conducted an online survey in 2011 to determine the extent of the business continuity management (BCM) status of its 21 member economies in the private sector. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) adopted the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 (HFA) with several priorities for action (PFA) with the objective of reducing vulnerability and increasing disaster resiliency. This paper considers which subjects of PFA in HFA are important for enhancing the BCM status of the private sector together with APEC survey output in 2011.