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FEATURE STORY July 9, 2020

Managing Japanese evacuation centers during COVID-19

July 9, 2020
Washington D.C.

As the COVID-19 pandemic reverberates around the globe, various countries have also been experiencing deadly tropical storms as they enter monsoon season. The ongoing pandemic does not put a hold on natural disasters, but rather poses new challenges to crisis management and has become a stress test for emergency preparedness and response systems. The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) invited four international experts working on the front lines to manage disaster risks to speak about their experiences and lessons learned in dealing with the compound risks of COVID-19 and tropical storms.

From Japan, Dr. Muneyoshi Numada, Associate Professor of the Institute of Industrial Science and Head of the Disaster Management Training Center (DMTC) at the University of Tokyo, shared his experiences. He was working on Emergency Operation Centers in Kumamoto Prefecture, after the area was hit by torrential rains which caused devastating floods and more than 80 casualties. Focusing on the five main challenges faced by municipalities preparing for compound risks, he shared key suggestions to improve preparedness:

(i) update the Standard Operating Procedure continuously to always have a plan in place for changing demands;

(ii) manage information on shelter environment, such as number of evacuees infected, with fever, etc. so that this can inform better decision-making by local municipalities;

(iii) optimize human resource allocation so that shelter management is implemented efficiently and effectively;

(iv) keep stock information on materials at shelters up to date for efficient delivery plans of equipment such as medical tools, food, toiletry, etc.; and

(v) develop and implement basic hygiene rules and routines among evacuees and shelter managers to ensure the spread of infections are mitigated.

When asked about collaboration between various stakeholders in the management of disaster risks, he stressed the importance of partnership between the public and private sector, using the example of convenient stores in Japan having pre-arrangements with municipalities to deliver necessities to evacuation shelters.

The technical support for this engagement was facilitated by the Tokyo DRM Hub in partnership with the GFDRR team.