Gov't to require municipalities make directories of 'vulnerable groups' in disasters
The government has decided to revise the Basic Act on Disaster Control Measures to require municipalities across the country to prepare directories of residents who can't evacuate on their own in times of disaster.
The government will also reform the guidelines for supporting elderly and handicapped people in disasters to allow the directories to be distributed to local support groups, such as welfare organizations, under certain conditions.
The existing guidelines ask municipalities to prepare such directories. However, as the guidelines are not legally binding, only a little over 60 percent of municipalities have registered names of residents who need evacuation support. Furthermore, as the directories in many municipalities are believed to list only the names of those who have wished or agreed to register, they are far from thorough and potentially ineffective.
Many municipalities' privacy protection ordinances allow them to provide personal information to third parties during disasters in exceptional cases. However, following the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, organizations supporting the handicapped struggled to confirm their safety because only a small fraction of the disaster affected areas, including Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, released the directories. The national government for this reason has concluded that the directory registration must be made legally mandatory.
The revised guidelines will allow municipal governments to provide the directories to social workers and welfare organizations only if it's confirmed they won't use the lists except in disaster situations.
The national government is considering releasing public examples of local governments that have added residents to the disaster assistance list on a negative-option basis -- including individuals' names unless they object. It is also considering agreements with organizations that manage the directories covering measures to prevent information leaks.
February 13, 2013(Mainichi Japan)