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Gov't looks to implement 5-point disaster warning system for floods, landslides


TOKYO -- A working group of the government's Central Disaster Management Council on Dec. 12 accepted in principle a draft proposal for a 5-point disaster protection and awareness system to be used for floods and landslides.

Actions recommended for residents to take are indicated in accordance with severe weather terminology issued by local and national governments, which are categorized into five alert levels. The purpose of the system is to convey a sense of urgency regarding various kinds of information provided at times of disasters.

The working group had been considering ways to dispatch information after western Japan was stuck by torrential rains in July. At the time, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) mentioned the possibility of issuing an emergency warning in advance, while local governments advised and ordered residents to evacuate. However, some residents chose to remain and died in their homes even after being urged to evacuate. "It was hard to understand the gravity of the situation because there was too much information," explained a resident.

Under the proposal, disaster information is separated into five levels to make it easier to understand. Residents are to reconfirm evacuation areas and routes when a flood or landslide warning is issued at alert level 1 to 2. If the warning scale reaches level 3, residents are encouraged to evacuate under specific guidelines. At that level, elderly people and others vulnerable to disasters are to start evacuating after receiving warnings from the JMA and other authorities.

At level 4, municipal governments will announce evacuation advisories or orders. When such a warning is issued, residents are to immediately evacuate from danger zones or take refuge indoors. At level 5, which assumes that a disaster has already occurred, residents are to make maximum efforts to ensure their safety.

Local governments will use an emergency radio communication system and other programs if the government issues an evacuation advisory. They will make announcements such as, "Flood alert level 4. An evacuation advisory has been issued for XX district in regards to the XX river. Please begin evacuating immediately."

The government will mull over the operational procedures for the new warning system next year.

(Japanese original by Kazuki Mogami, City News Department)

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