6) Prospective Issues and Efforts
I have no determined proposals at this time. However, I would like to set forth a few problematic possibilities.
- As the Great East Japan Earthquake shrinks from the headlines, the availability and support of volunteers has dwindled.
Therefore, in order to attract needed volunteers, plans have been made to keep the crisis top-of-mind. For example, people can tour the affected areas in Fukushima and witness the unprecedented damage and suffering caused to the residents.
- Evacuation of patients (disaster readiness plan)
- It is necessary to prepare now for the evacuation of patients with severe intractable diseases should or when another disaster strikes in the future.
- A plan should be made for securing medicines, respirators, oxygen, power supplies, fuels etc.
- In addition, existing power generators should be serviced regularly in order to ensure functionality and safety when needed.
- Households should keep extra fuel. And hospitals should ensure their extra fuel supplies must last longer than just a few days especially for large-scale disasters.
- Methods to obtain and store special medicines must be addressed. Tea containers proved to be effective for storing medicines.
Companies that supplied oxygen had the patients’ addresses on file therefore could expedite deliveries after the earthquake.
As for evacuating incapacitated patients, creative transportation means must be developed without depending on ground transportation.
- It is recommended that patients with intractable diseases should live with family members during the emergency if possible not only fukushi (welfare) and emergency shelter (emergency shelters for vulnerable citizens) .
Sending patients to fukushi emergency shelters far from their communities should be re-examined.
If possible it would be very beneficial for patients to stay at the standard emergency shelters with their family members and not to be sent to the welfare emergency shelters far from their communities.
- Emergency shelters should be equipped with gas cylinders, cookware, heaters, blankets, cots, folding chairs, diapers, portable toilets with seats, water and plastic bags. These items are more available and affordable before a disaster.
- For the elderly and NANBYO patients who have difficulty eating, there should be supplies of jelly nutrient drinks and water (plastic bottles), not hardtack and rice balls. Scheduled activities such as replacing supplies annually during disaster drills will raise preparedness awareness with residents and boost the economy.
- Persons with disabilities and the elderly should be encouraged to take part in evacuation drills. Neighbors should be made aware of their mobility limitations.
- Emergency shelters should be equipped like public facilities for the elderly, child-care, schools, etc., should be built in safe areas, so that supporting organizations including commercial buildings, will be constructed likewise.
- In some areas, the high breakwaters constructed for disaster protection caused unexpected problems which led to additional damage and hardship for citizens. They are also a blight on the landscape. Other disaster prevention methods should be explored and utilized.
- It should be noted that the tsunami evacuation tower is not accessible for Nanbyo patients, persons with disabilities and the elderly with ambulatory restrictions.
- Contingency measures should also be developed for secondary disasters including flooding, infrastructure damage and sustenance availability etc.
We should also consider how to improve the following circumstantial predicaments.
- Medical facility alternatives need to be identified as many patients had no access to them.
- Support for visually impaired patients.
- Identify auxiliary medical and support persons in the event of loss of life to primarily care workers during the disaster i.e. nurses, doctors, firefighters etc.
I hope these opinions and experiences are beneficial for developing practical disaster readiness plans in the future.