At the “Network for Crisis Management”, one of the Asian Network of Major Cities 21 (ANMC21) joint projects, each year the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) invites rescue teams from Asia to participate in an annual Comprehensive Disaster Management Drill. This aims to develop human resources, in addition to both accumulating crisis-management experience and sharing know-how.
The drill was again conducted on August 30th this year, and TMG welcomed a total of 21 rescue personnel from the Seoul, Taipei, New Taipei and the Taiwan Red Cross (with personnel from the latter two attending the event as observers).
The visiting rescue teams came to Tokyo on a four-day schedule that was comprised of pre-training, lectures and visits. On the morning of the first day, they attended a lecture at the Tokyo Fire Department (TFD). The lecture addressed the importance of safety management for rescue teams when in firefighting situations. The members who engage in similar work on a daily basis listened to the lecture with great interest.
On the afternoon of the first day, the members inspected the Ikebukuro Fire Station and the Ikebukuro Life Safety Learning Center which is a facility used for educating the general public.
At the Ikebukuro Fire Station the members inspected equipment and received instruction regarding how the commanders make their decision on the courses of action adopted in firefighting activities, and take the order, etc. As current rescuers, the rescue team members inspected each piece of safety equipment with great interest, and these inspections prompted very detailed questions. Furthermore, they also proactively presented the situations they face in their own cities, thus giving an opportunity to learn about the differences that each member city confronts. At the Ikebukuro Life Safety Learning Center, the members observed and actually tried interactive exhibits for general public, such as how to operate the fire extinguishers, how to escape from a smoke-filled room, and how much it shakes during an earthquake, etc.
The next day they visited the Fire Rescue Task Forces, the 6th Fire District HQ of the Tokyo Fire Department. Here, they participated in pre-training with Tokyo rescue members and technical-exchange sessions in preparing for their participation in the Comprehensive Disaster Management Drill.
What particularly grabbed the attention of the overseas rescue team members was the rescue procedure using ladders. This involved evacuating people from high places. It was noted that the use of the ladder must be adapted depending on the situations such as a building’s width and the conditions of the people requiring rescue. Such factors can lead to several different ways that a ladder can be used in rescue scenarios. The overseas members praised the technique and judgment of the TFD rescuers.
In the course of the training, members of the rescue teams from each city introduced their own rope-tying techniques and building-demolition methods; comparing the differences and the reasoning behind the methods each other. During the lunch interval, the Tokyo members mingled with the overseas visitors, speaking freely amongst themselves while enjoying lunch together. With the time passing swiftly, many regretted that they had wanted “to speak more” with each other.
Finally, the day of the Comprehensive Disaster Management Drill arrived on August 30th. There was concern over the extreme heat, however, the mercury did not rise too much and conditions were fairly tolerable for the rescue team members. The scenario of the Comprehensive Disaster Management Drill was a rescue to be conducted in an area of dense wooden housing. There are still many such clusters of wooden housing in Tokyo and concerns exist should a large-scale disaster hit due to their ease of flammability and risk of destruction. Asian cities such as Seoul, Taipei and New Taipei face similar challenges, and this motivated the participants from those cities even more.
In the drill, supposing that Tokyo was hit by a magnitude 7.3 earthquake with its epicenter in Tokyo Bay, the task for the overseas rescue team members was to rescue people left inside a collapsed house in cooperation with Tokyo rescue members. The overseas rescue team members reported their arrival to the disaster area to the Tokyo team commander, and they received orders as to where rescue activities should commence. This was a “blind drill” scenario that information on the collapsed houses and casualties was not disclosed in advance. Despite this, however, the rescue team members swiftly assessed the situation, proceeding while appropriately communicating with one another, and they evacuated the casualties one by one.
After the drill, the Governor of Tokyo visited the rescue members to thank them for their hard work. Citizens who observed the drill also spoke to the rescue team members and took photos together. They also talked to TMG staff that, “it will be such a relief if Tokyo can gain cooperation like this”. Thus, the drill allowed many Tokyo residents to appreciate the cooperative relationship among Asian cities.
Rescue team members working together during this joint training may not only have the chance to work together during disasters in each other’s cities, but may also work together as international disaster rescue teams in other locations. By gaining a deeper understanding of each other’s activities through such joint training, not only will it enhance the risk management capability of each rescue team; but when there is an opportunity to be involved in a joint rescue mission, it will be beneficial and will enhance the reputation of the rescue techniques used in Asia as a whole.