Importance of Emergency Evacuation

An extensive, organized emergency evacuation to protect people from secondary disasters is important though this did not attract enough attention in the event of the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

In the disaster, an evacuation warning was issued targeting about 75,000 residents in 39 districts in Kobe city because of the dangers of collapsing housing, fires too close to evacuation centers, LPG gas leaking from the base, and possible landslides. It was small mercies that there was no need for large-scale evacuation from a conflagration or a tsunami, but it is also true that the issues with extensive evacuation have been overlooked because no such huge evacuation took place. People should be aware of the importance of this issue.

Difference between Extensive Emergency Evacuation and Evacuation for Refuge

First, an extensive emergency evacuation should be distinguished from the evacuation for refuge. A large-scale, emergency evacuation is an indispensable practice to protect people from a great fire or a tsunami.

A small school building with a site of several hectares cannot protect people who take refuge there when surrounded by a conflagration. Likewise, a school building on a coastal, lowland area cannot guard people when a tsunami surges in. A school building is not always safe as an emergency shelter and, thus, it should not be acknowledged as the final place for evacuation.

Evacuation Direction System

Second, the system of evacuation direction and its manual should be improved. In Higashinada-ward, where the largest emergency evacuation in the disaster took place due to gas leakage, there was confusion due to the lack of concrete direction in regards to the evacuation route and evacuation space. Some people did not follow the warning because there was no actual direction or confirmation.

Thus, a manual which clearly shows the procedures of evacuation including who should be in charge is necessary.

Preparation of Evacuation Spaces

Third, it is important to prepare facilities and spaces for emergency evacuation. In the great earthquake, some people had difficulty in finding a space to stay in a small evacuation center, or in escaping due to debris of collapsed buildings blocking their way.

Larger parks and wider roads are necessary for an emergency evacuation from a conflagration. It may not be, however, quite possible to secure such spaces in a congested residential district. Preparation and improvement of spaces for emergency evacuation, including setting up necessary signs and lights, should be regarded as urgent issues.

Evacuation Drills

Fourth, evacuation drills should take place for the evacuation to be operated properly and as planned.

The present plan for the extensive evacuation is based on the assumption that people would act in order. If a particular evacuation space is filled with people more than expected, the overflow from the space will be engulfed in flames. Evacuation drills should be conducted repeatedly for people to learn well about the evacuation plan, and also for the plan to be examined. However, there are almost no municipalities or districts who are actually doing it.

As a matter of fact, what really should be done is to create a nonflammable urban city where people do not have to evacuate from. The actual situation is, however, far from people not having to evacuate; evacuation itself is already not easy enough.


(MUROSAKI Yoshiteru)