Working on Tsunami Evacuation Plans along with the Local Community
Assistant Professor Kazuya Sugiyasu Inter-Graduate School Doctoral Degree Program on Science for Global Safety
Working especially from the perspective of tsunami evacuation, Social Engineering (Urban Planning) specialist, Assistant Professor Kazuya Sugiyasu, is involved in creating local disaster prevention plans. He has been involved in projects in places such as Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, working in cooperation with local communities, other IRIDeS researchers, and other workers in the field of disaster risk reduction. Using tsunami hazard maps, he examines the effectiveness of evacuation plans, sets evacuation sites and routes, and offers proposals to improve strategies for giving guidance. In his work, he uses the latest technology, such as the GPS Logger, to record scientific data from sources such as electric automobiles and people’s movements at set time intervals and carries out evacuation drills in collaboration with the community.
Evacuation by car from a tsunami was not sanctioned officially until before the Tohoku Earthquake. However, since 2011, various local authorities have started considering evacuation by car as a possible option, while continuing to recognize evacuation by foot as the rule. Evacuation sites have also been reconsidered. Assistant Professor Sugiyasu and his colleagues are involved in factoring these changes into local disaster prevention plans.
Using urban planning techniques, tsunami hazard maps have undergone the process of collating and visualizing information on evacuation plans, evacuation sites, flood ranges, etc. Spurred by the Tohoku Earthquake, rapid progress is now being made to distribute tsunami hazard maps in areas across the country; this activity had been falling behind while preparing them. At the same time, the risk of over-reliance on hazard maps is also coming to be recognized. Assistant Professor Sugiyasu himself states the following about the tsunami hazard maps he uses in preparing disaster prevention plans: “While they make it easier for people to get a mental image of the disaster, they do have the drawback of tending to create a fixed image in people’s minds. The maps are created based on a specific scenario; it is possible for an actual disaster to go beyond the scenario’s conditions. We really have to bear that in mind, and make skillful use of those maps.”
“There are many handy tools out there, including hazard maps, but they only start to show their effectiveness once the user knows how they work. For local disaster prevention plans, what is important is not just the hard infrastructure such as flood embankments but also soft infrastructure such as evacuation drills and the importance of communicating with the community.” Assistant Professor Sugiyasu emphasizes that it is important to work from the perspective of creating a fusion between engineering skills and people skills.