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March 2012

An Overview of the Disaster Information Transmission System of the Local Governments in the Post-Quake Japan

Prolonged Operation of Temporal Disaster-Broadcasting Stations and Diversified Means for Transmitting Evacuation Information

Keiko Murakami

Two new distinctive phenomena are seen in relation to the transmission system of disaster-related information after the Great East Japan Earthquake. One is the prolonged operation of temporal disaster-broadcasting stations (Disaster FM), which were established as a stopgap measure. The other is the diversification of means for transmitting evacuation information, which had been centering on the Disaster Prevention Administrative Radio System (broadcasts).

Temporal disaster-broadcasting stations are FM radio stations that are operated by licensed local governments for the purpose of transmitting necessary disaster-related information to the local residents. After the quake, 27 stations, a record number in the history of disaster, have opened by the end of January 2012. As of the end of January, 19 out of the 27 stations are still in operation to broadcast information, and two more stations are to open after February. These FM stations broadcast a wide variety of disaster-related information, ranging from evacuation, rescue activities, safety and whereabouts of survivors, living, and restoration works. As the operation of those stations prolongs, they are becoming to play a role of the support runner of restoration and local regeneration, in addition to their original role as the information transmitter.

Meanwhile, although the Disaster Prevention Administrative Radio System (broadcasts) had been regarded as the pivot of the evacuation information in the local municipality, many of them were damaged by the 3/11 quake/tsunami, which revealed the vulnerability of the system. Therefore, concerned parties have started examining what would be the optimum supplemental or alternative means and what type of system should be constructed to transmit evacuation information so that the residents could understand the urgency of the matter and evacuate immediately. Some see the needs for “security and safety” as a business opportunity and are developing new functions and terminals. Furthermore, the demonstration experiment of V-LOW multimedia broadcasting that involves digitalization of radio will be conducted soon with the primary objective of pursuing “security and safety.”

The author examines the status of the disaster information transmission system of the local governments in the post-quake Japan, based on the field survey of the Disaster FM stations that have opened one after another as well as on the research on the transmission of evacuation information after the quake.

The NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research


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