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Case study: inclusiveness in joint Chile-Japan tsunami & earthquake drill

Authorities from Chile and Japan walking along with Valparaiso population during the earthquake and tsunami drill. Photo: ONEMI (Chile)
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Architectonical barriers halve the chances of survival of people with disabilities and their assistants: some valuable lessons from a joint drill where ONG Inclusiva was tasked to observe and evaluate inclusion of people with disabilities in evacuation efforts.

Earthquakes and tsunamis can affect many coastal line communities. The impact varies from place to place depending on urban, technological, communicational and cultural barriers. Those barriers increase the vulnerability of people with disabilities and elderly people.

A Chile-Japan bi-national tsunami and earthquake drill was held simultaneously in Valparaiso, Chile and Hososhima, Japan, to mark the International Tsunami Awareness Day on November 5th, 2016. In Chile, more than 100,000 people were mobilized in the evacuation of the regional coastal border to safe areas. The exercise emulated an earthquake with a tsunami of 8.8 Richter scale. At the same time, the drill started at 10:30 Hrs in the Japanese city of Hososhima.

The goals of the Chile-Japan bi-national tsunami and earthquake drill were to:

  • Achieve high participation of the target population
  • Generate the instance for institutions to test regional / provincial / municipal and / or sector related to emergency plans and evacuation process
  • Evaluate time, the security and the process of evacuation of the community
  • Promote awareness of the public about preventive behaviors, self-care preparation to face the threat of earthquake of greater intensity and tsunami

Assessing inclusiveness in emergencies

ONG Inclusiva worked with the ONEMI, the Chilean National Emergency Office. The mission of ONG Inclusiva was to observe the drill and carry out an assessment of the degree of inclusion of people with disabilities, following a very strict protocol to evaluate specifically the stages of preparation and emergency response in a plan for a high-intensity earthquake and tsunami.

The aspects evaluated were:

  • 1. Behavior and community organization during the drill
  • 2. Evacuation time to security zones
  • 3. Safety conditions
  • 4. Implementation of emergency
  • 5. Preparation of Inclusive Actions

Conclusions

The study presented some valuable conclusions, particularly from the perspective of inclusion in situations of emergency:

  1. Environmental barriers such as architectonical barriers combined with geographical factors such as mountainous landscapes in the coastline (Japanese and Chilean landscapes) reduces at least twice the survival possibilities of people with disabilities and their assistants/ family or co- workers
  2. Critical infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and rehabilitations centers cannot be placed in dangerous zones
  3. Resilient cities need to be intelligent cities with systems, services and technologies that have dialogues among them reducing vulnerabilities. The data collected must be used to design better, with inputs from the community, people with disabilities must be key actors in urban planning. Communication technologies are needed
  4. Urban planning needs to follow universal design
  5. Urban planning should contemplate better conditions in safe zones that would house temporally people that are escaping from tsunami
  6. The planning of the drills must take into account the needs of people with psychiatric disabilities, Down syndrome, autism, deaf people among others, it has to be planned beforehand, if not the drill itself can cause harm to people with disabilities (this is said from people with disabilities organizations in Chile, it is not paternalism because the solution is participation)
  7. Local governments must work with local people with disabilities, the emergency authorities and ministries involved in building regulations alongside private sector to improve design and regulations
  8. Drivers need to not use their cars, but due to the danger that cars represent to pedestrians with disabilities, sidewalks must follow Universal Design applied to Emergencies Standards (UDES) with no barriers and of a proper width
  9. People with disabilities and its organizations must work at local and national levels with authorities involved in risk reduction, and must work as observers and technical evaluators
  10. Communities such as the people that inhabit a building, blocks, office workers, rehabilitation center users and professional teams need to be trained as inclusive risk reduction teams with procedure and protocols
  11. International cooperation should have specific projects on inclusive risk reduction

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