ILS acknowledges anniversary of the Japanese Tsunami

On this first anniversary of the Japanese Tsunami, which is believed to have claimed over 19,000 lives – many from drowning, the International Life Saving Federation acknowledges the ongoing suffering of the Japanese community. Our thoughts remain with those who have lost family members, those who have been displaced and those who live with the frightening memories of 11 March 2011.

In the aftermath of the Tsunami, the ILS community awaited news from the Japanese Lifesaving Association regarding the safety of their members and families. At the ILS World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Danang, Vietnam, Mr Tsutomu Komine, the JLA President delivered a firsthand account of the role of JLA in rescue and recovery efforts.

At the conference, and in the months following, the international drowning prevention community was reassured that as a result of Japan’s leadership in the disaster risk reduction area and its many leading scientists, lessons would emerge to assist other nations to protect citizens against aquatic disasters of this scale.

To date much of this research has focused on the nature of the earthquake, post event health impacts and the resulting wave patterns. In November an interesting piece was published in the Journal – Injury Prevention by Dr Shinhi Nakahara. Titled Lessons learnt from the recent tsunami in Japan: necessity of epidemiological evidence to strengthen community based preparation and emergency response plans, the paper reinforces the need for disaster risk reduction plans that balance technical solutions such as early warning systems with a greater emphasis on evacuation and land use. Dr Nakahara calls for approaches that promote community based efforts to develop detailed evacuation plans and target aspects of resident behaviour.

This is just one example of disaster related research that emphasises the importance of reducing risk, building resilience and preparing communities to respond to disaster.

ILS has previously expressed its support for the UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the Hyogo Framework. In paying tribute to the resilience of the Japanese people, UN Special Representative Margareta Wahlström expressed concern at the slow rate of adoption of the Hyogo Framework principles. A survey by the UNISDR showed that less than 20% of nations who have committed to the framework, are making substantial progress on generating public awareness of disaster risks and of how to address them.

ILS urges members to explore the nature of their Governments commitment to the UN Strategy for Disaster Reduction. A workshop at the ILS World Conference on Drowning Prevention 2011 found that lifesaving agencies now play roles well beyond rescue and recovery in aquatic incidents. Examples discussed included roles in; community education, promotion of community based risk reduction programs, hazard identification, coastal evacuation planning and drills, and formal representation on local and national disaster committees.

On this day the focus is rightly on the resilience of the Japanese community, the many lives lost and the wellbeing of our colleagues at JLA. In the coming years, we stand committed to ensuring that the many lessons arising from this disaster are shared and reinforced throughout the drowning prevention and lifesaving community.