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The Journal of Community Informatics

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Introduction The world has seen a lot of natural disasters to last a lifetime. These disasters leave us with ‘spill over’ effects that could last for many years. Our resources are depleted; we lose billions worth of property and assets and, worst of all, we lose countless lives. These can be attributed to the unpreparedness of a country in facing the aftermath of natural disasters. The level of destruction after a natural disaster depends not just on the magnitude of the disaster, but on the quality of infrastructure construction and disaster preparedness in areas where these disasters tend to hit.

Anderson Cooper, a reporter during Hurricane Katrina’s wake in the United States says that hunger, dead bodies left on the streets and the damages done on properties show what unpreparedness can do. Lakoff adds that “we are not prepared” for other disastrous events that might follow, whether tornado or hurricane or flood. It is very imperative for us to know how to prepare and what kind of natural disaster we need to prepare for (06). However, there seems to be poor coordination between the local and central government when it comes to preparing for these disasters.

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Debates ensued about who does its responsibilities and who does not. Coordination between these two agencies must be established if we are to minimize or be prepared for any incidents (Tufton 05). Gurstein (05) says that transmission of information is very important in being prepared for the disasters. He adds that whatever technological means available should make way for outputs that can be interpreted and used effectively at the local level. Moreover, warning systems and preparedness should be supported even in the local level to allow the communities to “absorb and adapt such information into ways that could be locally useful.

” According to the constructionist critique, organized claims-making activities produce ways of defining and labeling natural hazards and disasters. This means that social processes that give way to public education about disasters are important to understand the disasters and not just what happens or could happen. For instance, one analysis of the earthquake problem shows how views on the severity of the earthquake threat and strategies for managing seismic risk were a result of a small group of earthquake establishment.

Moreover, the institutional interests of scientific disciplines which focus on the study of earthquakes channel the social construction of the earthquake problem. The constructionist perspective focuses on the importance of finding out the social activities that interest groups and stakeholders engage with while also focusing on disaster-related problems and looking for the response they want from governments and institutions. Moreover, the constructionist view says that the properties of disasters are not inherent in the phenomenon but are the product of social definition.

Following the disasters which struck Japan, other events that have to do with failures of technology and of technological control systems have impacted Japan so much. But in the case of disaster research tradition, disasters do not result from the failure of systems to adapt to environmental extremes. Earthquakes in Japan Natural disasters are events which lead to unfavorable outcomes. These include earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, volcanic eruption, hurricanes, storms, tornadoes and many more. Earthquakes are tremors, or movements, of the earth’s surface caused by the release of stress along fault lines.

This release of stress produces movement in masses of rocks which eventually leads to shock waves. The Richter scale was developed to measure the magnitude of seismic waves. But even if there were researches and equipment designed for the earthquake, still it is impossible to predict an earthquake. It is inevitable that more earthquakes will visit Japan again and again. Japan has experienced natural disasters more than any other country did, earthquakes being the most common because of the country’s geographical position. It is situated in a zone where one plate is being forced beneath another plate.

Moreover, it is the meeting point of two pieces of the giant Pacific plate, which move in different directions alongside each other. These causes earthquakes to visit Japan very often. Most of these are very minor, although there are strong earthquakes from time to time. It is the strong earthquakes that the experts and public officials were concerned about. Japan became one of the leading countries in developing technologies to predict the occurrence of earthquakes. Satellite remote sensing technologies can now monitor the environment and provide basis for disaster warning.

More advances in the performance of the networking technologies have made it possible to open new opportunities for the utilization of data gathered. However, prediction and forecasts of earthquakes are still not very accurate. Other seasonal and frequent disasters, on the other hand, can be forecasted and predicted more easily. But the most important thing is that planning should be done to mitigate the effects of these disasters. Perhaps one of the worst earthquakes to hit Japan happened during September of 1923, in Tokyo and Yokohama.

The earthquake damaged hundred thousand homes and buildings, and the fires that followed had more damage done. More than one hundred and forty thousand people perished during this quake. The heat of the fires also caused tornado-like winds. Other people died because the fires sucked all the oxygen in the area. The more recent earthquake to be recorded was on January 17, 1995 in Kobe, Japan. The earthquakes began in the densely populated areas in the wee hours of the morning. The Kobe earthquake, measured 7. 2 shindo, destroyed newly built and old establishments, dikes, ports, killed people and created ravaging fires that were out of control.

Japan’s Preparedness and Monitoring Being prepared for any disaster does not stop after a disaster passed by. It is a continuous process. It requires people to make efforts. The public and its government must be well prepared, especially when it comes to coping with these events. The need to minimize, if not to totally eliminate disasters and the possible after effects, spearheaded the many researches and studies which eventually led to the invention and development of a wide array of systems and technological tools available today. This further improved the preparedness system of Japan.

With the use of hi-tech equipment, Japan made sure to erect structures that are disaster resistant. Moreover, buildings and homes can be reinforced inexpensively to the individual, company, or state to withstand the effects of earthquakes or other disasters. Communication also became important in all aspects of being prepared. Thankfully, the Internet facilitated enhanced communication and exchange of information. Communication between governments and agencies became easier and faster. Japan believes that it is one key factor in the success of their preparedness system.

Many conferences were held which discussed various topics that concern technological systems and advancements for forecasting natural disasters. Japan has funded many researches and projects when it comes to prevention of disasters. There has been an education for natural disaster preparedness in Natural Asia-Pacific, which focuses on gathering, developing and disseminating information. The Japanese country has improved its preparedness system by continuously researching and studying technologies to monitor the possible occurrence of natural disasters.

Several technologies have been adapted to monitor any anomalous conditions. The use of Internet and satellite data for monitoring and forecasting natural hazards became the foundation for many Japanese agencies to avoid any unfavorable outcomes. Japan’s preparedness system consists of conducting projects and initiatives to monitor and prepare for earthquakes. The National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) developed the i-Space Project for disaster management. The project uses space technology for monitoring disaster and information networking.

It targets natural disasters, particularly large-scale earthquakes in Tokai. It develops experiment system and conducts pilot experiments using Jet-plane and handy cameras. These technological advancements proved to be helpful in doing what they were designed for. Benson and Clay say that “natural hazards warrant more serious consideration in the formulation of national economic policies and strategies” (04). Planning and assessment must be done to reduce any risk. Right at this moment, thousands of separate technological tools are being used around the world.

These tools are not designed to talk to each other. But if they are linked as a system of bigger systems, the benefits will be far from what we can dare to hope. Due to the fact that people around the world will benefit, there is a need for an urgent development of a comprehensive global system. This will enable countries to save billions of dollars. The aftermath of what happened in Kobe in 1995 tells the Japanese to always be prepared for what might happen. They know it is going to happen, but not when or where (Petersen 07). This is where the technological tools will be helpful.

The use of satellite in monitoring plays an important role in revealing geological structures such as active faults, which points to the movements of different areas of the Earth surface. Certain technological developments have also helped vulcanologists to be skillful at predicting when a certain volcano will erupt, and this also leads to prediction of an earthquake that might follow. Satellite images would reveal any active faults that might be connected to earthquake centers. There are also several methods of direct involving of fault parameters in seismic zoning.

GIS and data bases are also important when using satellite data for monitoring natural hazards. Last year, Japan launched one of the world’s largest natural disaster-monitoring satellites. As early as September 2005, the rocket launch was ready, but technical problems and bad weather prevented the Japanese from launching it into space. The satellite was named Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS), one of the many satellites that Japan plans to launch. ALOS can capture images from areas where natural disasters hit.

Moreover, it will be useful in drafting maps and surveying the natural resources. The Japanese government plans to share whatever information with other Asian, European and Indian agencies. As a leading country in inventing technologies, Japan’s launching of the ALOS was very important in the space programme. However, the present situation shows that it is not possible or difficult to grasp situations when it comes to large-scale earthquakes and to coordinate overall management, to use public communications and to access disaster information.

The Japanese people realize the importance of education and preparedness as significant factors in reducing the vulnerability of a country to these disasters. This led to education programs about disaster awareness and was suggested to be taught in all schools and workplaces. There were also programs such as disaster awareness, preparedness and education spearheaded by governmental and non-governmental organizations. These programs were first promoted at the grassroots level for effectiveness. Scientists in Japan also work side by side the groups and individuals in the country, assisting in the programs.

Disastrous events such as hurricanes, floods, droughts, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions create damages to our lives. Although no amount of preparation can stop these events from happening, their effects can be minimized by knowing when and where they will strike and knowing the best response to the victims. Improvement in predicting these disasters minimizes the substantial loss and damage to life and properties and helps the government to be fully equipped in emergency responses.

Thankfully, some countries have contributed to technological advancements that became useful in being prepared, especially Japan where most of earthquake activities take place. Satellites became significant in observing weather forecasting and any changes that might signal any upcoming disaster. The computer boom also made it possible for experts to be accurate in predicting formation of natural disasters. Information has been disseminated and helped the countries tremendously.

These technologies for preparedness and monitoring in Japan have revolutionized the way people respond to the many natural disasters the earth experiences, particularly earthquakes. For this reason, the people can now breathe much better because they know that they can be warned before a disaster strike and the technologies available can provide them information on how to be prepared and to respond to the crisis. WORKS CITED Gurstein, Michael. “Tsunami Warning Systems and the Last Mile Towards Community Based and ICT Enabled Disaster Response Systems.

” The Journal of Community Informatics I. 2 (2005): 14-17. Lakoff, Andrew. ”From Disaster to Catastrophe: The Limits of Preparedness. ” 11 Jun 2006. Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific 2000 Japan. “Natural Disasters. ” 31 August-5 September 2000. Putnam, Laurie. “By Choice or by Chance: How the Internet is Used to Prepare for, Manage and Share Information about Emergencies. ” First Monday 7. 11 (2002) Tufton, Chris. “Courting Disasters. ” Jamaica Cleaner 23 Oct. 2005.

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