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Top>Opinion>The Forming of a Secure and Safe Society and the Role of Crisis Management


Tetsuo Miyamura

Tetsuo Miyamura [Profile]

The Forming of a Secure and Safe Society and the Role of Crisis Management

Tetsuo Miyamura
Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: Reliability engineering

Learning Crisis Management and Consensus-Building

In addition to earthquakes and tsunamis, our country is frequently struck with other natural disasters as well. It can be said that the will of each and every person to overcome disasters and the support of regional society have served as the springboard of our country's development. The earthquake and disaster that struck Eastern Japan are very different from other catastrophes in that they caused a chain of nuclear power plant accidents and led to the order of widespread evacuation of local residents. Due to the unforeseen earthquake and tsunami, the "cooling down" function of the multiple protection system of the nuclear power plant that includes "shutting down," "cooling down," and "shutting in" functions failed to operate, causing the spread of radioactive materials over a broad area surrounding the power plant and having a great affect on the regional communities. We are now faced with the great issue of crisis management for composite disasters that occur through both natural and man-made creations.

The negative aspects of science and technology, which are supposed to give mankind new values, are once again in focus and reviewing future energy strategies incorporating nuclear power generation has become inevitable. The need is greater than ever before to continue building consensus in society with respect to acceptable levels of the negative aspects in applying the achievements of science and technology.

Schemes of Crisis Management

There are two main approaches on how to proceeded with building consensus. The first is finding solutions individually and concretely each time a problem arises. This is only a temporary measure, it has often been adapted in our country, and there are currently many discussions surrounding such matters.

The other approach is the sharing of frameworks and schemes. Sources of danger lie in what seems to be day-to-day life, but politics and various other elements are actually concerned. Energy is an essential part of daily life, and maintaining the infrastructures involved requires much time and money. Economic rationality and technological accumulations and innovations are also involved when it comes to whether or not renewable energy such as wind power can serve as an important pillar to replace nuclear power. It is therefore necessary to establish a setting where the positive and negative aspects of technology on the broader scheme of securing energy and safety can be discussed with the aim of building consensus in society.

Squarely facing reality, these schemes will come into play once a directional change is made with a changing point for a new path. Road maps such as technical developments that take time and economic rationality into consideration as well as coordination are absolutely necessary because it will take many years to lay a new path even if the schemes are reviewed.

The Mission of Technicians and Top-Level Organization Members in Crisis Preparedness

The term "unforeseen" often appears in the reports of the earthquake that struck Eastern Japan. Disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis are natural phenomena, so it is easy to see that they can generate unforeseen events that are beyond human knowledge. There are many who say, however, that the rise of certain problems had been pointed out beforehand, after they arise. There is a great barrier to overcome between making assumptions and actually putting them into practice.

After the derailing of the Joetsu Shinkansen bullet train in 2004, the East Japan Railway Company had taken seismic strengthening measures such as installing elevated tracks and improving its early earthquake detection system. Since then, the emergency brakes of all Tohoku Shinkansen trains are activated seventy seconds before major shakes occur, safely stopping the trains as multiple trains simultaneously run at a maximum speed of nearly two hundred and seventy kilometers per hour. A veteran technician of the East Japan Railway Company strongly asserted that a part of Niigata Prefecture should be included in the upgrading project of the elevated Shinkansen tracks after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. This was because an active fault that had not shown any activity in thousands of years was passing through the route. The company then took this technician's suggestions and made the proper modifications. The Niigata Chuetsu earthquake struck just within a radius of a few kilometers from where the work was done, causing the first Shinkansen derailment ever, but it is said that it was a miracle how not a single person was injured. Cases such as these are well worth noting.

Preparedness for crises can be changed for the better when there are technicians who can see things multilaterally through a panoramic viewpoint and have persuasive opinions, top-level members of organizations that listen to and do not repudiate inconvenient information and opinions, and corporate cultures where the employees can freely exchange ideas to solve conflicting problems in a field-oriented manner.

Transcending Logic in Crisis Management

In crisis management, it is necessary to anticipate and prevent disasters and to be able to respond to the unforeseen. It is the fine balance between the logic based on the concepts of the risks seeing both how easily crises can occur and the scale of the damages, and the logic that transcends this logic. It is also management skills that incorporate multifaceted thinking for mitigating the effects of crises in addition to preventing crises.

There are thirteen emergency power generators at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Of those thirteen, twelve of them were destroyed with seawater and the seawater pumps for cooling down the power generators were washed away by the tsunami. The remaining power generator is an air-cooled type that needs no seawater cooling. This generator stands in the reactor building of plant 6 and did not get covered with water, so continuous emergency cooling with plants 5 and 6 could be implemented.

It is necessary to take into consideration how to respond to common cause failures that result in the breaking down of multiple machines in order to stop a chain of events arising from a major accident. Values focusing on matters such as layouts for the installation of machines that affect the ensuring of safety and management procedures concerning system configurations for stopping the effects of the chains of events following disasters during the planning and conceptual sages of infrastructures and system formation.

Crisis Management and Outstanding Organizations

The real abilities of countries, organizations, etc. can be seen when crises arise.

Whatever action that can be taken must be taken promptly immediately after an event and the ability to take charge on site by taking the initiative to solve problems becomes very important. Daily precautions produce results when items such as hazard maps are prepared and awareness is maintained through training. The cultivating and existence of human assets who can make decisions on and respond to ever-changing situations through a panoramic viewpoint are also important.

The strength of the individual and community affected by a disaster is limited during recovery, so it is up to the prefectures, the country, and the like to complement this. As time passes, needs drastically change when the damage from a disaster spread. Collaborations between the regional community that is affected and the country must be made to decide what kind of community is to be envisioned and realized. The degree of how well or poorly the building and operating of a structure that unifies the diverse and conflicting measures affects how swiftly this can be done.

When examining cases of crisis response on a corporate level, it can be seen that leaders who possess the four "-ion"s (vision, passion, decision, and action) are essential assets. They are able to respond appropriately and swiftly during times of crisis by establishing good communication with those at the scene, by drawing up crisis response scenarios ahead of time, and by making sure that their plans are carried out accordingly. One look at the quick actions of foreign-affiliated companies after the last nuclear accident shows that our response procedures for accidents according to our scenarios are insufficient.

Tetsuo Miyamura
Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: Reliability engineering
Born in Mie Prefecture in 1948. Graduated from the Department of Management Science, Faculty of Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology, in 1971.
Completed postdoctoral course in Management Science (doctor of engineering) at the Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology, in 1976.
Appointed to current post in 1992 after serving as Assistant at the University of Electro-Communications and Instructor and Assistant Professor at Ibaraki University.
Areas of specialization are reliability engineering, product safety technology, and the planning and managing of new products and technology development. Major publications include "Statistical Analyses of Reliability Models" [Shinraisei Model No Toukei Kaiseki] (Coauthor, 1989, Kyoritsu Shuppan) and "PL Systems and Product Safety Technology" [PL Seido To Seihin Anzen Gijutsu] (1995, Asakura Publishing).