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An Examination Based on the Results of a Questionnaire Survey of the Local Governments in Japan
People requiring assistance during a disaster include the elderly, people with disabilities, pregnant women, children, and foreigners. Based on lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake, the government amended the Basic Act on Disaster Control Measures to now require municipal mayors to prepare a list of residents who need assistance in evacuation in the event of a disaster. The amendment has also enabled local governments to distribute a list of such individuals, with their consent, to local voluntary disaster response organizations and other relevant entities. In addition, with the promulgation of the Act for Eliminating Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities in April 2016, local governments are required to provide “reasonable accommodation” for people with disabilities. During the development of this legal environment for people requiring assistance during a disaster, we conducted a questionnaire survey of local governments in Japan in order to understand the progress of relevant measures and related issues. We also organized a seminar on disaster prevention measures for local communities in order to learn from the assistive measures taken by Kobe City following the major disaster caused by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. The survey result reveals that although local governments nationwide are preparing their list of people requiring during a disaster in evacuations, only about 40% of them have started to distribute the list to the local community, and only about 30% have started to create individualized evacuation support plans. Moreover, the level of progress significantly varies from one local government to another in relation to preparation of designated evacuation locations and evacuation locations providing specialized support. Issues that arise in developing measures for people requiring assistance in disaster emergencies include setting up a seamless system that encompasses preparatory activities and disaster responses and reducing the gap between the number of people receiving assistance and the number of people providing it. Local governments need to make their measures more concrete by (1) creating a seamless team and promoting dialogues, (2) analyzing the needs of the listed people who will require assistance in evacuations, and (3) properly managing the PDCA cycle for the measures needed for this population.