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The Green Bar Project:
for improved earthquake preparedness in Japan
We focus on a bright Green Bar, seeking to reduce earthquake deaths.
Estimated cost per unit is ¥3000 (about €25 or US$35) not including installation.Green Bar has five goals:
----- and when earthquake hits:
The Green Bar is first a constant reminder to everyone that disaster may strike anytime. Seeing the Green Bar draws attention to threat of burial in a collapsed building. Green Bar is reminder of those killed in the Kobe earthquake (of whom 400+ were trapped alive and died from fires). The Green Bar will inspire some people to reinforce and prepare their homes; others will seek training in first aid & rescue. Ultimately, the Green Bar is a highly important rescue tool when disaster strikes.
A Continued Deadly Gap: The 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake centered near Kobe caused tremendous devastation in infra-structural services, government, local housing, major industries & small business. The most severe problem, however, was an irrevocable loss of life: approximately 6500 people were killed, mainly from among the 20,000 people caught inside collapsed buildings. More than 10,000 of the trapped were rescued by neighbors and family, while hundreds perished who could have survived. The Kobe disaster highlights a deadly problem that has not gone away; in fact, Japan's lack of preparedness is growing. In a large-scale disaster many buildings can be expected to collapse; public services will only reach a small number of people in the critical first hours; yet the general public remains ill-equipped to help themselves and untrained to help others. Japan is now undergoing numerous reforms, with the government sweeping aside maladaptive paternalism. The grim danger should be confronted. People are best served by public services teaching a stark fact: major earthquakes require personal survival skills and equipment. The Green Bar program is a new public education advocacy project that promotes installation of conspicuous rescue tools and focuses attention on self-reliance in the immediate aftermath of earthquake-caused urban infra-structural breakdown.
Dr. Bruce Henry Lambert
Neighborhood RescuersIn the immediate aftermath of a massive earthquake, official relief cannot be relied upon. This is a simple key fact.
Professional help will come eventually - but often hours or days too late. People must expect to be (and prepare for being) on their own in the critical first hours after a major earthquake.
The Kobe earthquake buried an estimated 20,000 people, mainly under collapsed houses. Some people struggled free without assistance, while neighbors, family & friends rescued more than 10,000 others. The professional public services generally arrived later; they rescued a total of 776 people and extracted corpses (from 17 Jan. to 3 Feb. the Fire Service and SDF freed 3286 people, of whom 2510 were dead; of the 776 people rescued alive by public services, 428 rescues occurred on the first day). In other words, approximately 13,500 people survived being buried, and non-professionals were responsible for rescuing more than 94%; the emergency services could help only 6%.
Of the approximately 6500 killed, many lives could have been saved. Hyogo Prefecture Police reportedly estimate (Reuters News Service, 9 Feb 1995) that up to 10% of deaths were due to the fires; Otani (1999) states that 570 people died of fire. This is the horrible cost of poor preparation and insufficient rescue tools. Consider well the 400+ people who died from fire:
Scores of victims were trapped in the wreckage of their homes, fully conscious for many hours after the earthquake; they burned alive.
Imagine the horror of being caught in a collapsed building: You are calling for help, breathing through the dust, even talking with people above the wreckage who want to help but who are without equipment. All pray for the arrival of rescue officials. Then, rather than the welcome sound of rescuers, you hear the crackle of approaching flames, and soon the smell & taste of smoke. Then fire comes -- to painfully roast your life away...
Horrible needless death is made worse when forgotten. Japan is still very unprepared; when the next major earthquake hits, the tragedy will be repeated.
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Many who escaped uninjured from the Kobe earthquake expressed frustration at not knowing how to assist others. Most were untrained and unequipped to help with rescues, yet nonetheless thousands were saved. Some unrescued people should have been saved. Japan's national government and local public services seem unable / unwilling to admit that in the event of a major earthquake they can help very little as thousands are dying. It is vital to prepare people to help themselves. Those on-scene in a disaster should have skills, knowledge and tools.
A good model to emulate is the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT), developed by the San Francisco Fire Department. Over 10,000 people have thus far completed free six session, 15-hour NERT training, and 1200 more are trained each year. They teach one important warning that has yet to reach Japan: that in a disaster city services will not be available -- a lesson learned from the 7.1 magnitude 1989 Loma Prieta quake, when rescue services received 30,000 calls in the first 5 minutes. The San Francisco planning scenario uses an 8.3 magnitude quake with 10 m/sec wind; they would need 273 fire engines; they have 41. In a worst-case scenario, Tokyo is even more exposed.
We must advocate preparedness among the public. In a disaster, when urban services are unable to help, lifesaving knowledge & tools are a critical necessity.
Green Bar Project
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