Response to Various Disasters

Q1 What type of activities do the SDF engage in during a disaster?

A1.When disasters such as natural disasters occur in any part of the country, the SDF works in collaboration with municipal governments, engaging in: the search for and rescue of disaster victims, missing ships or aircraft, controlling floods, offering medical treatment, preventing epidemics, supplying water, and transporting personnel and goods. In particular, over 100,000 SDF personnel were dispatched at a peak time for relief operations for the large-scale earthquake and nuclear disaster based on the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

Q2 Describe the SDF’s types and frameworks of Disaster Relief Dispatch.

A2.The Japan SDF’s disaster relief dispatch and frameworks are as follows.

  1. Dispatches upon Request
    In principle, disaster dispatch is carried out at the request of prefectural governors and other officials. This is because prefectural governors assume primary responsibility for disaster control measures and are in a position to grasp the overall conditions of the disaster, and it is considered most appropriate for dispatches to be made upon their request in consideration of disaster relief capabilities within the prefecture or municipality including police and firefighting.
    Municipal mayors can ask prefectural governors to request a disaster relief dispatch by the SDF. In the event that mayors have made such a request to the prefectural governor or are unable to do so, they can inform the Minister of Defense or those designated by the Minister of the disaster conditions.
    After receiving such requests from governors, the Minister of Defense or other personnel designated by the Minister can immediately dispatch units as necessary according to the disaster situation.Under circumstances of particular urgency when there is no time to wait for a request, the Minister of Defense or those designated by the Minister may authorize an exceptional dispatch (discretionary dispatch). In order to render discretionary dispatches even more effective, the Disaster Prevention Plan was amended in 1995 to establish the basis for SDF unit commanders and other officials to order discretionary dispatches.
  1. Earthquake Disaster Relief Dispatch
    When an alert is issued based on the Law Concerning Special Measures for Large-Scale Earthquakes Countermeasures, the Minister of Defense is authorized to order an earthquake disaster relief dispatch based on the request of the Director of the Earthquake Disaster Warning Headquarters (the Prime Minister).
  2. Nuclear Disaster Dispatch
    When a nuclear emergency alert is issued based on the Special Law on Nuclear Disaster Countermeasures, the Minister of Defense is authorized to order a nuclear disaster dispatch upon request of the Director of the Nuclear Disaster Countermeasures Headquarters (the Prime Minister).

Q3 What type of Disaster Relief Dispatches do the SDF provide?

A3.The SDF provides the following types of Disaster Relief Dispatches.

JSDF Joint Disaster Response Exercise
  1. Transportation of Emergency Patients
    The SDF uses its aircraft to transport emergency patients from isolated islands and remote areas with insufficient medical facilities. In FY2012, out of a total of 520 cases of disaster relief operations, 410 cases involved the transportation of emergency patients, with dispatches to the Southwestern Islands (Okinawa and Kagoshima Prefectures), the Goto Islands, the Izu Islands, and the Ogasawara Islands representing the majority of such cases. Furthermore, in the event that aircraft of other organizations are unable to respond, due to reasons including a short flight range, SDF aircraft will handle transportation of emergency patients from vessels navigating areas of ocean far from the mainland and transport patients with C-130H transport aircraft operated by the Mobile Medical Unit as a part of wide-area medical transportation operations.
  2. Firefighting Support
    In FY2012, there were 62 dispatches of firefighting support, the second largest number of dispatches after transportation of emergency patients. Within this category, responses to fires in areas near SDF facilities were the largest in number, with 57 cases. The SDF also conducts aerial firefighting activities in locations where firefighting by cars are difficult, such as mountain and forest areas.
  3. Response to Natural Disasters
    In FY2012, the SDF conducted such activities as lifesaving missions, flood prevention activities, water supply support and transport of goods. For example, disaster dispatches were carried out to Ibaraki Prefecture following a storm, to Northern Kyushu following torrential rain, and to Hokkaido on a lifesaving mission following a blizzard.
  4. Response to Large-Scale Disasters
    The Great East Japan Earthquake caused destructive damage, mainly in coastal areas in the Tohoku region. Since immediately after the earthquake, the MOD and SDF have done their utmost to rescue disaster victims. The SDF’s disaster relief activity ended on December 26, 2011, when the dispatch for nuclear disaster relief expired. During the period, a total of around 10,660,000 SDF personnel engaged in such activities as supporting disaster victims’ everyday life, and searching for missing people.
  5. Response to Special Disasters (Nuclear Disasters)
    Countermeasures were enacted based on lessons learned from the critical accident that occurred at the uranium processing plant in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture in 1999. In accordance, the SDF Law was partially revised and Nuclear Disaster Relief Dispatch was systematized.
    Moreover, based on the lessons of the response to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which occurred on March 11, 2011, the Act for Establishment of the Nuclear Regulation Authority was enacted and the Nuclear Regulation Authority was established. In addition, the Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness was revised, and the government is reforming the system for responding to nuclear disasters. In response to this, the MOD and SDF revised the Contingency Plan for Nuclear Disaster in March 2013.

Q4 Describe efforts for Preparation for Disaster Relief.

A4.Following activities are taken in preparation for disaster relief.

  1. In order to respond to various disasters such as large-scale earthquakes with speed and accuracy, the SDF carries out various disaster prevention drills including joint exercises for rescue, in addition to formulating disaster relief plans. The SDF also actively participates in local government disaster prevention drills and is seeking to ensure cooperation with various ministries and agencies.
  2. The SDF has formulated various contingency plans for responses to large-scale earthquakes. For instance, because of concern about massive humanitarian and material damage in addition to damage to the central political, administration, and financial functions of the capital, the Contingency Plan for Tokyo inland earthquakes, which was revised in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, stipulates that a joint task force should be organized to respond to them.
JSDF Joint Disaster Response Exercise
  1. The SDF participates in a number of disaster prevention drills and is proceeding with the strengthening of cooperation with local governments including enhancing information liaison systems and consistency with disaster control plans.
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