SPECIAL vol.17 Respond Flexibly to the Changing Circumstances
by Voices from the Field Admin - Monday, 20 April 2015, 01:02 PM

Respond Flexibly to the Changing Circumstances


 A sudden extraordinary quake hit us in the middle of a Town Council Meeting. As soon as the shaking stopped, each of us dashed toward assigned places. Grabbing only my jacket and hard hat from my house, which was within 5 minutes’ driving distance, I hurried to the park designated as the evacuation site. When I arrived, about 100 people were already there. Since the place was only 15 meters above sea level, I decided that we should go somewhere higher, and urged the people to move. Then I called on the houses one by one to make sure nobody was left behind. At the same time, as the road to the hill was filled with evacuating cars, I asked some of the drivers to direct the traffic.

 After that, I walked to the Town Hall to tell the staff, “It’s very cold outside. Let me bring the people here.” On the way back, I stopped at the daycare center and the Social Welfare Office and made the same arrangements. Returning to the park, I found the number of evacuees had increased to nearly 200. First, I took them to the daycare center, got about 150 of them accepted there, and appointed one to be the group leader. Then I got 50 sheltered at the Social Welfare Office. It was about 3:30 pm, and soon after, I was informed of the arrival of the tsunami.

 As we promptly made name lists at the shelters, we could report the accurate number of the evacuees to the Town Office. As a result, we were able to receive enough food for the evening and the next morning, not only for those in the shelters, but also for the people staying in their cars nearby. In the late afternoon, somebody pointed out to me, “You are still wearing your tie!” That was when I realized for the first time that I had been running around non-stop since I darted out of the Town Council Meeting.

 The experience confirmed the importance of identifying a leader in a shelter, and a head person in each room or each small group, because evacuees are a motley group of people. The leader should always keep contact with the Disaster Management Office.

  Thinking back, I did not check on every single house while evacuating. Rather, I only called into the ones I knew I had to check based on prior knowledge: “Nobody is at home during the day here,” or “An elderly with weak legs lives in this house.” I think that’s how I was able to alert all the people I had to within the short time.


Written by Masanori Okazaki (67 years old)

Town Congressman


Address at the time of disaster: Shiomidai District

Current address: same as above