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SPECIAL vol.28 Importance of a multiple support system involving family, neighbors and operations staff
by vff admin - Thursday, 11 February 2016, 08:00 PM
Importance of a multiple support system involving family, neighbors and operations staff

I was responsible for running the evacuation shelters at the Central Public Hall and the welfare facility for the aged. A week after the shelters was opened, several women living at the shelter initiated a soup kitchen. We served rice porridge for the aged people with poor teeth, and allergen-free food for people with atopy, so that all the people were fairly provided with food. 

It was especially a serious problem to set up the toilet and to maintain its hygiene and safety. The western style toilets installed in the facilities overflowed with waste due to a water outage, and the temporary toilets were all Japanese style (squatting style) and were placed outside, making it difficult for people to get there and back. Sometimes the door of the toilet accidently opened because some people did not know how to lock it.  There were also accidents in which some people fell down as there were no hand railings inside. We set up several portable toilets inside the buildings, but they were too low and had no railings. Thus, people also had trouble standing up and sitting down. We therefore tried to be creative so that the toilets installed inside could be used even when the water supply was cut. Users covered the toilet bowls with trash bags and disposed the waste with newspaper and a coagulant. Yet, the operations staffs needed to help the aged people because it was hard for them to understand this method.

The tatami rooms were used as “welfare evacuation space” for the seriously injured or bedridden elderly. Ten older people with dementia were taken care of by their families or neighbors who well understood how they should be supported.  

 Medical team members were always on duty in the facilities, but some people were uncomfortable speaking up about their bad health condition out of their families or people around them. Therefore, we visited every room once a day saying “good morning” to everyone while checking the look in their eyes, their faces and the color of their lips in order to find those who were feeling ill as early as possible.

Evacuating along with people who are in need of supports is really hard. It is important

to have a multiple support system involving family, neighbors and the operations staff. The closer we pay attention to these people, the less likely their health condition will worsen and the earlier we can respond with necessary support. During regular disaster drills, it’s important to simulate locally what kind of problems may occur at the evacuation shelter, and who will respond to such situations, and how.


Yoko Watanabe (52 years old)

Staff member at the welfare facility for the aged

Address at the time of the disaster: Shobudahama area

Current address: Emergency Temporary Housing at the Sports Field No. 1