Trial run of disaster warning system via SNS to start in summer

Kyodo

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency plans this summer to test a disaster warning system using Internet-based social-networking services, drawing lessons from the March 2011 catastrophe when telephone services were cut and the emergency number did not function, agency officials said Tuesday.

The system, which will be based on a major disaster, will tap into the Internet, which is more accessible than telephone lines in times of disaster, and help in mobilizing prompter assistance, the officials said.

The test will simulate people caught up in disasters using their computers or mobile phones to summon for help via such sites as Twitter and Japan’s social-networking site mixi, the officials said.

The agency will field these summonses, which will be separate from phone calls using the 119 emergency number, and radio the information to fire and other rescue-related authorities.

The agency also plans to work with SNS operators to extract information on emergency alerts found on the Internet and create a form to input details for assistance such as addresses and health conditions, the officials said.

The firms will filter information that overlaps and classify details such as locations and types of disasters.

The system will initially be based on the premise that an earthquake greater that a lower-6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale to 7 or massive tsunami have struck, the officials said.

To move this SNS-based system forward, the agency aims to create ground rules, including measures to deal with false reports.

After the trial operation, disaster drills will be held with fire and other authorities to make the system more effective, the officials said.

The 119 emergency number was unable to connect with about 25 percent of the fire departments in the municipalities hit by the March 11, 2011, megaquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, due to power shortages or disrupted telecommunications infrastructure.

In response to cases such as in the hard-hit town of Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture, where a victim was saved by a relative’s Twitter message, the government has worked to create an emergency report system utilizing SNS.