The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) launched its “Making Cities Resilient: My City is Getting Ready!” campaign in May 2010, encouraging local governments to take countermeasures against natural disasters.

The campaign addresses issues of local governance and urban risk. With the support and recommendation of many partners and participants, and a Mayors’ Statement made during the 2011 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, in which municipal leaders pledged to work on disaster risk reduction, the campaign will continue beyond 2015.

The campaign advocates widespread commitment by local governments to build disaster resilience and increased support from national governments for cities to strengthen their capacities for coping with disasters.

Some 2,500 cities and regions have joined the campaign, of which 44 were selected as model examples. In Japan, Sendai and Hyogo Prefecture have been designated as models.

Below are the summaries of the assessment points of the various disaster prevention activities of Sendai and Hyogo Prefecture, which the UNISDR took into account in their designation.


The Sendai city government established the Sendai City Regional Disaster Prevention Plan, which specifies the roles of the municipal government, the Miyagi Prefectural Government, private businesses, local associations and others in disaster preparedness and calls for all parties involved to share the same understanding and cooperate in their implementation.

To strengthen its disaster prevention system, the city created the position of Crisis Management and Disaster Prevention Director, who is responsible for crisis management and assists the mayor. Sendai has also established sections and bureaus to handle various activities, including coordinating reconstruction measures after the earthquake, helping those affected rebuild their lives, undertaking the mass relocation of people from areas hit by the disaster and rebuilding housing.

Since cooperation with related organizations is important, liaison officers are sent from the headquarters of the Miyagi Prefectural Police Department and the Self Defense Forces, and efforts are being made to tie this into an effective operation.

The city has also established ways to strengthen cooperation with various citizens’ groups to maximize the community’s disaster prevention efforts.

On budgeting, Sendai has secured a budget for undertaking activities related to not only facilities and equipment, but also for training and disaster awareness education. These activities include developing urban infrastructure; implementing disaster prevention measures related to utilities, such as water, gas, and public transportation; and raising disaster prevention awareness.

Sendai has created a system of subsidies to promote various efforts, including retrofitting old wooden houses, which may lack the strength to withstand earthquakes and removing concrete-block walls, which may collapse in a large earthquake.

On development of infrastructure, Sendai has examined comprehensive flood control measures in cooperation with the national and prefectural governments, moved forward with creating a city sewerage system that can handle once-in-a-decade torrential rains, and worked to reduce damage from such incidents.

The city has built storm drains and installed pumping stations, which has increased the wastewater pumping abilities of Sendai eight fold compared to 1986, the year the city was hit with torrential rains. Efforts are being made to create a city that is resistant to rain from various perspectives, and these efforts include controlling rainwater by storing it and allowing it to soak into the ground and installing pumps and sandbags in areas at risk of flooding.

Sendai has also worked to minimize damage to water facilities and city gas supply facilities.

The city has also reinforced school buildings. It completed seismic retrofitting on 100 percent of its schools by fiscal 2011, compared to the national average of 73 percent before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, according to a survey by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

For facilities such as medical facilities managed by the city, Sendai has made progress in making them more earthquake resistant, and various measures have been systematically implemented, including seismically retrofitting buildings and attaching shatter-resistant window film. When the earthquake hit, all hospitals continued to function.

Sendai also implemented strict standards on the sturdiness of buildings and locations of houses to better ensure safety. Disaster prevention training at elementary schools, a system of sending warnings on tsunami, bad weather and other disasters to mobile phones and other ways of alerting residents have also been implemented.

Hyogo Prefectural Government disaster countermeasures office
Hyogo Prefectural Government disaster countermeasures office | HYOGO PREFECTURE

Hyogo Prefecture

Hyogo Prefecture established the Superintendent of Emergency Management post to be the chief officer in assisting the governor in risk management. The department he oversees includes the Disaster Management and Planning Bureau and Disaster Response Bureau comprising approximately 80 personnel engaged in disaster preparedness enhancement, disaster response, restoration and reconstruction and other activities.

The respective roles of each bureau are clearly stated in the local disaster management plan, which was drawn up based on the Disaster Countermeasure Basic Act.

In enhancing partnerships with citizens’ groups, Hyogo Prefecture has established the Hyogo Safety Day Promotion Committee inviting Hyogo-based groups from all areas of society to join in.

The prefecture has secured funds for construction and programs such as developing rivers and coastal areas, maintaining the disaster management information system as well as the disaster-relief system. Subsidies are granted to those citizens wishing to upgrade the earthquake resistance of their homes and to activities to raise citizens’ awareness toward disaster preparedness, including disaster drills.

It has also reinforced its infrastructure to deal with floods and other natural disasters.

Additionally, the prefecture periodically checks the up-to-date earthquake resistance against current schools and medical facilities, and is carefully following a plan to boost their earthquake resistance.

Hyogo Prefecture was also praised for its strict building standards. Buildings are inspected to ensure compliance with the Building Standards Act. While at the same time, the prefecture coordinates with municipalities on municipal urban planning, and disaster management measures. Additionally, by developing public housing systematically, it provides safety for citizens’ homes, including those of low-income households.

More than once a year, evacuation drills are held with the assumption of earthquake or fire disaster occurrences at all elementary and junior high schools in the prefecture. At schools, supplementary disaster management materials compiled by the Hyogo Board of Education are used in disaster preparedness classes as part of school curriculums.

In local communities, voluntary disaster response organizations play an integral role in emergency drills, including information collection and communication, fire fighting, rescue activities, evacuation, meal and water provision and other activities.

The prefecture undertakes flood control measures by improving rivers with the assumption of heavy rains that could occur once every one to five decades.

The prefecture is constantly improving the rivers’ overall conditions, through such efforts as making rivers safe, maintaining rivers so that people can feel the abundance of nature, developing rivers that incorporate characteristics of basins and the culture that revolves around water and fully bringing out the attractions and comfortableness of riversides.

The prefecture is taking measures against storm surges by developing coastal areas that can withstand the highest sea levels seen in the past.

The prefecture has also introduced an emergency earthquake alert system. In addition, the Hyogo Disaster Net is a service to send information to Hyogo citizens concerning earthquake, tsunami, weather bulletin, evacuation advisory and orders via cell phone email.

Another system, the Phoenix Disaster Management System is in operation to collect disaster information from terminals installed at disaster management agencies, predict earthquake damage using information from seismometers installed throughout the prefecture and estimate demand and supply of people and goods required for initial emergency response.

The reconstruction after the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995 was well planned and executed. The prefecture considered the opinions of the disaster victims, who were concerned about their future.

Hyogo Prefecture also promoted the Urban Redevelopment Support Project to dispatch advisors and consultants to such groups and to support urban redevelopment activities of them.

Download the PDF of this UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction

Compiled from UNISDR website

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