The Fire and Disaster Management Agency will accelerate household installations of devices that can receive evacuation and other information through the community wireless system when a natural disaster is approaching.
Local governments urge residents to seek refuge or take other precautions during a natural calamity, such as a typhoon or rain deluges, via their community wireless systems, mainly using outdoor speakers to disseminate the warnings. But the information often becomes inaudible due to adverse geographical or weather conditions.
The agency has been promoting a program to install the receivers in households, especially those of older people, many of whom are unfamiliar with smartphones and other digital devices.
The receivers had been supplied to 74 percent of all municipalities across Japan as of the end of March 2019, according to the agency, which is under the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. But there are regional variations when it comes to installations in homes.
In regions with large populations of older people, greater efforts are needed to avoid the risk of residents being left behind during a disaster, according to an agency official. “Municipalities in such regions should step up household installations of receivers,” the official said.
With landslide and flooding disasters increasing in recent years, the installation of receivers is also urgently needed in areas that have been designated as prone to such hazards.
The community wireless system is also seen as an effective tool to inform residents of the need to take protections against the new coronavirus.
The agency plans to newly install some 120,000 receivers and has secured the necessary finances from the fiscal 2019 and 2020 supplementary budgets. The figure includes some 44,000 units loaned for free to some 100 municipalities, especially those where installations are limited.
The agency is also encouraging local governments to install receivers under their own initiative, with financial aid coming from the central government through tax revenue grants.
On the basis of data about where and how loaned receivers are used, the agency will draw up guidelines by March 2021 to encourage municipalities to popularize the devices.
Although the high prices of receivers, ranging from ¥30,000 to ¥50,000 each, used to block their widespread use, the agency introduced a no-frills model in March 2018 to make mass production and price reductions possible.
In addition to wall-mounted receivers, an increasing number of municipalities are offering radios that automatically shift to disaster warning information when it is issued via the community wireless system.
At the agency’s prodding, local governments are also introducing other warning systems such as texting registered residents and disseminating information via cable television networks and social media.