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Using lessons learned from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, a project to create uniform global standards for efforts to prepare for natural disasters and mitigate disaster risks is underway in Japan.

The project is designed to improve the world’s disaster management capacity by leveraging the knowledge Japan has accumulated. The organizers hope for the launch of new standards in 2023.

International standards developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) are widely used to certify product quality and safety in a broad range of fields, including food, production management at factories, environmental management and information and communications security.

As of the end of 2019, there were 22,913 ISO-certified standards. That year, 117 standards proposed by Japan were published.

In 2020, Fumihiko Imamura, director of Tohoku University’s International Research Institute of Disaster Science, and other experts submitted a proposal for an ISO standard certifying disaster preparedness and risk reduction to the ISO, a Geneva-based nonprofit organization. The ISO adopted the proposal for discussions.

They plan to submit a more specific proposal by September.

The project calls for first creating a conceptual standard covering three categories — preparation for disasters, initial response, and recovery and reconstruction. It then aims for individual standards that can be applied to products and systems, including seismometers, food stocks and hazard maps as well as how to operate shelters for evacuees.

Common standards are expected to help people judge whether their disaster preparation is adequate, regardless of the kind and scale of a disaster, and contribute to better quality of related products, including stockpiled food.

The proposal for ISO standards is “aimed at improving technologies, guaranteeing product quality and helping comprehensive disaster preparedness,” Imamura said. The standards will serve as “an objective basis for determining what is lacking in a specific geographical area,” he added.

“It will be a big step toward enhancing disaster management capacity further, building on our experience of suffering huge damage in the March 2011 disaster,” Imamura said.

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