Memories of elementary school - Miyagi Prefecture, Sendai / By Genie09 - Flickr Creative Commons

Safe schools and new disaster-prevention education

Schools are places where children gather, but they also operate as local evacuation centres in times of emergency.  Up until now, we have worked to earthquake-proof all schools and secure sources of electricity when disaster strike by installing solar power generators and storage batteries.  In addition, all elementary and junior high schools have created disaster response manuals and hold evacuation drills twice a year.   We have also promoted cooperation between communities, schools and government with regard to disaster prevention.  Prior to the Great East Japan Earthquake, we had also designated a number of elementary and junior high schools as “disaster-prevention model schools” that implement the most advanced research and practices.  In addition, we have created independent supplemental readers based on our experiences and the lessons we learned in the Great East Japan Earthquake, with the aim of further enhancing city-wide disaster-prevention education.

Title of case study

Safe schools and new disaster-prevention education

Which priority of action does the practice/case contribute to?

3. Use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels.

4. Reduce underlying risk factors.

Context

In Sendai City, where a large earthquake occurs every few decades, schools are important public facilities that are designated as evacuation centres in times of disaster.

We have made schools more earthquake-resistant and spread disaster-prevention knowledge throughout all primary and middle schools through disaster-prevention education and evacuation drills.

In the 2011 CGraet, Sendai was struck by an earthquake and tsunami of a larger scale than anything we had anticipated.   We were able, however, to minimize the damage, and we saw the results of the preparations we had made up until then in terms of both infrastructure and systems. 

It is imperative that we further our efforts to build safe schools and implement new disaster-prevention education based upon our experiences and the lessons we learned in the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Location

Sendai City Elementary and Junior High Schools

How was the problem addressed?

Before the Great East Japan Earthquake, we had implemented disaster countermeasures based on the lessons we learned from the Miyagi Offshore Earthquake that occurs every few decades, including earthquake-proofing buildings and essential utilities.

To ensure the safety of children and secure school buildings’ function as evacuation centres in times of disaster, we carried out seismic diagnoses and seismic retrofitting.

In 2011, we achieved 100% seismic retrofitting. Moreover, all elementary and junior high schools had created disaster response manuals, and were carrying out evacuation drills twice a year.

We were also promoting joint disaster-prevention projects between communities, schools and the government as well creating community maps and community-based evacuation centre operation manuals.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake, we designated one junior high school in each ward, and multiple elementary schools in the same district, as model schools. At these schools, we conduct lessons based on each school’s master plan and yearly teaching plan, and carry out progressive research as well as implement practices for collaboration with families and the community in times of disaster. We are using the results to improve city-wide disaster-prevention education.

Furthermore, we have established a chief of disaster prevention at every school, created and implemented yearly teaching plans for disaster-prevention education, and undertaken disaster-prevention education through collaboration with the community and children’s guardians.

Sendai City has also distributed independent c to all elementary and junior high school students to be used in each subject area.

Results

During the Great East Japan Earthquake, we saw the fruits of our previous disaster-prevention efforts, including earthquake-proof buildings, disaster-prevention education evacuation drills working, as well as minimized damage to buildings. In addition, despite the damage from a tsunami of a scale beyond all expectations, the life of every child inside a school building was saved, including those of children at the three coastal schools. Students were able to calmly take action.

Based on our experiences and the lessons we learned in the Great East Japan Earthquake, we have implemented progressive disaster-prevention education, created model projects and held disaster-prevention forums, training programmes for chiefs of disaster-prevention, and posted examples of the use of the supplemental readers on our website to increase public awareness.

Measuring success

Since damage to buildings was minimized and there were no casualties at schools in the Great East Japan Earthquake, we can assess our disaster prevention efforts thus far as having definite results.

In order for our city to be prepared for disasters, we believe it is vital that we continue to plan safe school architecture and progress with new disaster-prevention education based on our experiences and the lessons we learned in the Great East Japan Earthquake. We can say that it will have a great effect on the inheritance we bequeath to the next generation who have not experienced a disaster.

Relevance to HFA

Our efforts to earthquake-proof school buildings and otherwise render school architecture safer are an example of the key activity “Protect and strengthen schools and other critical public facilities” under the HFA Priority for Action 4, “Reduce the underlying risk factors.”

Our disaster-prevention education and evacuation drill initiatives are examples of promoting the implementation of programmes for disaster preparedness and learning how to minimize the effects of hazards, listed in the “Education and training” section of HFA Priority 3, “Use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels.” They are also examples of community-based training in collaboration with various organizations in the community.

Potential for replication

Improving the earthquake-resistance of schools is a pressing matter for countries that frequently experience earthquakes. There is no limit to the potential for replication in communities.

Disaster-prevention education and evacuation drills are important topics for all countries and regions, both developed and developing. As these important initiatives are also relatively inexpensive, they have an extremely high potential for replication.    

Contribution by

City of Sendai (Education Bureau)