Doing right by the evacuees

March 09, 2013

By SEIJI KANDA/ Senior Staff Writer

EVACUEE TRACKING SYSTEM

On March 25, 2011, after being briefed on the situation at Saitama Super Arena, Katayama immediately sent for Kizo Hisamoto, director-general of the Local Administration Bureau.

"I would like you to build a system to enable the municipalities (affected by the nuclear disaster) to track and locate their citizens who have evacuated from their hometowns," the minister of internal affairs and communications told Hisamoto, 58.

A huge number of Fukushima Prefecture residents had fled the prefecture. By the end of March, about 1,000 local administrative bodies around the nation had taken them in.

"I'll work on it," Hisamoto replied.

Hisamoto consulted Shigetaka Yamasaki, chief of the Administration Improvement Division of the Local Administration Bureau. Yamasaki, 52, was thoroughly familiar with the basic resident register network system.

Other pertinent divisions within the bureau joined in the effort to develop the system envisioned by Katayama.

Including Futaba, it was impossible for any of the disaster-affected municipalities to contact local governments around the nation and try to locate their citizens whose whereabouts were unknown. These municipalities already had more than enough on their plates, and they simply could not be burdened further.

Hisamoto's team came up with the idea of creating a standardized format for the entire nation, and requiring the municipalities that took in refugees to use this system to input each refugee's personal data and forward the data to the municipalities the refugees were originally from.

By the end of March, the team completed the basic framework of what they called the "nationwide evacuees information system."

The system would work as follows: Each municipality that took in evacuees was to require each person to provide personal data such as name, date of birth, sex, pre-evacuation home address and current situation. Then, the municipality was to input the data in the standardized Excel file and send it to the prefectural government via a closed-system computer network. Upon receiving the data, the prefectural government was to forward it to the municipality the evacuee was originally from.

The system went into nationwide operation from the third week of April.

With this system, the first of its kind developed in Japan, it became possible to track missing evacuees in the event of any situation requiring a massive evacuation.

But Katayama wanted more.

In early May, right after the holiday-filled Golden Week break, Katayama summoned Hisamoto to his office again.

Katayama had just returned from a series of hearings in the disaster-affected areas of Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. He said to Hisamoto, "Would it be possible to create a dual resident registration system for people who were forced into evacuation by the nuclear disaster?"

Hisamoto could not quite follow what Katayama was driving at.

By SEIJI KANDA/ Senior Staff Writer
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