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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

What sort of a safety system is that?

October 12, 2012


J-Alert emergency warning system not functioning at 40 percent of municipalities



Although 99 percent of 1,742 cities, towns and villages, including Tokyo's 23 wards, across the country have hooked up with the nationwide J-Alert emergency warning system, only 998 of them, or less than 60 percent, are capable of broadcasting emergency information through automatic activation of community wireless systems, a survey by the Board of Audit shows.

The survey reveals that the automatic broadcasting system does not activate in 569 municipalities even during an emergency because the locations either do not have a community wireless system, or have fallen behind in digitalizing the wireless system or have heeded complaints from residents about the midnight wails of sirens.

The Board of Audit compiled a report stressing the need to implement a system that properly notifies residents of emergency information and submitted it to the Diet on Oct. 11.

Developed by the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, the J-Alert system is operated by local governments. The Board of Audit's survey, excluding 14 cities, towns and villages in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures hardest hit by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster, shows that 1,719 of 1,728 municipalities are equipped with the J-Alert system.

The system can automatically activate community wireless systems via a communications satellite, but 478 local governments have not installed automatic activation gear. Meanwhile 294 of them do not have a wireless system or their wireless systems are analog and cannot respond to digitalized information because of a price tag of 200 million yen to 300 million yen to modernize the system.

A total of 91 cities, towns and villages have refrained from utilizing the J-Alert system even after installing the automatic activation system because of complaints about the incessant drone of sirens from residents and a series of false alarms after the disasters. The Board of Audit survey also shows that 152 local governments can broadcast to only certain sections of their municipalities because of delayed coordination after mergers.

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