Participation in FY2018 Nuclear Emergency Drill Held in Aomori Prefecture


The Aomori chapter of the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) participated in a nuclear emergency drill on November 10 and 11, 2018. It was organized by the Aomori prefectural government and staged in 6 municipal areas including Higashidoori Village.

Participation by 96 organizations and 1,200 people in Aomori prefecture

As a Designated Public Institution set forth in the national Disaster Relief Act, the JRCS is given a fundamental mission of providing disaster relief services to the general public. Accordingly, they carry out their own emergency drills every year to train the relief teams for skills to conduct relief activities promptly and appropriately in the event of disasters. In the meantime, the JRCS also participates in the emergency drills organized by municipalities including prefectural governments.

This drill simulated a scenario where an earthquake with an epicenter off the coast of the Pacific Ocean side of Aomori Prefecture struck with a shaking intensity level 6 and caused damage to the reactor core in Unit No. 1 of Higashidori Nuclear Power Station, triggering a release of radioactive substances. A total of 96 organizations, including the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the Second Regional Japan Coast Guard Headquarters, took part in the event involving 1,200 people. From the JRCS, 2 staff members of the Aomori chapter and 3 nurses of Hachinohe JRC Hospital participated.

On the first day, November 10, the exercise consisted of an operation of the off-site center, delivery of emergency communications, and cross-organization collaboration between the nuclear operator and the emergency operation organizations. The second day, November 11, commenced with an exercise of the emergency radiation monitoring, and then other various procedures were tested to ascertain the sequence of evacuees’ movements.

Operations-based drill for relevant organizations

A scene of the Exit Screening

A scene of the Exit Screening

In the drill, they validated the manuals and the system developed for the action-oriented activities of the relevant organizations. For instance, the personnel in charge implemented the procedures in practice to examine any issues, by gauging the timing for distributing the iodine tablets, double-checking the actual moves of the exit screening, etc.

In the previous drills, the Aomori chapter set up a first-aid station inside the shelter that was opened outside the hypothetical Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone (UPZ) and provided medical relief services at the site. Meanwhile, government authorities issued a guidance manual (“the Manual”) on the Exit Screening, which is to be conducted with residents when they are evacuating the UPZ. Because the manual raised new issues related to distribution of iodine tablets and how to attend to people who became unwell before reaching the point for Exit Screening, the Aomori chapter designed a new scenario. In the drill this time, they set up the first-aid station for providing first-aid treatment to stabilize the medical condition of ailing people so that they could tolerate a longer duration between transfer from the Exit Screening point to a shelter. The scenario simulated situations in which a resident turned sick on his/her way to the Exit Screening point, or an evacuee suffered a certain injury although it was not so serious as to require an ambulance transfer, etc.

Initially the first-aid station was scheduled to be established inside a child care center adjoining Rokkasho Village Minami Elementary School (one of the designated drill sites). However, as the sequence of moves changed so that they would check for any sick residents in the early phase of evacuation before performing Vehicle Screening, it was more practical to set up the first-aid station outdoors near the vehicle screening area.

Thus, the sequence of moves turned out as follows:

Cars fleeing the affected area underwent Vehicle Screening (which, as set forth by the Manual, “substitutes for Passenger Screening”), at which time, the JRCS first responders would ask if the passengers have received the iodine tablets and check for anyone experiencing sickness.

If any passenger was found to be ill, providing that no contamination was detected in the vehicle, a quick look survey would be performed for the individual at a screening area adjacent to the first-aid station. Then, after confirming that he/she is not contaminated, the medical care services would be provided to the patient at the first-aid station.

To perform the first-aid treatment, three nurses of Hachinohe JRC Hospital participated in the drill.

Issues emerged

The tent of the first-aid station that was set
up avoiding high winds

The tent of the first-aid station that was set up avoiding high winds

It was a very windy day, albeit sunny, hence the tent that had been set up by the municipality personnel at the car park of the elementary school was tossed by strong winds, posing danger. Therefore, the first-aid station was moved to a space where the wind was shielded by a building and was further protected by vehicles. Also, as the plan changed so that the first-aid station would be established outdoors, it became necessary to attach side panels to the tent. However, the tent prepared by the municipality had no such panels, so they decided to use the ones that the Aomori chapter had brought with them.

This happening taught them the importance of preparing the facilities and equipment keeping in mind cold season or unfavorable weather.

Future initiatives

Yasuyuki Yoshikawa, member of the Expert Committee on Nuclear Emergency Medical Care Preparedness of Aomori Prefecture and Director of Operations Division, JRCS Aomori chapter, reviewed the drill as follows; “The exercise on this occasion has demonstrated that establishing a first-aid station outdoors would be difficult unless the relief team is self-sufficient, like those formed by the JRCS. However, in an actual nuclear emergency situation, the first-aid posts will also be operated by Nuclear Emergency Medical Cooperative Institutions, whose medical self-sufficiency is likely to be inadequate. Therefore, I felt that the system and circumstances need to be adapted appropriately; for instance, we should make it a basic rule to set up first-aid stations indoors. In such context, to be adaptable to the distinctive features of our region, we also need to think about the relief activities for Exit Screening in winter, or in a blizzard to be more specific”.

The JRCS not only participates in the emergency drills held by municipalities as described above, but also organizes Nuclear Disaster Response Basic Training Sessions, where participants acquire basic knowledge of radiation and learn how to use radiation protection equipment and gear, in an effort to nurture employees who can successfully carry out the relief activities in a nuclear emergency. Furthermore, when a nuclear emergency has occurred or may occur, the JRCS will deploy Nuclear Emergency Medical Care Advisors to the headquarters of disaster control established at the head office in Tokyo or the relevant local chapter(s), to help facilitate the environment for ensuring the safety of relief teams.

For more information, see the initiatives related to nuclear disaster preparedness undertaken by the JRCS. For more information, please see Preparedness for Nuclear Disasters.

The Digital Archive website features the searching/browsing/downloading functions to disseminate the information about the relief activities undertaken in the past nuclear emergencies as well as the relevant moves of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent.