Lessons from the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami for Researchers and Policy Makers: Legal and Regulatory Comparative of the Role of Telecommunications in Disaster Planning and Response in the US and Japan
Washington College of Law; Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
March 11, 2012
Devastating natural disasters struck Japan on March 11, 2011 leaving some 340,000 citizens refugees, and nearly 20,000 dead or missing. The 9.0 magnitude Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing tsunami wrought destruction on all facets of Japan’s infrastructure and have been declared the most costly natural disaster in world history. Despite the biblical scale of the catastrophes, within seconds of the disaster a complex network of sensors delivered a flurry of critical information into multi-stakeholder disaster networks that conveyed over diverse physical infrastructure life-saving warnings to the public, without a single accident safely brought to a halt speeding trains across the country, halted factories and elevators, and set in motion other important disaster responses. Japan's decades of preparation and investment were observed to demonstrate the value of communications in achieving key public safety goals of protecting life and property.
The paper reviews the key national law foundations for disaster planning and management, regulatory facets of disaster networks and warning systems, the role of industry in preparation and participation in disasters, and citizens' role in communications aspects of Japan's survival of the 311 disasters. The paper identifies important comparative observations with U.S. approaches and experiences for the role of communications in disaster detection and warning, carrier and infrastructure preparedness, refugee assistance and support, social and other new media, and other emerging topics. More than one year later, Japan's ongoing policy responses and developments are reviewed to identify important lessons learned for researchers and policy makers.
James Miller is a Senior Attorney Advisor in the Office of Engineering and Technology at the Federal Communications Commission, Adjunct Professor of Law at the American University, Washington College of Law, an Affiliated Research Fellow of the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information at the Columbia Business School and a 2004-2006 Mansfield Fellow. At the FCC, Mr. Miller focuses on regulatory and policy matters related to spectrum and and Broadband Internet technology. As Adjunct Professor of Law at the American University, Washington College of Law, he teaches U.S.-Japan Comparative Law and develops programs focused on East-Asia and technology. As a Mansfield Fellow, Mr. Miller explored Japanese regulatory policies for broadband technology and the information society, particularly focusing on legal and regulatory reforms and spectrum policy, in the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Radio Policy Bureau (MIC), Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Office of Senior-Vice Minister Yoshitaka SAKURADA, and the Tokyo District and High Court’s Administrative Litigation and Intellectual Property Sections. He is a cum laude graduate of the Washington College of Law, American University, and holds a bachelors degree in Economics and East-Asian studies (honors) from the University of Kansas. He is bilingual in English and Japanese and frequently speaks and publishes in Japanese for business, legal, and technical audiences in Japan.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 19
Keywords: tohoku earthquake, disaster communications, public safety communications, regulation, Japan, comparative, regulatory, legal, policy, social mediaworking papers series
Date posted: April 9, 2012 ; Last revised: January 22, 2013
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