Business Continuity Plans (BCP)
The information network that went to pieces
The great earthquake in Eastern Japan and the accident in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were part of a national crisis that has brought about unprecedented disasters. I want to convey my heartfelt sympathies to each of the victims. However, we cannot keep hanging our heads down indefinitely. Not just the Japanese people, but the entire world is watching to see how we deal with this national crisis and how we are leveraging the lessons learnt from this to engage in the work of recovery and reconstruction and carry out the task of building our nation anew. Now, I want to summarize these from the ICT viewpoint and propose what ICT can contribute to the country.
The suspended communications network
- Lesson 1
During a catastrophe, even a communications network of which we boast to the world is cut off.
- Lesson 2
The mobile telephone demonstrates its full power during a calamity.
The devastating damage wrought by the great earthquake in Eastern Japan, which had a magnitude of 9.0, extended throughout the Pacific coastal side of the Tohoku region. In addition, the immense energy of the killer tsunami was unforeseen and it even crossed the 10 meter breakwater（in Taro district, Miyako city, Iwate prefecture）and destroyed the whole town.
Japan has so far been valued throughout the world as a country with an excellent communications infrastructure. However, in the face of this unprecedented disaster, it was perhaps unavoidable that the communication network was cut off to an unforeseen extent. People looking for their missing family members had no choice but to physically walk to the various evacuee shelters in the vicinity. Many of us would have shed tears as we watched the plight of our fellow citizens on TV, like the nine year old boy who was separated from his parents and was going to various evacuee shelters waving an illegible piece of paper bearing their names,
In the great earthquake in New Zealand, which happened before this, there was a victim who sent an email/text to parents in Japan from underneath collapsed rubble. In our great earthquake too, there was a 16 year old boy whose house was washed away by the tsunami and who was trapped beneath the rubble with his 80 year old grandma. He managed to contact his family on his mobile telephone just once before he was rescued 9 days later, and his family therefore continued to believe that he had survived.
There must certainly have been many victims who managed to make contact on their mobile telephones from beneath the rubble. Several of the mobile telephones available these days are also equipped with GPS functions, and if they were also synchronized with an emergency rescue system, how many lives could have been saved with their aid?
Also, people who fled to the evacuee shelters with just the clothes that they were wearing had left many of their valuables at home or at their workplace, and these were washed away, but many of them had their mobile telephones, which they normally kept close to themselves. Maybe they all thought that if they were able to use their mobile telephones, they would be very useful to confirm the safety of their relatives and so on.
The reason why the communications network broke down was that the fixed lines went out of service with a maximum of 2,500,000 lines, and the base stations of the mobile telephones stopped functioning with a maximum of 14,200 stations. In addition, there were restrictions on incoming and outgoing calls on the telephone network.
Just after the earthquake, the trunk communications network became unusable, and in addition, the communications building housing the switches and relays belonging to NTT Eastern Japan suffered damage or loss of power in around 1000 places, and 385 places could not be used. 6 lines of the undersea cables of KDDI also became unusable, and the international dedicated lines to North America and China also became partially unusable. The entire communications network in the earthquake stricken area was virtually cut off.
All the communications companies have been fighting desperately to restore services, and are publishing the recovery status and information about the communication restrictions on their respective websites. Now, 2 months after the earthquake disaster, there has been considerable recovery.
No praise is too much for the effort put in by each of the communications companies towards recovery. However, in Japan, which is such a highly technologically advanced country, the fact that we do not have the means of communication which can adapt to the circumstances in our time of need would be a source of dissatisfaction for many of our countrymen. For example, there may be various technology based solutions such as the dropping of battery powered base stations, using satellite lines, etc. If the communications network had been restored immediately and if there had also been an emergency rescue system linked to the GPS function, it would have been useful to rescue the affected people as well as to check on the safety of the survivors.