Ofunato Fire Department - K38 Japan Disaster Area Tour22 Nov 2013
K38 JAPAN DISASTER AREA TOUR – OFUNATO FIRE DEPARTMENT VISIT
October 23 is the 2nd Day of the K38 Japan Disaster Site Inspections - Ofunato Fire Department
We have driven along the coastal highway passing town after town of the Tohoku tsunami disaster zone. I sit quietly in the van and stare out the window examining the countryside. My thoughts range from the amazing recovering efforts for clearing the infrastructure, to re-building and the emotional toll on survivors. This country has seen much more than people can imagine. The level of human endurance and fortitude is impressive. There is much to learn here.
Our next destination is a meeting with the Ofunato Fire Department, at their headquarters. We arrive early and take a tour of the waterfront. The local fishing industry is fully operational, even though the buildings they work in still show the damages from the tsunami and some have not been repaired they have returned to work. We see fish of all types packed on ice ready for sale, the waterfront is bustling with activity.
We get our lunch and head over to a coffee shop. The women in the coffee shop tell us about their survival story. Every person we meet has a horrific story of survival. And here they are today standing before us, working at the respective jobs and cheerful in attitude, rarely a complaint is issued. They are too busy getting back into the stride of life. Outside the high water mark is painted onto the side of the gas station. Everywhere we go, these reminders are silent pinnacles, we are 20 feet under the imaginery surface of surging turbulence, but today, the paint is new and vehicles are driving by. Just imagine.
We arrive at the fire department. We are welcomed by a group of Ofunato firemen at the main entrance hellos are exchanged politely and we are led to the Commander’s officer for an official welcome with Mr. Maeno and Mr. Niinuma. They are gracious and noble. Afterwards we pass along the corridors we are brought into a briefing room that is set up for their tsunami presentation.
The building has a familiar look to me, emergency equipment neatly stacked; vehicles and Personal Protective Equipment are all orderly and ready to go at a moment notice. I gave a hearty handshake and left a Dealer 54 coin with each recipient. Hiroshi explained the history behind the coin, something new in Nippon had begun on this trip. Dealer 54 coins were gifted to a select few; it was a lot of fun doing it too!
Another introduction begins. Mr. Hiroshi Yamaoka is my interpreter and he conducts the translation of my presentation and mission goals and objectives for the tour. We were fortunate to have been granted an audience with the Ofunato Fire Department. It is a great opportunity to listen to the first on scene responders during the horrific hours that ensued on 3.11.
Japanese firemen are world renowned experts in just about anything. It is an honor to be present and to share information. We are here to help further along the professional development of their nations RWC community. Our purpose is to learn about the various locations struggles, responses and successes so we can implement the lessons learned towards our student cadre and disaster management programs.
They have prepared printed handouts and a video blog of events that they responded to. As the video played, they took turns explaining what was taking place. I asked questions to take specific notes on their response and concerns. They had a very large area of response with multiple layers of needs, from water rescue, vehicle extrication, vessels adrift, debris, and fires. A little bit of everything was thrown at them during this time period. Moving around proved a challenge for emergency vehicles, they took priority calls and got in stride quickly to manage their initial emergency response.
They were fortunate that their headquarters were not damaged in the flood waters; their elevation prevented them from experiencing losses during the aftermath of the earthquake. Video showed a large commercial tanker (vessel) where the skipper was doing his best to control what he could with the harbor surges trying to save the vessel and keep it from running hopelessly ashore. A brave and courageous act of determination ensued for hours as this embattled ship struggled to maintain some kind of positioning.
The video presentation was informative and educational for our purposes. There were literally thousands of stories stacked deep in those frames. Unraveling and extricating the key elements will help future responders to deal with their own choices and limited resources of response during such catastrophic events.
After our meeting was concluded, we stepped outside to take a group photo. Mr. Yoshihiro Chiba removed the patch from his uniform as a gift to me. That was a truly epic moment for me, I quickly ran to the van and grabbed my Dealer 54 patch and slapped it on his sleeve! A fair trade!
Ofunato Fire Rescue Personnel worked alongside international rescue response teams who came to Japan in the aftermath of the disaster. They worked throughout the region. I recognized a USAR team in the images. We had a great meeting with the fire department. We said our goodbyes and headed off to our next part of the tour.
Special thank you to the following:
Ofunato Fire Department
Mr. Hiroya Maeno, Mr. Niinuma, Mr. Okawa, Mr. Yoshihiro Chiba, Mr. Ryo Ishibashi & Staff
K38Japan Instructors & Maris
Mr. Iwamori, Mr. Yamaoka, Mr. Umeda, Mr. Kishi
OFD Website URL: http://www.fd-ofunato.jp/
ABOUT K38 Japan's Disaster area tour of certain areas that were impacted by the Tohoku tsunami in conjunction with K38 Japan instructors and K38 Founder Shawn Alladio. The disaster area tour covered 3 days and multiple cities with interviews from survivors and responders specific to each disaster area. The tour was followed up with a Disaster Management training program for instructor development and K38 Open Water Rescue Course for Japanese water rescue specialists.
Dates: October 21-November 1st, 2013
10月23日 被災地視察 2日目