Thursday, March 31, 2011

One more reason why plans need revisions

Communicating by fax in 2011? Any emergency management program or BCP needs a solid crisis communications plan that includes social media. An absolute requirement for the "social convergence age".

Amplify’d from

Japanese Plant Had Barebones Risk Plan

TOKYO—Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s disaster plans greatly underestimated the scope of a potential accident at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, calling for only one stretcher, one satellite phone and 50 protective suits in case of emergencies.

Disaster-response documents for Fukushima Daiichi, examined by The Wall Street Journal, also contain few guidelines for obtaining outside help, providing insight into why Japan struggled to cope with a nuclear crisis after an earthquake and tsunami devastated the facility.

The disaster plans, approved by Japanese regulators, offer guidelines for responding to smaller emergencies and outline in detail how to back up key systems in case of failure. Yet the plans fail to envision the kind of worst-case scenario that befell Japan: damage so extensive that the plant couldn't respond on its own or call for help from nearby plants. There are no references to Tokyo firefighters, Japanese military forces or U.S. equipment, all of which the plant operators eventually relied upon to battle their overheating reactors.

On Wednesday, the president of plant operator Tepco was hospitalized for dizziness, offering the latest sign of leadership trouble. Earlier in the disaster, Tepco was faulted for a sluggish initial response; now it appears that its written emergency plans were themselves inadequate.

"The disaster plan didn't function," said a former Tepco executive. "It didn't envision something this big."

The two main documents examined by the Journal are Fukushima Daiichi's disaster-readiness plan, which discusses general preparations and communications, and its accident-management protocol, which focuses on technical operation of plant equipment in an accident.

The main disaster-readiness manual, updated annually, envisions the fax machine as a principal means of communication with the outside world and includes detailed forms for Tepco managers when faxing government officials. One form offers a multiple-choice list of disasters, including "loss of AC power," "inability to use the control room" and "probable nuclear chain reaction outside the reactor."

Tepco spokesman Hiro Hasegawa said the plans followed and sometimes exceeded legal requirements, and proved useful in the crisis. For example, he said the emergency injection of water to cool the reactors followed the accident-management protocol.

Nuclear-power experts say few operators anywhere are likely prepared for the kind of disaster that struck Fukushima Daiichi. On March 11, the plant was hit with a magnitude 9.0 quake, followed by a tsunami estimated at 45 feet. The twin catastrophes wiped out the normal power and backup generators of nearly all the plant's six reactors and also damaged roads and communication lines through which the plant could seek help.


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