UCL IRDR Research Trip to Fukushima, Japan 2018

By Rebekah Yore, on 8 February 2018

Blog post written by Hui Zhang, Cate Howes and Peter Dodd

A group of students from the IRDR once again joined the Fukushima research trip, conducting fieldwork in the triple disaster affected area in Japan for a week in January this year. We collected information on how the Fukushima Prefecture and local communities are trying to recover from the disaster and rebuild a new life in the nuclear contaminated area. Here is a summary of our week:

Monday 15th January

On arrival in Fukushima, we were met by a lead engineering team and given a briefing on the events that had taken place in 2011, and the remaining effects on local prefectures such as the neighboring prefecture of Futaba and the residents that used to live there. Then we visited Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant – a sight that we feel privileged to have experienced and were impressed by the resilience and appetite to recover from the disaster, and to learn so as to effectively move forward in the regeneration process. This was followed by an in-depth discussion and question and answer session between the team and two respective representatives of TEPCO, to help stimulate our appetites for our individual areas for research.

Tuesday 16th January

Visiting the High School

Our first stop was at the Robotic Limb Factory – an innovation company, originally focusing on the creation of mobile phone components, now pushing the boundaries on physical movement assistance after disasters. Here we learnt that since the disaster, employee numbers had been slow to return, however they were working hard to push Fukushima as a place for testing new and vital technologies, and above all a desire to work in the region. Then we went to one of the hardest-hit areas named Futaba-gun. Our first stop was a graveyard, home to the remnants of the previous residents of the unfortunate village, completely wiped out by the Tsunami. Here we were also taken to the waterfront by the local port, recently repaired and home to a very small 20-strong fishing fleet, to reflect on the damage caused.

Our final visit of the day was to a previous high school, now re-utilised by the prefecture as a museum for visitors. Here we were greeted by a local storyteller, who reminisced with us as we sat in the junior student chairs, of how the local area had been effected and how she had been scared for the safety of her grandson after the disasters.

Wednesday 17th January

National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology

On Wednesday we were privileged to spend time visiting some incredible members of the local area, who work tirelessly to rebuild and strengthen their communities. We started the day hearing from Aoki-san, a local storyteller who talked to us about the evacuation of her town after the nuclear accident. We travelled to the J-Village and spoke with Chef Nishi, who set up a restaurant to help the workers travelling to assist in the stablisation and cleanup of Fukushima Daiichi. We ended the day as guests at the Futaba Mirai Gakuen High School. We were treated to a presentation from the students on their views of the situation in Fukushima. We then heard poignant speeches from two students, regarding their personal experiences since March 2011. The whole group were deeply moved by this testimony, and inspired by the positivity and kindness of the students.

Thursday 18th January

Press coverage: Fukushima Minpo paper

We spent a fascinating morning at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Koriyama City. We were given a full tour of the facility, and were very impressed with the innovative research into renewable energy that the centre is undertaking. Later, we took part in a thought-provoking workshop with government officials and students from Fukushima University and High School, discussing the future of the prefecture. That evening, we were invited to a reception welcoming us to the city. We very much enjoyed speaking further with students and officials from the earlier workshop, and to hear their thoughts and plans for the future of Fukushima.

Friday 19th January

Press coverage: Fukushima Minpo paper

On the last day, we visited the electric power station that conducts binary generation using the heat from the Tsuchiyu hot spring located in the upstream of Arakawa river. It is an example of local efforts to create new energy alternatives to nuclear power. We then went to the Environmental Regeneration Plaza in Fukushima City, where we were told about the progress of environmental recovery in Fukushima, about radiation and about environmental regeneration such as interim storage sites.

After the site visit, we met with the Governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Mr Masao Uchibori. The Governor expressed his thanks for our visit and listened to our impressions of the recovery in Fukushima. We then had a lecture on disaster prevention in the Crisis management Centre of Fukushima Prefecture.

We concluded our 5-day trip to Fukushima on 20th February and returned to London. It was an amazing experience and insight into post-disaster recovery and Japanese culture, and we will continue to pay attention to the reconstruction of Fukushima into the future.

 

UCL IRDR – Motorola Solutions Foundation Scholars on the MSc in Risk Disaster and Resilience

By Rosanna Smith, on 22 January 2018

The Motorola Solutions Foundation provided two scholarships that contributed towards tuition fees for two of our current (2017/18) full time students on the UCL IRDR MSc in Risk Disaster and Resilience. This scholarship was specifically targeted at public safety professionals and family members of fallen first responders, because the Motorola Solutions Foundation wished to enrich the careers of this community with the high-level and cross disciplinary academic study of risk, disasters and resilience provided by this programme.

See below the experiences of our scholars so far:

 

Irene Naa Quartey, Overseas Scholarship Holder

Irene was a Disaster Control Officer for National Disaster Management Organization, Tema – Ghana, before she came to UCL for MSc studies.

I feel truly honoured and privileged to be a recipient of the 2017/2018 Motorola Foundation Scholarship award. It is an absolutely life changing award for me and I cannot express how grateful I am to be awarded among many qualified applicants. This certainly contributes a great deal in covering my tuition expenses in this great University. The award serves as a springboard to my professional development and the next chapter of my career.

My desire to pursue this program derives from my passion to provide constant support to the vulnerable in society and taking a centre stage in leadership. Prior to joining the IRDR, I was a Risk and Disaster Officer professionally with National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO), a branch of the Government of Ghana.

Over the years, I have used my experience and role as a Risk and Disaster Officer in different capacities to put smiles on the faces of people who have experienced disasters and victims of homelessness, loss of life and properties. I needed a push in my career to advance into executive leadership to affect policy making and national strategic decision on disaster management. I feel this master’s degree program at UCL will equip me with the knowledge and skills needed to fill that gap to help me advance my career while benefiting society as a whole.

My studies at UCL have been very enjoyable; the great teaching skills displayed by the professors are truly world-class. Wonderful learning facilities and the network of friends from different cultural backgrounds globally makes it very exciting. I also enjoy studying in London and experiencing the very many resources the city has got to offer.

I wish to transfer scientific knowledge of risk and disaster management gained through UCL to improve my previous organization. I’m also certainly open to gaining work experience in the UK and working with international organizations to broaden my exposure and leadership skills.

 

Cate Howes, UK/ EU Scholarship Holder

Cate was a Senior Humanitarian Programmes Assistant at Muslim Aid before she came to UCL for her MSc studies.

I was inspired to study with the IRDR after attending the careers and opportunities fair* last year. Hearing from graduates for whom the IRDR has helped to carve a diverse range of careers in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) was extremely motivating, as well as the outstanding reputation of UCL as a world leading university.

I have assisted in two disaster response projects in the Philippines, and later on a demolition team in Nepal. Uponreturn to London I worked for over a year with the humanitarian charity Muslim Aid in the International Programmes Department.

I am particularly interested in DRR and emergency planning for schools – with a focus on lower income countries, and how safety can be improved for school children.

I am immensely enjoying my studies at the IRDR. The lecturers have been inspiring and very supportive. My classmates come from a range of experiences and backgrounds, and we have already created a strong support network.

Having obtained the MSc in Risk, Disaster and Resilience, I aim to continue my career in the humanitarian sector.  I will look to become a key player in policy change and advocate for safer schools.

 

* Note that the 2018 UCL IRDR Careers and Opportunities Fair will take place on 28th February. See the event webpage and register here.

Migration and Health Workshop in Italy

By Rebekah Yore, on 3 December 2017

Article by Peter Sammonds

This November, I joined a residential workshop for the Lancet Commission on Migration and Health at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy.

Workshop attendees

The Lancet Commission is investigating migration as the frequently overlooked core determinant of health and well-being, as it is neglected as a global health priority. It is led by Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, Director, UCL Institute for Global Health. The commissioners are from all over the world and from health, law, economics, migration, disaster sectors. The commission’s 30,000 word report will be published in the Lancet in 2017.

As well as participating in the commission workshop, the Humanitarian Institute and IRDR also joined the Institute for Global Health in organising a scenario workshop on the forced migration of the Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh. The scenario workshop addressed a health crises (measles) and natural hazard (cyclone with flooding and landslides). The scenario workshop will feed into the Lancet Commission and a report will be produced.

Research Update: Localising Emergency Management in Nigeria

By Rebekah Yore, on 7 November 2017

Article by Emmanuel Agbo

The recent devastating effects of natural hazards globally, such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, erosion, tsunamis, and landslides, in spite of the many predictive, defensive and reduction measures, call for great concern. Though this situation is often largely attributable to climate change, population growth and urbanisation, its catastrophic effect to humans and the environment, shows to a greater extend the limitations of science and technology and the many disasters risk reduction measures in disaster management. It also highlights a potential need for more proactive measures towards disaster risk reduction.

6d28a69f5c648644e434b02cf9824450Nonetheless, government commitment and willingness to undertake disaster risk reduction measures proves to be a veritable tool for effectiveness in disaster management. While the viability of this tool is undoubtably clear, its implementation often becomes distorted in most developing nations. This is so, as the shared responsibility between the state, the federal and the local government, in a top-down disaster operational approach as practice by most developed economies and adopted by many developing nations, suffers lots of implementation flaws. This occurs frequently within federated nations, where each government level is viewed as a sovereign state. This approach of emergency management places the civil protection measures at the mercy of politicians, who often prefer the provision of relief material to disaster victims in a bid to secure cheap political points rather than engaging in activities that will better prepare the vulnerable towards disaster incidents.

Nigeria-1

In recognition of these challenges, and in the quest to better prepare for disasters, my research supposes that locally institutionalising an emergency management culture within developing nations, serves to quell inconsistencies in its emergency operational framework. As all disasters, regardless of scale, happen first in communities, the local people are always the first to address its occurrences. To achieve greater preparedness, the level of information and awareness of hazards, as well as the potential mitigation strategies at the local level, needs be enhanced. To this end my research, through the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction research fund assistance, recently involved undertaking a field assessment of community perceptions of flood hazards, preparedness, and response within a number of flood vulnerable communities in Nigeria. Its preliminary findings point to poor preparedness and weak knowledge of flood emergency response, weak mitigation measures and poor defense mechanism. Also of notable finding is the gap in communication between the civil protection agencies and the rural vulnerable communities during and after disaster incidents. While most of these factors exist, and continually require review in most developing nations, there is a need for demonstrating complete structures to improve on these challenges. This is the focus of my research. 

David Alexander gives keynote talk in Canada

By David E Alexander, on 1 November 2017

 

On 26th November 2017 David Alexander gave the keynote speech at the Canadian Risks and Hazards Network annual conference. His topic was “One Hundred Years of ‘Disasterology’: Looking Back and Moving Forward”. His presentation can be found here:

The conference was held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which, almost exactly 100 years ago was the site of a massive explosion that killed 2000 inhabitants and injured 9000, as well as devastating the city. Thanks to the work of a studious Anglican priest, the Rev. Dr Samuel Henry Prince, this event marked the start of concerted academic studies of disaster, which therefore celebrate – if that is the right word – a century of unbroken activity. Alexander reports that it was interesting to observe the compare the explosion, a thriving and peaceful modern city, with the devastation that prevailed in 1917.

On the Provost’s visit to Japan

By Peter R Sammonds, on 5 October 2017

I joined the visit to Japan by the UCL Provost, senior UCL academics and staff from the UCL Global Engagement Office, Alumni Relations and the Grand Challenges for a week in September/October 2017. We visited the Fukushima Prefecture (location of the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 after the tsunami), Tohoku University, Kyoto University, a major corporation interested in collaborating with UCL and attended a reception at the British Embassy for UCL Alumni. It was something of a whirlwind tour but provided good opportunities to discuss plans for future collaboration with the Fukushima Prefecture, the International Research Institute for Disaster Science (IRIDeS) at Tohoku and the Disaster Prevention Research Institute (DPRI) at Kyoto.

Fukushima

Visiting Kyoto

Since the earthquake and nuclear disaster in March 2011, the IRDR has been involved in on-going research in the region through EEFIT and IRDR missions to Tohoku. I have visited the affected areas, included the stricken Fukushima nuclear reactor, immediately after the disaster and contributed to field reports. Besides research, UCL has hosted annual symposia for 40 school children from the region, co-organised by the IRDR. Uniquely, UCL has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Fukushima Prefecture signed in 2015 (UCL’s only MoU with a provincial government).

Continuing the relationship, there will be a return visit by UCL students and UCL Academy students in February/March next year. There will be more opportunities for research this coming visit. The advertising and selection process will start soon. Several IRDR PhD and masters students joined the trip in 2015, led by David Alexander and Shin-ichi Ohnuma (UCL Japan Ambassador). There will be an announcement shortly.

Tohoku University

Press coverage: Fukushima Minpo paper

UCL has an institutional MoU with Tohoku, signed in 2013. The IRDR is a key component in this relationship alongside our friends in IRIDeS of Tohoku University. At the signing of the MoU we held a joint symposium at UCL on Disaster Science. There have since been exchanges of staff and students and joint research projects and publications. The IRDR will be joining the World Bosai Forum in November organised by IRIDeS.

Kyoto University

The IRDR is a member of Global Alliance Disaster Research Institutes (GADRI). Kyoto University’s DPRI runs the secretariat and the IRDR membership certificate was presented to me. Future collaboration between DPRI and IRDR will be built around capacity building in developing countries and exchange of staff and students.

New Research Published: Tourism Industry Financing of Climate Change Adaptation in Small Island Developing States

By Janto S Hess, on 31 July 2017

 

Tourism is the most important economic sector in many small island developing states (SIDS), often driving development. Tourism in these island nations is however, threatened by climate change impacts, such as sea level rises or tropical cyclones. To cope with the damage costs of these impacts, a larger amount of money will be needed. This raises the question of who should pay for climate change adaptations, and whether it is the government and the tourism industry that are ultimately responsible.

Picture1In this study, Ilan Kelman and I explore the perceptions of selected tourism sector stakeholders and investigate the potential of the tourism industry for financing adaptation among SIDS. A range of financial and political mechanisms, such as adaptation taxes and levies, adaptation funds, building regulations, and risk transferral, were examined. The results show that there is great potential for the tourism industry funding its own adaptation, but with significant challenges in realising this potential. Consumer expectations and demands, governmental hesitation in creating perceived investment barriers, and assumptions about cost effectiveness could undermine steps moving forward. Varying incentive structures, the sector’s price sensitivity, and the varying abilities of tourism industry stakeholders to adapt are all factors suggesting that government frameworks are needed to ensure effective and substantive action.

 

Highlights of our article include:

  • Several promising revenue mechanisms in the tourism industry among SIDS exist that can be tapped to fund the industry’s climate change adaptation (CCA).
  • Private adaptation financing initiatives presumed to be cost-effective and feasible for the tourism industry include investing in water efficiency and pooling resources in a targeted fund, which are then allocated by need.
  • The biggest barriers to engaging the tourism industry among SIDS in funding their own CCA, are the government’s assumed economic dependency on tourism, consumer expectations and demands, and assumptions about costs and benefits.
  • Varying incentive structures and price sensitivity suggest that government frameworks are needed to create substantive and effective action.

To read our article in full, click here: https://www.cddjournal.org/article/view/vol02-iss2-4

Understanding the Nigerian Emergency Management System: A Key to Improving Preparedness.

By Justine U Uyimleshi, on 16 June 2017

Nigeria has over the years, been challenged with human induced disasters unlike other parts of the world that have faced the challenge of natural hazards. Reports revealed that between July 2013 and March 2016, Lagos state alone recorded four major cases of building collapses with around 122 dead and several injured. Between September 2013 and March 2014, Nigeria recorded three major stampedes with 96 dead and several injured (Okoli and Nnorom 2014). Moreover, the frequency of power failures in Nigeria has escalated to the level that even the presidential villa has mandated the 24-hour use of generators to provide continued energy in the state house, Aso Villa.

The increasing frequencyJUSTINE_P of human induced disasters in Nigeria is becoming so alarming that urgent need for preparedness to improve response when disaster strikes is required. This requires adequate knowledge about the system to determine its capability and areas that need urgent attention.

In line with the UCL Grand Challenges initiative, I embarked on a research fieldtrip to Nigeria in May 2017 to conduct a survey as a part of my PhD at the IRDR. The aim was to meet and discuss with a number of relevant emergency response organisations, and obtain some crucial information about emergency management activities to develop a framework to improve emergency response in Nigeria.

The survey was conducted at a number of institutions, including the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the national hospital (NH). All of these constitute key emergency response organisations in Nigeria, and the survey gathered valuable information regarding emergency communication, resource availability, staffing and training.

Initial evidencesuggests that inadequate funding, inadequate resources, insufficient training, lack of incentives, poverty, marginalisation and lack of political will are the major factors that affect emergency response activities in Nigeria.

JUSTINE_FRSC

Investigating the Implementation of Disaster Education in Indonesia

By Nurmalahayati Nurdin, on 15 May 2017

Schools can play an important role in reducing the impact of disasters, and students can be very vulnerable to the effects of disasters if they are not prepared with sufficient knowledge. My study therefore focuses on the integration of disaster risk reduction (DRR) concepts into the Secondary High School curriculum in Indonesia. As part of my research, I travelled to Indonesia from March to April this year.

Throughout my work in Indonesia, I was able to meet and interview several DRR education stakeholders, who play an important role in the development of disaster education in the country, including the National Curriculum Centre, the National Disaster Management Agency, the Indonesian Science Institute, and three NGOs: Plan International, Lingkar and Kerlip.

I also had the opportunity to discuss with a number of teachers, the integration of DRR concepts in their curricula at the Secondary High School in Banda Aceh. Many agreed that Indonesia is a highly disaster-prone nation and that students need to be adequately prepared. However, they also pointed out that limited knowledge, a lack of materials and insufficient support all hinder the implementation of these DRR processes in schools. The teachers believed that such problems can be minimised with greater support, especially from local government, and stated that if DRR concepts are fully integrated into school curricula, more children will have a better understanding of DRR and will work towards transforming their societies.

Meeting with Head of National curriculum centre

The study provided critical information and recommendations for governments, both local and central, regarding the importance of disaster education in schools. The insight might help in formulating policies and designing programmes on disaster management. It will benefit education-based stakeholders and strengthen DRR in school curricula through building knowledge of risk, increased skills, and improved awareness. It will also provide solutions from current disaster problems and assist in the prevention of further catastrophes.

During this trip, I presented my work at the 4th TWINSEA International Workshop on ‘Lessons Learnt and Outlook, Enhancing Resilience in Indonesia and South East Asia Cities through Low Regret Adaptation Measures’. As a part of the workshop, I also attended the book launch of Disaster Risk Reduction in Indonesia to which I contributed, adding my experience to the chapter titled ‘Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation into School Curriculum: From National Policy to Local Implementation’ (http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-54466-3_8).

Book DRR in Indonesia

The workshop attracted 140 attendees, including researchers, academics, practitioners, and government delegates from seven countries around the world, who presented on multi-disciplinary aspects of the development of DRR in Indonesia. It was organised by the Indonesian Institute of Science – International Centre for Interdisciplinary and Advanced Research (LIPI-ICIAR), Universitas Pendidikan National (UNDIKNAS), the Franzius Institute for Hydraulic, Waterways and Coastal Engineering at the University of Hannover, and the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).

For more information on Nurmalahayati’s work, or to contact her at the IRDR: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/rdr/people/nurmalahayati-nurdin

Working in the USA for 6 months as a visiting researcher

By Alexandra Tsioulou, on 24 October 2016

I am a third year PhD student in the IRDR and the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at UCL. My research focuses on the use of simulated ground motions in catastrophe risk engineering. Earlier this year, I travelled to the USA to work as a visiting PhD student for 6 months at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. I worked with Prof. Alexandros Taflanidis from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences to develop simulated ground motion models that are compatible with the expected seismic hazard, particularly in the region of the western USA.

Farewell dinner in July with my officemates. I am on the bottom left side.

Dinner with my officemates. I am on the bottom left.

I was part of the High Performance System Analysis and Design lab and was based in a well-equipped office with other PhD students. I had a big desk and two computer screens that was really convenient. The atmosphere in the room was very different to the big open plan office I sit in at UCL, it is very quiet and there is little interaction between the students. However, they take lunch breaks together and I was often invited to join them. On the weekends, we sometimes got together for dinner or drinks and they were very keen to show me what the city has to offer. They were all very friendly and made me part of their group.

The biggest challenge for me was the cold weather and snow; in the winter it can get down to -30° C, although everybody said I was really lucky last year as it only got down to around -10° C! The campus was very beautiful covered in snow but the commute in this cold weather was not very easy.

Grove of trees.

Grove of trees in South Bend.

Another challenge I faced was the poor public transportation system; there were very few buses and they didn’t go everywhere in the city, so I had to rely on a shuttle service to commute in the winter. The commute was short; in London it takes me half hour to get to UCL from home by tube, whereas there it took about 10 minutes by bus. After spring when temperature went up, I could also walk to university through wonderful scenery including a grove of tall trees and a beautiful lake, which took about 40 minutes. I felt very grateful to have those views and connect with nature every day on my way home.

 

St. Mary's Lake.

St. Mary’s Lake

While there, I attended the Probabilistic Mechanics Conference held in Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a three-day conference and there were a lot of interesting sessions. This conference mainly attracts researchers from US universities, but there were a few people from universities outside the US, mainly Europe and Asia. I presented a part of the work I have done at UCL and had the chance to see and catch up with some old friends.

Overall, that was a great experience and I certainly encourage other PhD students to take any opportunities to spend some time abroad as visiting researchers if they have this option. Lastly, I would like to thank IRDR for providing me financial support for this research trip.