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May 27, 2011

Fudia Sea Wall and Prevention of death and damage

The village of Fudai (3000 people) was protected by a 15.5-meter (50-foot) seawall, and the tsunami was no match for it. Fudai had no deaths in the disaster.

The story of how Fudai came to have such a high seawall begins with the great earthquake and tsunami in 1896, during Japan’s Meiji period. That year the village was struck by a 15-meter (49-foot) tsunami, and again in 1933, the village suffered another powerful tsunami. Altogether, 439 lives were lost.

Following those tsunami, village mayor Kotoku Wamura (和村幸得) pressed for a seawall at least 15 meters high, often repeating the tales handed down to him growing up: that the devastating 1896 tsunami was 15 meters



The project was a huge one—a wall to hold back a surging wave five stories high and over 200 meters (650 feet) long. During the planning stage, there was strong opposition to building such an excessively high wall—after all, a 10-meter wall, dubbed “the Great Wall,” had protected parts of nearby Miyako City from the tsunami caused by a Chilean earthquake in 1960.

But Wamura did not budge, insisting on a 15-meter-plus wall. “明治に15メートルの波が来た” (In the Meiji earthquake, a 15-meter wave came), he was fond of reminding skeptics.

Wamura prevailed, and the seawall was ultimately completed in 1967. Floodgates were added in 1984.

“When I saw bodies being dug up from the piles of earth, I did not know what to say. I had no words,” Wamura wrote of the 1933 tsunami in his book about Fudai, “A 40-Year Fight Against Poverty.” He vowed it would never happen again.

Societal Robustness


This goes to my belief in incrementally (but with radical projects and changes in mindset) for increasing the robustness of society. Previously, I have talked about re-inventing civil defense.

Simple and affordable improvements to building construction with hurriquake nails and other design changes or upgrades

Low Probability Risk Management

Recent natural disasters around the world have focused attention on the methods and processes used by organizations to manage risk known as Enterprise Risk Management (ERM).


Greenbaum recently told a conference in France that low probability disaster scenarios are among the risks that tend to be overlooked by business, but deserve more attention and planning.

ERM is a process, Greenbaum says, but is also a frame of mind. “It is a collective assertion that the organization will bring its best talents to bear upon the challenge of avoiding surprises that threaten sustainability,” he says. “It will consciously and judiciously forego current earnings in order to reduce the probability and severity of existential hazards.

Surge Hospitals, Project ER One and having hospitals ready for disasters


Surge Hospitals: Providing Safe Care in Emergencies (29 pages)

A familiar concept to health care organizations, surge capacity is a health care system’s ability to expand quickly beyond normal services to meet an increased demand for medical care. Surge hospitals have been defined as facilities designed to supplement existing hospitals in the case of an emergency.

Preparing hosiptals for bioterror

Superfreakonomics - Hospitals are currently not designed for high volumes of patients. The ambulance areas are usually only designed for a few ambulances. Craig Feied's idea for getting rid of such bottlenecks is to design an ER more like an airport with a large intake area that could handle many ambulances, buses and helicopters.

Project ER One is the federally funded initiative to develop the design concepts, features, and specifications for an all-risks ready emergency care facility, optimized to be able to provide emergency medical care during acts of terrorism and epidemics and built to function fully as a hospital emergency department during daily operations

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