Building Resilience in Japan

by International Medical Corps
Introduction to simulation exercise
Introduction to simulation exercise

International Medical Corps, in partnership with Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., successfully completed its Business Continuity Planning (BCP) training for a total of 9 Japanese NGOs. Training took place in the form of in-house lectures and tabletop exercises conducted at each NGO’s headquarters to build organizational capacity to respond to disasters quickly and efficiently. Feedback from all participating organizations has been overwhelmingly positive.

In this last report, we share the experience of long-running Japanese NGO Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC). Established in 1980, JVCis an international NGO implementing various projects in over 20 countries in areas such as agriculture, water provision, forest preservation/utilization, children's education, peace-building, and emergency relief. They implement activities meeting local needs and situations with an eye toward the future of people and the community. They work in over 20 countries including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, South Africa, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Sudan. In Japan they are implementing awareness-raising activities toward a fair and just society through advocacy, development education and networking as well as supporting recovery efforts after the 2011 earthquake.

International Medical Corps provided JVC with a BCP in-house workshop on November 25th, followed by an emergency scenario simulation exercise on December 25th, 2014.

Takatoshi Hasebe, Administrative Director of JVC:

Since JVC has been working in conflict zones for many years, we’d put serious thought into how we at the Tokyo headquarters should respond if one of our staff members overseas were to get caught in a difficult situation. However, we’d never really thought about having a plan in place if we were ever to face an emergency here in Tokyo, affecting the entire organization. That changed after the March 11th, 2011. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, due to concerns about damage from aftershocks we limited the number of staff allowed to work at headquarters and ordered the remaining staff to work from home. We didn’t have a BCP or any emergency response plan but we managed to act flexibly and start our relief activities in the Tohoku area fairly quickly. But that experience was a wake-up call, forcing us to admit that we needed to prepare ourselves for similar emergencies in the future, including possibly an earthquake affecting our headquarters.  However, until now, we hadn’t managed to make any progress towards this end. So it was very timely and fortunate for us that International Medical Corps offered us their customized training in BCP.

On November 25th, International Medical Corps’ Country Representative and Tokio Marine’s risk management expert came to our office and gave 14 of our staff including our director-general and myself a thorough introduction into BCP including what it means and what we need to do to create our own BCP. As an NGO, the community looks to us for support, and so when disaster strikes we will have additional emergency response work on top of trying to salvage our regular work. We realized that it is really important for us to prioritize our tasks and scope of work; otherwise we will all be overwhelmed. The staff members who took part in the training commented that the lecture gave them a clearer picture of what needs to be done to prepare the office for both the immediate aftermath of a disaster (e.g., confirming the safety of staff, making sure there is enough food and water for everyone, etc.) as well as to make sure the organization can function and continue operations with limited resources.

Exactly one month after the BCP lecture, International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine came back to our office to provide us with a hands-on simulation exercise to help us experience how we would react if a large-scale disaster were to strike Tokyo. 16 staff members participated. The simulation was split into two parts: (1) immediate response; and (2) business continuity.

During the first part, under the leadership of the director-general we were able to fairly quickly come up with key tasks such as checking on the safety of the building, confirming the safety of the staff who were outside the office, and finding a safe route out of the office. However, we all got a little lost in the beginning, all of the staff were trying to keep notes of the news updates that kept coming in every minute. Later on the trainer pointed out how it is important to prioritize what kinds of information we need to collect and who would do the collecting and reporting back to the group. We also needed to go beyond assigning people to key tasks and clarify exactly what each staff member was supposed to do in their new roles. We also realized that, to be able to respond efficiently, much in advance of the disaster we needed to have emergency contact numbers for each staff, adequate emergency supplies including a radio for getting emergency information, and a list of things to be carried out of the office in case of an evacuation.

During the second part of the exercise, we discussed all that needed to be done by the organization within a week of the disaster, issues like emergency staffing needs and workload, wire transfers to the field to continue overseas operations, press releases and homepage updates, etc. We would also need to decide whether or not we would do an emergency response in the immediate community while also coping with our own difficulties, and if so, to what scale and what would be the necessary resources. Here too we realized how forethought would save us precious time during an emergency. Inevitably things will not go exactly according to plan and we will probably face problems we hadn’t anticipated, but if we continue to anticipate possible scenarios and have a plan for dealing with them, we will have a much better chance at protecting ourselves and the organization’s operations.

There is still so much we need to discuss, but this training has helped us get started with the process. We now know what questions to ask ourselves and what steps we need to take to ensure we have in place an ever-evolving contingency plan. Next March we are planning a follow-up meeting with all the staff members who participated in the training to share feedback and to plan how we will develop our own BCP during the next fiscal year. We are very grateful to International Medical Corps for generously sharing with us this expertise and promise not to let what we have learned go to waste.

Simulation exercise: priority mapping
Simulation exercise: priority mapping
Simulation exercise: feedback
Simulation exercise: feedback
Group discussion
Group discussion
BCP in-house lecture
BCP in-house lecture

International Medical Corps, in partnership with Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., is continuing to provide training in Business Continuity Planning (BCP) to Japanese NGOs in the form of in-house lectures and tabletop exercises to build their organizational capacity to respond to disasters quickly and efficiently. NGOs requesting training by International Medical Corps include: Care International Japan; ChildFund Japan; Japan Association for Refugees (JAR); Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC); Plan Japan; Save the Children Japan (SCJ); Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA); Shapla Neer. Trainings will all take place between October and December 2014.

BCP In-House Lecture for Save the Children Japan

On October 10, 2014, International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine provided 17 key staff members of Save the Children Japan (SCJ) with a BCP in-house lecture. SCJ was established in 1986 with a focus on child protection, disaster risk reduction and creating child-friendly communities in Japan. SCP also provides emergency humanitarian assistance, health, nutrition, and educational support, mainly in countries in Asia and Africa.

Takako Isoda, SCJ’s Administrative Manager, said, “We had set up a risk management working group within the organization to map out the various risks faced by our organization, but we had no idea how to lay out a plan to deal with so many kinds of risk. A number of us attended International Medical Corps’ BCP workshop last year and learned how to think about risk and how to craft a basic BCP. Using what we learned at that workshop, we spent half a year drafting SCJ’s BCP. Now that we finally had a complete draft, we were wondering how to best share its contents with our staff and make the draft more practical and concrete. It was with perfect timing that we received the offer from International Medical Corps for an in-house BCP lecture and tabletop exercise.

“We had the members of our risk management working group, the director-general, and all department heads and managers attend the BCP in-house lecture. The lecture focused on the basics of BCP thinking and really helped our key staff understand the importance of BCP. With the facilitation of a professional risk consultant, we also shared our newly-drafted BCP with everyone in the room. Our senior management commented afterwards that they felt they better understood what was in our BCP and that it was up to all of us to keep working on the BCP draft and make it a living document for the organization. We are all looking forward to the BCP tabletop simulation exercise in December, which will help us have a better sense of what works in the BCP and what needs to be improved.”

Emergency Scenario Tabletop Exercise for SVA

On November 12, 2014, International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine organized an emergency scenario tabletop exercise for Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA). SVA is a Japanese NGO founded in 1981 and dedicated to providing educational support and emergency relief activities in countries including Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Afghanistan. SVA has also carried out multiple relief activities in the aftermath of flood and typhoon disasters in Japan.

Because of its role as an emergency response organization, SVA had been conducting annual reviews of its emergency supplies and emergency guidelines. This simulation was the very first opportunity for the SVA staff to test their emergency guidelines. 26 out of 28 staff members at SVA’s Tokyo headquarters, including full-time and contract-based personnel, participated in the exercise. After Tokio Marine’s Kenichi Hamazaki explained the general flow of the day’s exercise, the staff returned to their desks as part of their “normal routine.” The simulation commenced a few minutes later with an earthquake (according to the scenario) that “struck” the building. For the duration of the simulation, the staff checked the whereabouts and safety of staff members, checked their emergency supplies, prioritized workload by department for the next few days after the disaster, and otherwise followed their emergency protocol. After the simulation, staff members split up into their respective departments and discussed the lessons they learned during the exercise and next steps forward.

Some comments from participants included:

  • “I feel safer now that I know better how to act if a disaster should strike the office. We should do this kind of simulation activity at least once a year.”
  • “The exercise really made me realize the gravity of a potential disaster. It also gave me a chance to sit down with my family and decide how we’d reach one another in the event of an emergency.”
  • “It was useful for each department to reflect on the exercise. It’s important to share our differing priorities and for all of us to work together to prepare what’s needed.”
  • “Next time we should also include part-time staff and interns in the simulation exercise.”

Mariko Kimura, manager of SVA’s emergency response and preparation, commented, “Since almost all the staff members of SVA took part in this exercise, we were able to look at our emergency guidelines from many different perspectives and see that there are still many issues that we need to deal with (e.g., things we still need to prepare, steps that need to be more clearly outlined, etc.). Additionally, it was very helpful to learn that each department has different needs during and after a disaster. Having the consultant with us to facilitate both the simulation exercise and the follow-up discussion added a healthy dose of tension for the staff and made us all focus all the more on the day’s activities. Using the lessons we learned during this exercise and the advice we received from the consultant, we will be even better prepared to deal with any emergency.  ”

Explanation of the flow of the simulation exercise
Explanation of the flow of the simulation exercise
Seeking protection during earthquake simulation
Seeking protection during earthquake simulation
Staff check the emergency supplies
Staff check the emergency supplies
Sharing lessons learned
Sharing lessons learned
Kenji Aoshima from Tokio Marine assigning tasks
Kenji Aoshima from Tokio Marine assigning tasks

Background: In the fall of 2013, International Medical Corps and its corporate partners (Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Corporation Insurance Co., Ltd.) conducted a three-part workshop series on Business Continuity Planning (BCP) to help local Japanese non-government organizations (NGOs) create solutions to risk-related challenges and better prepare for future emergency response and recovery efforts. Due to popular demand, International Medical Corps conducted another similar workshop series from February – May of 2014.

During several follow-up conversations with organizations that participated in previous BCP planning workshops, International Medical Corps learned that many were still facing difficulties getting all of their staff members to gain an understanding of what their BCP is, and the importance of preparing for emergency situations at the headquarters level.

Advanced BCP Training: To assist the capacity-building efforts of these organizations, International Medical Corps is offering advanced BCP training for willing organizations. On August 5, 2014, AAR Japan was the first organization to accept the opportunity to have International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine facilitate a private tabletop exercise to give AAR Japan’s management staff a taste of what it would be like for them react in an emergency situation. 

In total, 17 staff members from AAR Japan, including the director-general and senior management staff members, participated in the two-hour simulation exercise. The participants were divided by their work departments (i.e. administration, communications, and operations), and the disaster scenario was set as follows:

An earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale hits Tokyo at 10:30AM, with 70% of the Greater Tokyo Area experiencing a quake of 6.0 or stronger. Buildings are damaged and fires ensue in multiple neighborhoods. Everyone in the AAR Japan building evacuates to a nearby public park... 2 hours later, it is confirmed that the AAR Japan building is safe to re-enter.

The simulation exercise was divided into two parts: (1) the initial response (between 12:30 – 2pm, approximately two hours after the earthquake); and (2) restoration of operations.

Part 2 of the exercise was further divided into Phase I and Phase II: Phase I started at 2pm, three and a half hours after the earthquake, running until the end of day one; and Phase II covered the day after the disaster:

Phase 1 (2pm): Power outages continue, and office desktop PCs are unusable. Internet connectivity to laptop PCs and cell phones is minimal and the server cannot be accessed. AAR had originally been planning to send money to its overseas operations but they now cannot wire money via net-banking because they cannot use the internet. Calls to the bank are not going through and it is unclear whether the banks are operating.

Phase 2 (the day after the disaster): Train and subway systems have been shut down in many parts of the Tokyo Area; traffic congestion continues. Due to transportation difficulties, as well as, damage to homes and/or affected family members some AAR staff are unable to come in to work. Around 60% of the staff are available, either because they stayed in the office overnight or are able to walk to work the next day. Scheduled power outages have also started, and Laptop PCs and mobile phones will soon run out of their batteries and cannot be recharged. Donors and members have been trying to reach the office with offers of donations but have largely been unsuccessful. Staff members who had stayed overnight are showing signs of exhaustion.

The workshop facilitator gave each group timed tasks in accordance to the specific timelines (for example, during the initial response, each group had 20 minutes to brainstorm and come up with their department’s list of priority tasks that need to be completed within the first two hours of the disaster). During the simulation of the initial response, AAR Japan received regular situational updates by monitoring reports on a large TV screen regarding traffic conditions, public transportation conditions, fires, power outages, etc. Each group was then responsible to keep up with the updates while also working on their assigned tasks. The Director-General oversaw all activities at a distance and received reports from each group regarding updates and priority work areas. 

Results: Through this fast-paced exercise, many issues that had yet to be resolved with AAR Japan came to light, including:

  • What is the minimum number of staff needed?
  • Who has to stay behind in the office and who can go home?
  • How much cash do we need to have on hand to meet our immediate needs for at least a few days?
  • Where will we work if the office becomes unusable?

Overall, the feedback from the participants was very positive, including the following comments:

  • “It was an extremely worthwhile exercise that made me think about disaster response in a practical manner.”
  • “The simulation exercise covered a lot of material in a very short time frame.”
  • “I realized how important prior preparation is for disaster response.”
  • “Next time we should expand the simulation to include more staff members.”

Masayuki Okada, Administrative Officer and the focal point for this BCP exercise, summed up his impressions by saying, “I think this exercise helped us all to realize how much work we still have to do to prepare ourselves for a disaster. We always meant to, but never got around to stockpiling emergency supplies such as food, water, and disposable toilets for our staff. If we lose electricity, most if not all of our work will grind to a halt, so we seriously need to consider investing in a generator.”

Mr. Okada continued, “Other issues include not having an alternative workspace if our office ever became damaged, and how our BCP doesn’t specify which staff member is in charge of certain roles in case of an emergency. This exercise allowed us to experience a little bit of the chaos a disaster causes, and has helped management-level staff to have a better appreciation of the urgency of these issues. Now that we all have this shared sense of urgency, this is the ideal time to push forward with strengthening our level of preparedness. Additionally, we will be sharing the highlights of this exercise with other staff at our annual ‘Joint Conference for Internationally-Posted Staff & HQ Staff,’ which will be held at the end of this month. We truly appreciate the opportunity International Medical Corps and Tokio Marine has given us, and we will be sure not to waste the lessons we learned through this exercise.”

Teams monitoring news feeds
Teams monitoring news feeds
AAR staff reporting to their Director-General
AAR staff reporting to their Director-General
Nozomi Kawashima from Mitsubisihi Corp
Nozomi Kawashima from Mitsubisihi Corp

International Medical Corps’ work in Japan focuses on disaster risk reduction and training for local organizations – so they are better prepared to face a future emergency and meet the needs of local communities. Our team works hand-in-hand with these local organizations to identify gaps in emergency preparedness and response efforts, and help build their response capacity so they can effectively respond to a local emergency even if they are directly affected by the disaster.

In the fall of 2013, International Medical Corps and our corporate partners conducted a three-part workshop series on Business Continuity Planning to help local Japanese non-government organizations (NGOs) create solutions to risk-related challenges and better prepare for future emergency response and recovery efforts. When asked about issues not covered in the first series of workshops, NGO participants said that information management and information security remained a major concern when delivering humanitarian assistance.

While many Japanese NGOs understand they have a responsibility to protect their information, they often do not have the systems, policies, or procedures necessary to protect the information against various elements of risk. When a disaster strikes, the need for proper information management techniques becomes even more critical, as new information regarding program needs and beneficiaries can increase exponentially.  At the same time, systems to safely and securely store information about program participants may be affected by the disaster and subsequent power outages and resource restrictions.  Based on feedback from the local NGOs, International Medical Corps  worked with local, corporate partners Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Corporation Insurance Co., Ltd., both experts in risk management, to create a three-part workshop to help organizations meet the increased information management demands that come with a disaster response.

On February 25, 2014, International Medical Corps successfully conducted part one of this series. Nozomi Kawashima (a certified Information Privacy Consultant at Mitsubishi Corporation Insurance Ltd.) and Yosuke Sakamoto (Senior Consultant in the Business Risks Department at Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co.) jointly taught participating NGO management staff members about the fundamentals of information management. After hearing specific examples of information management risks faced by corporations and discussing examples from their own organizations, program participants identified common information security risks and worked in groups to complete an information assets identification exercise based on a case study of an imaginary NGO. This exercise helped these local organizations better appreciate and identify security and information managements risks in their own organizations.

The second workshop, held on April 23, 2014, continued using the case study of the imaginary NGO from the previous session. Groups were asked to imagine they were all working for this particular NGO that mistakenly leaked private information about its beneficiaries on a public domain, and to work backwards to identify specific steps it could have taken to prevent this problem from occurring, again helping organizations to better manage security risks in their own entities.

During the third workshop session on May 20, 2014, organizations were given advice about how to monitor and continuously improve their information management process, as well as, how to raise awareness and educate their staff on a regular basis regarding the do’s and don’ts of dealing with information.

Assignments were given to participants before and after each workshop, and the lessons were shared internally with their staff members so that the trainings transferred beyond just the individuals participating in the workshop. At the end of the workshop series, each NGO was equipped with the tools to create its own information management and risk assessment systems that fit its respective organizational needs, including a comprehensive template for an information management rulebook that can be tailored to their organization’s context.

Below are some quotes from the workshop participants describing how this series helped their organizations:

Nozomi Ashida, Administrative Manager for Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Japan - “With the guidance of the experts, we were able to really look at what kinds of information our organization deals with and the different risks we faced with each kind. Once we finish creating our guidelines, we will hold study sessions within our organization so all the staff can have a shared understanding of what information management is for us and to make sure we are all able to implement the new rules.”

Junya Hosono, Administrative Manager for Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC) – “Step by step, the workshops led me through the information management process and was easy to follow. I also appreciated that the consultants incorporated examples based on the unique circumstances of NGOs when preparing the workshop material. This made it easy for me to understand the lectures and group activities and was also helpful when I reviewed all the material again on my own. I’m eager to share what I’ve learned with my colleagues and really start building JVC’s information management system.

Yoko Asakawa, Information Manager for JEN – “I joined these workshops because, as JEN’s Information Manager, I felt the need to improve our level of information security. This series allowed me to gain a comprehensive understanding of the concepts behind information management. Through the workshop, group activities, and homework assignments, I was able to “do” as I learned and actually go through the process of creating new rules and regulations for my organization, which further deepened my understanding of the topic. The workshops were very practical, and I gained some hints on how I can share what I’ve learned about information security within my organization.”

Nozomi Ashida and Atsuko Nagai from ADRA Japan
Nozomi Ashida and Atsuko Nagai from ADRA Japan
Junya Hosono from JVC
Junya Hosono from JVC
(center) Yoko Asakawa from JEN
(center) Yoko Asakawa from JEN
Group discussion during a workshop session
Group discussion during a workshop session
Nozomi Kawashima giving a lecture
Nozomi Kawashima giving a lecture

An often overlooked factor in disaster response concerning non-government organizations (NGOs) is being able to remain functional after a disaster damages the area where their operations are based. In order for an NGO to deliver relief services to the affected local populations, they must not only survive the disaster themselves, but have a plan in place to ensure that they are able to immediately deliver relief to local populations. International Medical Corps is continuing to work with corporate experts in Business Continuity Planning (BCP) by delivering a second series of disaster preparedness workshops designed to help local Japanese NGOs create solutions to risk-related challenges and better prepare for future emergency response and recovery efforts.

Last Fall, International Medical Corps and corporate experts delivered a three-part workshop series on Business Continuity Planning (BCP). When asked about issues not covered in the first series of workshops, NGO participants said that information management is a major concern when delivering humanitarian assistance. Whether during an emergency or in stable circumstances, NGOs need to gather, store, process and communicate large amounts of information, some of which is potentially sensitive. Sensitive information may include personal data about beneficiaries, staff, partners and donors, as well as, internal information about their operations. Many Japanese NGOs realize the need to protect the sensitive information they have been entrusted with, but they often do not have the systems, policies, or procedures necessary to protect the information against various elements of risk.

To address these concerns, International Medical Corps is renewing their partnership with veteran experts from two premier Japanese risk management corporations, Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Corporation Insurance Co., Ltd. This new three-part workshop series is focused on Information Management, and is designed to give Japanese NGOs practical knowledge on how to better manage and protect their information.

At the end of the workshop series, each NGO will have created its own information management rulebook that fits its respective organizational needs. Assignments are given to participants before and after each workshop, and the lessons are shared internally with their staff members so that the training is transferred beyond the individuals participating in the workshop. 

Workshop Part 1: An Introduction to Information Management for NGOs

On February 25, 2014, International Medical Corps successfully conducted part one of this three-workshop series, in which a total of 20 key staff members from 13 organizations participated.

Nozomi Kawashima (a certified Information Privacy Consultant at Mitsubishi Corporation Insurance Ltd.) and Yosuke Sakamoto (Senior Consultant in Business Risks Department at Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co.) jointly taught participating NGO management staff members about the fundamentals of information management. The topics covered included:

  1. The Essentials of Risk Management and Information Security
  2. Issues concerning Personal Information & the Need for Information Management
  3. Risks related to Information Management & Case Examples
  4. Assessment and Prioritization of Information Assets (group-work)

Computer viruses, hacking, information mishandling, and damage/destruction of equipment due to accidents or natural disasters were among the various hazards discussed. During the lecture, the consultants introduced examples from their own corporate sector, including the major risks that have been documented by corporations, and various initiatives being undertaken to protect their information. In small group discussions, NGO personnel shared examples from their own experiences and compared corporate risks with the risks they saw within their own organizations.

NGO staff agreed that among the most common risks they faced in information security included: the failure of staff to identify sensitive information and/or not taking extra precautions to protect it; the lack of a clearly communicated policy within their organization around information security; and the lack of IT skills among staff to enable effective implementation of information security measures.

To encourage the participants to think strategically about information management, the consultants accentuated their lecture with case study activities. They introduced an example of an NGO worker who had taken home confidential beneficiary data in order to work on a report with a fast-approaching deadline, only to have her home PC infected by a computer virus that proceeded to steal all of the data. Participants discussed what measures the organization should take to handle this situation responsibly and to minimize negative consequences. Afterwards, the consultants commented on the proposed approaches and gave their own advice about how they would deal with this scenario. For the last 30 minutes of the workshop, participants worked in groups to complete an information assets identification exercise based on a case study of an imaginary NGO by using the lessons they learned during the lecture.

Workshop Part 2 (scheduled in April 2014):Risk Assessment and Prioritization for Information Management.

Workshop 2 will focus on practical training by incorporating a variety of group-work activities and discussions based on specific scenarios. Topics the NGOs will examine at this workshop include: assessing the nature of information collected by each organization; assessing the risks to beneficiaries, staff members, and the organization as a whole if a breach of their information occurs; assessing current physical, digital, and communication information security measures; and identifying potential vulnerabilities (e.g., failures in awareness and/or security procedures) and how to address them.

Workshop Part 3 (scheduled in May 2014): Countermeasures for Information Management and Creating Information Management Procedures

Based on their work in the previous workshops, each NGO will create an informational management rulebook that meets its organizational needs. The BCP experts will provide feedback to each organization’s draft and offer suggestions/advice for improvement.

Participants working in small groups
Participants working in small groups
Yosuke Sakamoto giving feedback to participants
Yosuke Sakamoto giving feedback to participants

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Organization Information

International Medical Corps

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Website: https:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Erica Tavares
Director, Resource Development
santa monica, CA United States

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