Building Resilience in Japan

by International Medical Corps
Dec 4, 2013

How BCP Training is Helping Prepare Japanese NGOs for the Next Disaster

Hiroyuki Kakuho (center)  from Japan Platform
Hiroyuki Kakuho (center) from Japan Platform

After Japanese Scientists at Tokyo University and Global Seismologists predicted a 70% chance of a 7+ Richter-scale earthquake hitting Japan by 2016, the majority of Japanese non-government organizations realized that ensuring their organizations integrity when they are hit by a disaster is critical to being able to deliver relief to local populations. In response to this realization, International Medical Corps began working with seasoned business continuity planning (BCP) experts from two premier Japanese risk management corporations (Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd., and Mitsubishi Corporation Insurance Co., Ltd.), and have successfully completed a three-part workshop series that taught local humanitarian aid organizations the fundamentals of business continuity planning.

Through a combination of lectures and hands-on practical exercises that took participating non-government organizations (NGOs) through a simulated disaster; potential risks were identified (e.g., closed roads, power outages, etc.); the specific tasks staff members must complete to ensure that they are functional and able to fulfill their mandate after the disaster were established; people were assigned responsible for each task; and special strategies that must be used as part of the planning process were decided upon.

Participants then developed a list of action items, including timeframes, to ensure the implementation of their plan was realistic and carried out in a timely manner. At the end of the series, each NGO was able to create a simple, practical BCP plan that fits its organizational needs. A total of 25 individuals from 17 organizations completed this course. For those organizations requesting additional assistance, BCP experts also provided feedback to the organization’s BCP draft and offered suggestions/advice for improvement.

The response from the participants was overwhelmingly positive. Here are a few examples of the feedback we received:

Hiroyuki Kakuho, Administrative Manager for Japan Platform (JPF):

“JPF is known as an emergency response organization. It is vital that we are able to function during an emergency. Clearly identifying what we need to do to be ready in a time of crisis and making appropriate preparations has always been a core issue, but we had been unable to really work on any concrete plans with everyone being busy with their own day-to-day work. We also didn’t know where to begin to better prepare ourselves. This BCP workshop was very important in teaching our staff specific techniques on how to think through and create a BCP plan that fits our organization’s needs. Since we were getting trained with other NGOs, we also benefited from sharing our concerns, ideas and experiences with each other, which allowed us to gain hints as to how to create a more realistic plan of action.”

“We found the BCP creation process outlined by the experts very thorough and with a logical flow. We were surprised at how the workshops spent a lot of time on practical exercises. It was also great that the assignments we received between workshops helped focus our discussions and prepared us for the next lessons. We also appreciated how there was ample time between the three workshops so that we had some time to go back to our organization and think through various issues. We were able to share the BCP learning process with our other colleagues and discuss what should go into our BCP plan.”

“We are currently updating our simple BCP based on what we learned at this workshop series. We are looking forward to more of the same kind of practical workshops from International Medical Corps that will build our capacity and help us to more effectively do our work.”

Japan Platform (JPF) is an international emergency humanitarian aid organization made up of 44 member NGOs, the majority of which do emergency humanitarian aid throughout the world. JPF conducts aid through a tripartite cooperation system, where NGOs, business community, and government of Japan work in close cooperation, based on equal partnership. 


Masayuki Okada, Administrative Manager for Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) Japan:

“AAR Japan has been concerned about how we would respond if a natural disaster should strike our own headquarters in the greater Tokyo area, a likelihood we know all too well could happen in the future.  When we heard about this opportunity to learn about BCP directly from BCP experts, we thought this would be a great chance to brush up on our organization’s BCP approach.”

“Two staff members from AAR Japan including myself participated in these workshops. We learned many specific techniques such as how to calculate the number of staff that would likely be able to come to the office if transportation routes were closed and how to identify priority tasks for our operations during an emergency as opposed to normal times. We also realized that we faced serious issues if the building in which our office is located becomes inaccessible, such as losing the ability to access any of the data we have stored on our server or any workspace our staff would need to carry out their tasks even if they could make it to the office. Thanks to these lessons, we are now creating a backup plan for saving our data and are considering moving our office to a newer building with more advanced earthquake resistance.”

“This workshop even included a review of AAR Japan’s BCP plan by the experts, something we would have had great difficulty getting on our own. Japanese NGOs in general have a great budget limitation, and so getting expert advice is extremely difficult.”

“Based on what we learned, AAR Japan has already started to improve upon a number of measures we already had in place, such as our procedures to check on the safety of our staff and measures to better utilize our satellite phones to ensure communication in case both landlines and mobile phone lines crash during an emergency. We plan on reviewing our BC plan on a regular basis within our organization and make sure that our staff are aware of what is in the BC plan. We hope to run simulations with staff to test how the BCP plan would work. We ask for International Medical Corps and the BCP experts to continue to support our efforts to prepare ourselves for emergencies.”

Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) is a NGO focusing on emergency assistance, assistance to persons with disabilities, and Mine/UXO action. AAR Japan initiated Tohoku aid and relief activities one day after the Great East Japan Earthquake and they have been engaged in emergency and recovery assistance in the affected areas ever since.

Kazutaka Ueda, Senior Program Manager for SEEDS Asia:

“SEEDS Asia was only created in 2006 and so is still a young NGO. Until 3 years ago, we only had 5 staff members. During these last years we’ve expanded our projects and now have 3 branch offices. It was perfect timing for us when we learned about International Medical Corps’ BCP training, because within our organization we were recently discussing the need to have a continuity plan in the case of an emergency like a natural disaster. We jumped at the chance to participate and traveled the over 500km from Kobe to Tokyo for the workshops.”

“What drew us to this workshop was the fact that it wasn’t just a lecture but a workshop that would actually result in creating a BCP. Like most small NGOs in Japan, we are extremely limited in human and financial resources, and we hadn’t had the time to spend making a BC plan on our own. If we hadn’t participated in a workshop like this that let us put words on paper (i.e., a written BCP), we would probably have never been able to create our own BCP.  In addition, it was important that we shared the BCP process with our staff so we are all on the same page about how we should respond in case of an emergency.”

“It was wonderful to be able to ask questions and receive advice from BCP experts specific to our organization’s needs. Being able to have this one-on-one advice increased the practicality of our BC plan and helped us think more deeply about what we can do to be operationally functioning when disaster strikes at our own doorstep.”

SEEDS Asia has been conducting activities in Asia Pacific region related to development, environmental management and community-based Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). In Kesennuma City, SEEDS Asia has been assisting community building at temporary housing sites, organizing meetings for leaders of temporary housing sites, conducting DRR education/Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). 

Hiroyuki Okada (far right) from AAR
Hiroyuki Okada (far right) from AAR

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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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