Fukushima: the psycho-social impacts

To coincide with remembrances of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Lancet has published a series of articles dealing with the aftermath of the recent Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster.  In addition to the significant loss of life, physical and economic loss, the articles (and associated reports) highlight:

The range and complexity of psycho-social impacts of major disasters. These include the generation of mental health problems, the loss of public trust, and the rise of anxiety in both the affected community and emergency services personnel.  The articles draw attention to the cross-disciplinary nature of response planning.  They identify the need to engage social scientists and on-ground stakeholders as well as technical experts.  This model could also be used for disaster preparedness.

Systemic failures by government and industry contributed significantly to the Fukushima disaster.

These learnings are generic, ie while they were drawn in the context of nuclear disasters, they can also guide planning for other types of disaster.

The contribution of governmental failure to the Fukushima disaster is a wake-up call for Victorian and Australian EM agencies and the governments who fund them.  Effective disaster preparedness and response planning cannot be done on a shoestring.  It requires high quality leadership and staffing; finely-tuned levels of inter-governmental and inter-departmental co-operation; development of the necessary legislative frameworks; active linkages with local and international research networks and stakeholder communities; significant and flexible funding; AND highly-placed champions who continue to drive direction, quality and investment.  The common post-disaster excuse that “We could not have seen this coming” is no longer acceptable as a euphemism for poor prioritization and resourcing by government.  http://www.thelancet.com/issue/S0140673615X61538

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