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CCIDRR Summit: Broadcaster ready to respond ‘in seconds’ to disaster

At a workshop that kicked off the ABU Media Summit on Climate Change, ICTs and Disaster Risk Reduction, participants heard how key staff at Japan’s public broadcaster NHK check every day that they are ready to respond within seconds if a disaster strikes the country.

Participants also heard senior staff from NHK describe how they worked continuously to improve their response capabilities.

Sayaka Irie, a Senior Reporter at the broadcaster’s Disaster and Safety Information Center, described how NHK holds newsroom drills with staff every day at midnight, at which time they test all their systems and run “as live” broadcasts to train their staff in how to handle unfolding crises.

“When disaster happens, we can’t waste even one minute, one second,” she said. 

Kenji Sugai, Senior Correspondent with the Current Affairs Division, was in charge of reporting during the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and said he did his best to deliver the information that might save lives.

“I truly regret that so many people died,” he told the special NHK workshop at the ABU Media Summit on Climate Change, ICTs and Disaster Risk Reduction from 4-6 June 2014.

“Everyone at NHK is fully aware of our responsibility,” he went on. “If an earthquake strikes, even at night or on our day off, we don’t wait for instructions from our superiors. We head to work and start preparing for emergency broadcasts.”

Ken Iizuka, Engineer in the News Production and Network Engineering Division, said NHK had invested in the best possible equipment for covering unfolding disasters under difficult condition. These included remote indoor and outdoor cameras, helicopters equipped with the latest cameras and transmitters and even special equipment to process footage filmed at distances up to 30 kilometres away.

Asked how NHK coped when all the channels were not working during a disaster, Mr Toshiyuki Sato, Special Controller at NHK International, said a key world for natural disaster coverage was “redundancy”.

“If A doesn’t work, we introduce system B,” he said. “If that doesn’t work we introduce system C. That is how we work. We have to have many redundancies in the system.”

He said they did not use terrestrial services that were prone to disasters, instead using satellites.

“We increase output for those situations. We have many redundancies built into our systems to cope with all such situations.”

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