Home Environment Reflections on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident
In case of a crisis such that the function of a socio-technical system has been severely damaged, some mechanism is highly necessary to collect information on the location, type, and scale of damage, victims' requirements, distribution of resources available for system recovery, and to deliver the information to decision makers. Since fixed sensor-telecommunication networks will be damaged by the disaster, mobile systems that can be deployed over the affected area will be needed. Airborne or satellite sensing systems are often very useful for crisis management.
Collected information has to be delivered in a timely manner to decision makers. The critical information required by the decision makers must be selected from a vast amount of collected information, processed, and presented in a comprehensible manner; technologies such as image processing, data mining, information retrieval, and visualization will be effective for this purpose. While some official information and telecommunication systems were not functioning shortly after the Great East Japan Earthquake, some Social Network Services (SNSs) were very usable. In addition to centralized and specialized information systems, therefore, distributed and general-purpose systems should be focused on.
It should be kept in mind that those who ultimately make decisions are humans. Information is not usable for decision-making, if it does not match the cognitive characteristics or capabilities of a human. Consideration of human factors is still important in designing crisis management systems. In addition, since a group or an organization rather than an individual makes decisions in an emergency, communication, team collaboration, and organizational factors have to be considered.
Decision support is required not only to recognize emergency situations but also for recovery planning in real time, considering interdependencies among different systems. For this purpose, technologies such as disaster simulation, recovery plan optimization, and decision support systems should be developed.
Resilience in Ordinary Situations
Discussions so far have focused primarily on an emergency situation, but resilience is also relevant to safety, reliability, and security of socio-technical systems in ordinary situations. Resilience includes abilities of a system to keep its functionality by maintenance, to renovate itself in response to environmental changes, and to improve itself by learning lessons from past experience. While resilience in an emergency corresponds to recovery from a rapid breakdown of system function, resilience in an ordinary situation corresponds to recovery from a slow degradation of system function.
Maximum efforts are made to detect and eliminate latent flaws in a system in the conventional approach to risk management. It is, however, impossible to operate a complex socio-technical system with no flaws, thus we are forced to accept some latent flaws. Resilience engineering takes the position that function variability in a system is inevitable but that resonance and propagation of function variability have to be damped down to avoid accidents. Flexible response to environmental changes is a key to realizing resilient systems.
Minor incidents will occur frequently in every socio-technical system, but the trends of minor incidents will change following environmental changes. Organizational activities of collecting, analyzing information of such incidents, and renovating the facility, organization, or operations referring to the outcomes of analysis are essential for avoidance of large-scale accidents. Such activities are thought of as organizational learning or system evolution in a larger scale than the conventional activities of accident and incident analysis.
In order to install the outcomes of resilience engineering into society, redesign of social institutions and organizational operations will be necessary. How to motivate people to adopt the outcomes is a key issue here. Side effects, such as people responding to new technologies or new social institutions in an unanticipated manner that cause unfavorable consequences, have to be avoided. Studies on social simulation, organizational management, and project management, will contribute to designing social institutions and organizational operations considering such side effects.
Finally, new technologies must be accepted with consensus among people. When specialists claim that technologies contribute to realizing a better society, they will be asked questions on what are the criteria of social goodness and for whom it will be a better society. These questions should not be answered only by specialist as consensus must be developed among interested people.
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