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Preface

  1. Top of page
  2. Preface
  3. Damage affecting donors, staff, buildings, facilities/equipment, and infrastructure
  4. Discontinuation of blood services except for blood supply
  5. Leakage of radioactive materials from the damaged Fukushima-I nuclear power plants
  6. Successful management as a part of ongoing introduction of a wide area management system
  7. Conclusion
  8. Disclosures

The Great East Japan Earthquake/Tsunami that occurred on the afternoon of March 11, 2011, left over approximately 20,000 people dead or missing, over 5,000 injured and over 125,000 buildings damaged or destroyed across 18 prefectures. Blood services were also affected, as described below.

Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. In 1995, Japan experienced the Hanshin–Awaji Earthquake which left over 5,000 people dead or missing due to the collapse of buildings/houses and the subsequent fires. We established the Risk Management Guidelines for Blood Services in October 1995 based largely on our experience of the Hanshin–Awaji Earthquake.

In response to this latest disaster, we were, therefore, able to implement countermeasures in accordance with the established guidelines in order to mitigate the damage and maintain the stable supply of blood to medical institutions.

Damage affecting donors, staff, buildings, facilities/equipment, and infrastructure

  1. Top of page
  2. Preface
  3. Damage affecting donors, staff, buildings, facilities/equipment, and infrastructure
  4. Discontinuation of blood services except for blood supply
  5. Leakage of radioactive materials from the damaged Fukushima-I nuclear power plants
  6. Successful management as a part of ongoing introduction of a wide area management system
  7. Conclusion
  8. Disclosures

Soon after the disaster, the Blood Service Headquarters and affected blood centers organized the Disaster Headquarters and Disaster Task Forces, respectively, in accordance with the Risk Management Guidelines of the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Blood Service Headquarters.

We immediately gathered as much information as possible on the impact of this disaster on the blood services. No blood donors were injured at fixed collection sites or mobile buses. No blood service staff were lost, though not a few staff lost family members and had their houses damaged.

No major damage occurred to the buildings even at the Miyagi BC, the main processing/testing center in the Tohoku block and the nearest BC to the center of the earthquake. However, several facilities/items of equipments such as laboratory apparatus, centrifuges, and platelet concentrate cabinets were disrupted or moved. Damaged facilities/equipment and disrupted infrastructure, including electricity, water, gas and gasoline shortages, and disrupted daily life forced blood services in three affected prefectures, including Miyagi BC, to stop all activities except for the supply of blood (Fig. 1).

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Figure 1.  Blood centers most affected by the earthquake.

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Discontinuation of blood services except for blood supply

  1. Top of page
  2. Preface
  3. Damage affecting donors, staff, buildings, facilities/equipment, and infrastructure
  4. Discontinuation of blood services except for blood supply
  5. Leakage of radioactive materials from the damaged Fukushima-I nuclear power plants
  6. Successful management as a part of ongoing introduction of a wide area management system
  7. Conclusion
  8. Disclosures

With all communications knocked out for several days after March 11, distribution staff at the Miyagi BC delivered blood to the hospitals without waiting for blood orders to be received. Staff in other divisions were also engaged in distribution activities as well as helping restore damaged facilities/equipment, assisting victims and/or rebuilding their own lives. All necessary blood supplies, including platelets, were successfully delivered to these affected centers via the Tokyo BC using supplies from blood centers in other blocks where blood collection activities were expanded under the coordination of the Blood Service Headquarters (Fig. 2).

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Figure 2.  Nationwide demand supply adjustment.

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Blood demand was reduced in these prefectures for about a month as the medical services were also disrupted and the majority of disaster victims were deaths caused by drowning (Fig. 3).

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Figure 3.  Blood supply in 3 most affected prefectures.

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The nationwide red cell inventory level was maintained at more than 200% of the standard level normally considered appropriate, mainly due to the increased donation of blood throughout the country (despite our publicity stating that the current supplies were sufficient and requesting long-term support instead) (Fig. 4).

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Figure 4.  Influx of blood donors.

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Leakage of radioactive materials from the damaged Fukushima-I nuclear power plants

  1. Top of page
  2. Preface
  3. Damage affecting donors, staff, buildings, facilities/equipment, and infrastructure
  4. Discontinuation of blood services except for blood supply
  5. Leakage of radioactive materials from the damaged Fukushima-I nuclear power plants
  6. Successful management as a part of ongoing introduction of a wide area management system
  7. Conclusion
  8. Disclosures

In Fukushima prefecture where the damaged Fukushima-I nuclear power plants are located, one distribution branch (25 km from the affected plants) was closed when forced evacuation was ordered by the government within a 20 km radius and it looked like this zone could be extended even further. A total of 6,500 fresh frozen plasma and source plasma quarantined in another branch center (Iwaki Branch) at 30 km from the same plants was moved to Kyushu in case of a possible forced evacuation.

Distribution staff at this branch center remained on duty supporting hospitals in the area while carrying radioactivity dosimeters to monitor radiation exposure (Fig. 5).

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Figure 5.  Countermeasures against Fukushima nuclear power plant accident.

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Successful management as a part of ongoing introduction of a wide area management system

  1. Top of page
  2. Preface
  3. Damage affecting donors, staff, buildings, facilities/equipment, and infrastructure
  4. Discontinuation of blood services except for blood supply
  5. Leakage of radioactive materials from the damaged Fukushima-I nuclear power plants
  6. Successful management as a part of ongoing introduction of a wide area management system
  7. Conclusion
  8. Disclosures

Staff were sent from the Headquarters and blood centers in other blocks to help reestablish normal activities and assist existing staff. On the whole, the wide area operation system in the process of being introduced in the blood services (scheduled for completion in April 2012), functioned well as far as risk management for blood collection and supply was concerned.

The blood services in the three most severely affected prefectures were restored to full capacity including testing/processing at the Miyagi BC, by mid-April.

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Preface
  3. Damage affecting donors, staff, buildings, facilities/equipment, and infrastructure
  4. Discontinuation of blood services except for blood supply
  5. Leakage of radioactive materials from the damaged Fukushima-I nuclear power plants
  6. Successful management as a part of ongoing introduction of a wide area management system
  7. Conclusion
  8. Disclosures

In order to be able to adopt immediate emergency measures, it is important to have risk management guidelines in place beforehand and for nationwide blood centers to collaborate under the direction/coordination of the Headquarters.

We sincerely appreciate the kind words and condolences received from friends all over the world. These have provided much encouragement in helping us resume our normal activities.