FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

chap.IVPatient Relief Activity Records [Essays and Research Publications]FUKUSHIMA: Lives on the Line197Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant evacuate the area or to take shelter indoors if safe evacuation is not practical.” Yesterday, a telephone call from the embassy in Tokyo was less urgent. The embassy representative asked about my situation, whether I had been in touch with stateside family and friends, and if I needed any assistance. The US Embassy says that its recommendation to evacuate or take shelter is consistent with Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) guidelines that would apply to a similar situation in America. I accept this as prudent risk avoidance, and under slightly different circumstances would comply. In my particular case, I am at a medical university with round-the-clock radiation level measurements and a “code red” protocol in place.March 18, 2011Many thanks to the California Blood Bank Society for posting these narratives. I do not have Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter accounts. My social networking site is a little place to eat halfway between work (at FMU) and home (in Hourai). Harunoya (“The Spring Room”) does most of its business delivering hot meals to the university, but also has a small dining counter. Of course, Harunoya cannot operate without running water and a steady supply of groceries; otherwise, they would be even more popular, and more in demand, in the present crisis.Personal relationships seem to be the foundation of Japanese society, and I enjoy the friendship and support of many people at the university and in my neighborhood. The Harunoya family is part of this network. “Harunoya family” might literally mean three generations living under the roof of this home enterprise; figuratively, this expression also refers to a regular cohort of neighbors, university faculty, and medical students who come for meals. We are welcome at Harunoya, even when the doors are officially closed.Lack of running water, shortages of heating oil, and gasoline rationing probably contributed to the decision to close schools this week. In response, FMU nurses organized a free day care center for children of employees. I asked if my “nieces” (generation #3 in the Harunoya family) might participate. “Yes.” They are now playing with new friends in a classroom down the hall from my office.When I introduced my honorary nieces to the day care volunteers, it was necessary for them to say that, in case of a code red radiation emergency, protocols include giving the children in their care an appropriate dose of potassium iodine, and would I approve? “Yes.”Background radiation in Fukushima City, while above average, is far below a code red level. Measurements at the medical center, somewhat removed from city center, are even lower. On the other hand, courageous workers dealing with the nuclear power plant, and others near it who cannot evacuate, deserve our thoughts and prayers.March 19, 2011A popular weather topic in February pertained to how much pollen would be in the air this spring. Pollen counts have been superseded by radiation counts. News reports indicate that residents as far away as the American West Coast are concerned about airborne radiation from the crippled nuclear reactors in Fukushima. FMU continues to monitor background radiation and screen incoming patients. Nothing so far has motivated me to leave Fukushima, but a gratifying side effect of the news is the number of offers of shelter I have received from other parts of Japan and around the world.Communication is on my mind today. For all that has gone wrong here, I’m glad that email and Internet services are intact at FMU. Telephone service seems back to normal. Of course these observations do not apply to our devastated coastal areas. Being far from fluent in Japanese, details come slowly, but I am impressed by efforts made by broadcasters to reach a broader audience than those who speak the national language. Walking home last Saturday (March 12) with the last 18 liters of heating oil sold by my neighborhood hardware store, I listened on a pocket radio to hazard warnings repeated in Japanese, Korean, English, Chinese, and Portuguese. I’m fussy about radios. My pocket radio covers AM, FM, shortwave, and aviation frequencies (including Doctor Heli on 131.30 MHz and Self-Defense Force communications on 123.45 MHz). I haven’t had time to listen, but Amateur Radio colleagues have dedicated 3.525, 7.030, 7.043, and 7.075 MHz to disaster-related communications.In normal times, Japanese TV news is often spoken and captioned in Japanese, a seemingly superfluous gesture until one considers those who are hearing impaired. This also helps language learners like me. News in sign language is also part of NHK’s regular daily schedule, and various press conferences and briefings since the earthquake have included live sign