On the Occasion of the International Volunteer Fire Service Conference
The Japan Firefighters
Association has decided to host the world’s first International Volunteer Fire
Service Conference here in Japan
as a special commemorative project. The project marks the 60th anniversary of local
authority-controlled firefighting systems being established in this country and
has been realized thanks to the cooperation of several related organizations,
namely the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, the National Governors’
Association, the Japan Association of City Mayors, the Association of National
Towns and Villages, the Tokyo Fire Department, and others.
Ensuring the safety and
security of our communities and loved ones is a natural priority shared by
countries and peoples worldwide. However, and especially in Japan, we face extreme
weather situations, such as high winds and floods every year. Our people also
live with the ominous knowledge that a major earthquake is long overdue and expected
soon. Such events are indiscriminate in the death,
damage and destruction they cause, as are the domestic fire incidents which have caused increasing fatalities in recent years. On top of these significant
challenges, our fire services are obligated, by law, to respond to each and every
In the face of such realities, so the role of the Japan’s Volunteer
Fire Service, which relies on each community’s willingness to protect its own
neighborhood, has been growing in importance. However, actual membership numbers
in these volunteer services have been decreasing steadily in recent years, falling
to below 900,000 last year. The Japan Firefighters Association regards this as
an extremely serious situation, in terms of our ability to provide adequate
safety cover for local districts, and we will make every effort to both halt
this declining trend and reverse it.
Importantly, we have learned that volunteer fire service systems
are by no means unique to Japan.
On the contrary, there are similar systems operating in many other countries,
especially within Europe and America
and these all play an important role in their respective disaster management
systems. On researching firefighting systems overseas we found that our
respective systems are currently confronting the same issues such as the
challenge to secure more volunteers and our abilities to respond effectively
and immediately when a major disaster strikes.
It with this world-view in mind that we are now taking this
opportunity to invite volunteer fire service representatives from the major
countries around the world to gather together and discuss the mutual problems we
face as volunteer fire organizations, and the roles these vital services can
play in combating large-scale natural disasters and implementing anti-terrorism
measures, etc. By formally addressing such problems, which are relevant to all nations,
we will be able to make significant contributions to improving our volunteer
services and to firefighting systems within both Japan and throughout the world.
We are truly grateful that so many people have already responded to
the spirit of this first International Volunteer Fire Service Conference and with
such generosity and enthusiasm. It is only with your full support that this
conference is possible.
Finally, I would like to convey my sincere respect and gratitude to
all the volunteer fire service members and personnel within Japan and
around the world. You are on the front lines of our fire and disaster
management systems, selflessly dedicated, night and day, in a heroic service to
humanity, protecting our lives and property. It is with such words of
appreciation that I wish to conclude my comments about this first International
Volunteer Fire Service Conference.
Chairman of the Executive Committee of the
International Volunteer Fire Service Conference (President of the Japan