Role of Communities in Disasters

Topics: Emergency evacuation, Local government, Tsunami Pages: 7 (1864 words) Published: June 18, 2013
Community-based Disaster Risk Management 1
CLUSTER 2: Nonstructural Measures
Disaster Risk Management
Prepared by Rajib Shaw, Kyoto University,
and Mikio Ishiwatari and Margaret Arnold, World Bank
Community-based Disaster Risk Management 3
CLUSTER 2: Nonstructural Measures
Disaster Risk Managment
Local communities play a key role in preparing for disastrous events such as the Great East Japan Earthquake (GEJE), and are normally the first responders to take action. On March 11, 2011, community-based organizations (CBOs) were active in the disaster response and saved countless human lives. Recognizing the role of communities and providing them with central and local government support is critical to maintaining and strengthening important community-based functions. Local communities have been responding to and managing disaster risk for centuries. Before the creation of Japan’s formal state system, local communities carried out disaster-related activities as volunteers; community-based organizations (CBOs) have existed for centuries. They include: Suibo-dan for flood risk dating from the 17th century, Syobo-dan for firefighting from the 18th century, and Jisyubo for earthquake disasters from the 1970s (see table 1). FIGURE 2: The Sanriku Expressway was built with tsunamis in mind Organization

Legal act
Supervising government organization
Date established
Number of staff or groups
Flood Fighting Act
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure,
and Transport
17th century
900,000 staff in two organizations
Fire Defense Organization Act
Fire and Disaster Management Authority (FDMA)
18th century
Basic Act on Disaster Reduction
Cabinet Office, FDMA
140,000 staff
Act to Promote Specified Nonprofit Activities
Cabinet Office
After the Kobe earthquake in 1995
> 2,000 groups
In addition, various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofit organizations (NPOs) are involved in disaster risk management (DRM) activities at the community level. Many of them collaborate with jichikai (neighborhood associations) and local governments, and sometimes with local academic institutions. How the government and CBOs coordinate around DRM has evolved over two centuries, shaped by major events and trends. These include the Meiji Restoration at the end of the 19th century, which prompted modernization and centralization; democratization following World War II; and the miracle of economic development in the 1960s. Traditional community structures were eroded over time as Japanese society modernized and urbanized. As depicted in figure 1, this has resulted in a decrease in spontaneous and autonomous community-based engagement in DRM with a corresponding increase in government support to these activities. The government’s recognition of and support to community-based DRM has been key to keeping these efforts alive and well. FINDINGS

The role of CBOs in the GEJE
A key factor in reducing the number of lives lost in the GEJE was the long tradition of community organization around risk reduction and preparedness. The tsunami waves brought on by the GEJE overwhelmed coastal defenses, and warning systems underestimated the height of the waves. CBOs played critical roles in responding to the event. FIGURE 1: Historical timeline of community-based organizations 17CTokugawa ShogunateSuibo-danemergedautonomousbodydecline of activitygovernment serviceSuiboAct(1949)Syobo-danJisyubounderpolicedecline of activityunderlocalgovernnmentNPO, NGOCentralizationDecen-tralizationMiracleeconomicdevelopment18C19CMeijiRevolution(1868)20C21C1960s1970sEnd ofWWII(1945)KobeEarthquake(1995)Great EastJapanEarthquake(2011)organizedNPOAct(1998)organized Community-based Disaster Risk Management 5

The volunteer fire corps (Syobo-dan)
The volunteer fire corps traces...

References: Ishiwatari, M. 2012. “Government Roles in Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction.” In Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction: Community, Environment and Disaster Risk Management, ed. R. Shaw. United Kingdom: Emerald Group Publishing.
MAG (Neighborhood Disaster Volunteers Foundation).
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