Disaster Management Manual
A manual for practitioners and decision makers!

You are here

2.4.1 Civic roles in disaster management

Recent studies on disaster management have shown that the perspective of disaster management needs to shift its focus from "response and recovery" to sustainable disaster mitigation. In order to achieve this shift, it is suggested that disaster management and community planning need to be integrated. Successful disaster "mitigation" also requires the inclusion of public participation at the local decision-making level in the disaster management process 1. This approach of involving citizens in disaster management before, during and after a disaster is known as "public engagement".

Public engagement in road disaster management is still in the research stage, but some initiatives have been initiated.

Social capital can be an important factor in disaster preparedness. Increased awareness of disaster preparedness and prevention among local residents will increase social capital, and increased social capital will increase local disaster preparedness.

In order to protect life, body, and property from disasters, it is of utmost importance to build a disaster-resistant community, and there are limits to the extent to which the government can respond to disasters. It is essential for citizens and the government to cooperate with each other in disaster management based on the principles of "Self-Help" to protect oneself, "Mutual-Aid" to support each other in one's neighborhood, and "Public-Assistance" for the government to support citizens. Figure 2.4.1 shows the basic relations among Self-help, Mutual-aid, and public-assistance. In order to achieve this, it is important for citizens themselves to further raise their awareness of disaster prevention, to pass on the lessons and knowledge gained from the experience of the earthquake to future generations, and to maintain and develop the bonds of support they have received from each other in their local communities and from organizations and people in Japan and abroad 2. In this way, the "power of citizens" is important in disaster management, and this is also the "role of citizens".

Figure 2.4.1 Self-help, Mutual-aid, and public-assistance

This role of local residents in disaster preparedness is clearly stated in Japan's Basic Act on Disaster Management as the "responsibility of residents" in disaster management. 3

Basic Act on Disaster Management (Japanese government) 4

(Basic Principles)
Article 2
(ii) (Omitted) disaster management activities conducted voluntarily by each resident and those conducted voluntarily by voluntary disaster management organizations (which means voluntary disaster management organizations based on a spirit of mutual cooperation among residents; the same applies hereinafter) and other various actors in the area are promoted as well;

(Responsibilities of Residents)
Article 7
(3) (Omitted) based on the Basic Principles, local residents must endeavor to take measures to store goods of daily necessity such as food and drink and to prepare for disaster by themselves and contribute to disaster management by voluntarily participating in disaster reduction drills and any other disaster management activities and handing down lessons learned from past disasters, and any other challenges.

The following explanations have been added to the above laws 5.

  1. With regard to "voluntary disaster preparedness activities," it is difficult to cope with disasters without "self-help," which is the voluntary disaster preparedness activities of each resident of the community, as well as "mutual aid," which is the disaster preparedness activities of residents of the community in cooperation with each other, including voluntary disaster prevention organizations to improve the disaster preparedness of the community, in addition to "public-assistance" by the government. Therefore, the government should promote such voluntary disaster preparedness activities.
  2. The phrase "take measures to prepare for disasters by residents" clarifies the responsibility of residents to prevent disasters, such as acquiring knowledge about disaster prevention, preparing emergency items, checking stockpiles, and preventing furniture from falling over.
  3. ”Contributing to disaster prevention by residents" means to actively contribute to the prevention of disasters, the prevention of the spread of damage, and the recovery from disasters. For example, participation in disaster prevention drills, cooperation in reporting and evacuation in the event of a disaster, and cooperation in emergency measures. Participating in voluntary disaster prevention organizations and taking part in their activities is also included in contributing to disaster prevention.

From the above, it can be seen that the "responsibility of citizens" in disaster management is to "prepare for disasters on their own" and "voluntarily participating in disaster prevention activities." In order to mitigate the damage caused by major disasters that are likely to occur in the near future, it is essential for citizens and communities to be aware of the importance of taking proactive and positive actions during normal times, in addition to measures taken by the government. For this reason, it is important to provide more opportunities for citizens to think about disaster prevention and to consider a mechanism for citizens to participate in disaster prevention planning and activities.

Road administrators have also started the following budding activities to encourage citizens as road users or as members of local communities near roads to "prepare for disasters on their own" and "voluntarily participate in disaster prevention activities".

  • Civic participation in disaster drills (participation in road disaster drills that anticipate wind, flood and earthquake disasters, provision of information on passable maps during disasters etc.)
  • Civic participation in road maintenance and management (raising public awareness of disaster prevention by announcing the results of disaster prevention inspections of local roads and providing information on disaster prevention facilities to local governments and local residents, monitoring roads in the local area, notifying and communicating to road managers and road users when events leading to disasters are detected, cleaning gutters to prevent flooding during floods, and maintaining the road environment).
  • Civic participation in road cleaning and flower bed maintenance for road environment maintenance, etc.
  • Civic participation in recovery planning (participation of citizens in providing opinions on disaster-resistant improvement and recovery plans, cooperation in the provision of land for roads etc.).
  • Formation of local communities that can function effectively in times of disaster.
  • Education of disaster prevention from an early age (education on topography, geology, weather and other events related to disasters, disaster preparedness etc.).
  • Disaster education from childhood (education on topography, geology, weather, and other events related to disasters, disaster preparedness etc.).
  • Passing on of disaster experience (sharing with citizens of experience in responding to disasters, identifying signs of disasters, etc., learning from the past).
Reference sources

No reference sources found.