Community Based Approach to Disaster Management

All governments are responsible for protecting their citizens and endorsing the 2005 Hyogo Declaration which states that: “strengthening community level capacities to reduce disaster risk at the local level is especially needed, considering that appropriate disaster reduction measures at that level enable the communities and individuals to reduce significantly their vulnerability to hazards.”

Members of a community are the immediate victims of adverse effects of a disaster. They have the best knowledge about their local surrounding in terms of the most disaster-prone areas, the demography of their community and their social and traditional organisation. It is important that they have the capacity to cope with the impacts of a disaster and are involved in the development of disaster management activities right from the initial planning stages. Community participation can also make them more confident in their capabilities to act in the event of a disaster leading to a self-reliant community.

Moreover, the community based approach to disaster management becomes important due to the following shortcomings of the present system:

  • The same plan, regardless of the regional characteristics, is implemented or imposed everywhere.
  • Local knowledge, experiences, skills, resources and techniques are not given due importance. Rather external resources and techniques are proposed to be utilized.
  • Negligence about local cultural instincts and heritage.
  • Prioritisation is decided by an outsider and not the stakeholders or the community itself.
  • Local community does not have any information about the disaster management plans for their area and the role of different sectors in helping the community during disasters.

Advantages of Community-based Disaster Risk Management

  • Feelings of coordination and self belonging to the society are developed.
  • Local geo-climatic and socio-cultural characteristics get attention of the people in development and disaster management.
  • Local initiatives begin and community provides assistance to the executing agencies involved in disaster management.
  • There is exchange of knowledge, information, skills and techniques between the community and the experts involved from outside.
  • Community comes forward to put forward its ideas for selection of appropriate programmes suitable to their locality and society.
  • Community can monitor the quality of works being done in its locality. It will also generate a sense of responsibility among the community.
  • It will lead to capacity building of the community on issues of disaster-safe developmental activities.

Bottom up Participatory Approach

  • Every community has members who can be ignorant of events around them especially when these events do not affect them directly or more frequently. This type of attitude can also be gradually changed by involving members of the local community in decision-making processes such as planning national disaster management plans or even designing awareness programmes.
  • This bottom-up, participatory approach can make community members more receptive of new knowledge and information presented to them. Local residents who speak or understand their native language only may be hesitant to accept non-native people conducting education and awareness programmes for them.

Stakeholders in Community Based Disasters Management

An effective and successful community-based approach in reducing disaster risks is often attributed to the spontaneous participation and involvement of the following stakeholders:

  • Government
  • Non-governments (NGOs)
  • Regional and International Organisations/Donor Agencies
  • Local governments / Municipalities / Zilla Parishads
  • National/Local Organisations (youth groups, schools, etc)
  • Community workers
  • Trainers
  • Disaster Managers (Local and National)
  • Policy Makers
  • Grass-roots people
  • Religious Denominations

There is a need for coordination in the Community-Based Approach among all the stakeholders.

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