Disaster risk management cannot be actualized without the activities of the residents in the local community. It is an issue shared by all the residents to protect their lives from a disaster. "Disaster prevention" is a key word for community development.
In Kamifukuoka city, Saitama prefecture, resident-centered local disaster risk management planning has been carried out as a model case with resident associations as the main agent. The method of the planning and practice is introduced in the following.
To Know the Neighborhood Conditions
It is important for residents themselves to know the circumstances of their area -- where fireplugs and water-use facilities are, whether disaster-proof facilities and equipment are usable on a daily basis, etc. It is ideal to actually go on a tour to check dangerous places and the facilities with a map in hand. Detailed information about the disaster-proof facilities can be obtained at the disaster prevention section of the local government or a local fire station. Some fire plug marks may be found defaced or covered by a car parked on the street. There may be some narrow paths, used by students going to and from school, fenced by tall concrete-block walls.
It is helpful to ask the local fire brigade to join the inspection. A local fire brigade consists of local residents, who are not only well aware of disaster prevention-related problems but also well acquainted with a knowledge of fire fighting. It will be further helpful to make a local map from the fire fighters' point of view, indicating places with high risk of hazard in order to grasp the circumstances.
To Know the Actual Conditions of the Residents
In some cases, neighbors are even unacquainted with each other. An onymous questionnaire can be conducted by the residents' association to know the conditions of the people (not compulsory and with privacy being highly regarded, as a matter of course).
The result will enable some problems to be visible -- for instance, the proportion of the elderly-only households and the number of empty houses increase in the daytime, which will cause the communication network to be useless. It may also be found that the elderly and the disabled will need special assistance in the time of a disaster. Some specialists in welfare and/or medical fields, people who can cooperate in disaster-prevention works, and people who can provide rescue equipment and/or a place for an activity base may offer their voluntary service through the questionnaire survey. Local business offices and institutions may also offer some information on offerable personnel, materials and facilities through a similar research, which can lead to the creation of a cooperation system for disaster prevention.
To Establish Prevention Measures and a System for Action
According to the result of the inspection, prevention measures should be established defining what can be done by the residents and what should be done by the administrative bodies.
The former includes the reduction of obstacles to disaster mitigation activities such as the improvement of the on-street parking situation, and the reinforcement or replacement of concrete-block walls with hedges or net fences (some subsidies may be available). Provision of equipment and an activity base also can be secured through communication with the offerers. Plans to improve the condition of fire plugs and disaster-prevention institutions, as well as measures to secure the safety of the neighborhood should be proposed to the administrative bodies, making what they should do clear.
The system for activities for the daytime, including a communication network, should be improved and reinforced. At night, though not much administrative ability can be expected, many people are at home and the neighbors can act in cooperation.
One of the important human resources can be the retired residents, eager to participate in community activities. A contact system with government officials and their support system to the neighborhood also should be prepared.
Challenges such as the establishment of a communication network, systematic preparation of disaster prevention equipment by the residents' association, and the establishment of a support system for those who need assistance should be practically addressed, taking the local circumstances into consideration. It can be helpful to ask elderly people to carry their own SOS card (with blood type, medical history, home doctor, etc.).
It is important to recreate a local community through such efforts for disaster risk management with the residents' collaboration.