Background Japan is a country at the high risk of natural disasters. About 20% of the earthquakes over magnitude 6 in the world have occurred in Japan. More major earthquakes and related disasters such as tsunami and fire are also expected to hit the country in near future. Therefore, it is a very pressing issue to prepare for those emergent situations. Although governments are working for the preparation and risk management at the different levels, it is quite obvious that the public rescue would not always be available at the damaged sights right after the occurrence of disasters since public agencies could also be seriously damaged. Therefore, it is very important to make individuals and neighbourhood communities capable to rescue and survive by themselves until the public services become available. This study therefore tries to see how communities prepare for the disasters in terms of individuals (self-help) and neighbourhood community (mutual help) with the Safe Community (SC) model.
Methods The written materials such as the application reports to become a member of the international SC network, annual reports and meeting minutes of the taskforce for disaster safety were examined to see the process of the organising the strategies for safety at disasters and their activities.
Participant observations to the taskforce meeting were also conducted to see how they organise the countermeasure to improve the self- and mutual helps in relation to the existing services.
Results While there are variety of programs organised by the governments as public help, it was pointed out that countermeasures at individuals (self-help) and neighbourhood levels (mutual-help) are not well prepared yet. Considering gaps between practices and awareness of importance of the preparations for disasters among citizens, preparation at individual and neighbourhood levels is the one of the most important challenges in the current situations. The citizens take much less actions of self-help and mutual-help although they are well informed its importance. Therefore, through the Safe Community programs, the communities have organised the strategies to improve the aspects of self-help and mutual-help with the existing programs such as evacuation drills.
Conclusions The well balanced preparation among three (self-, mutual-, and public-) helps is necessary. Improvement of self- and mutual- help is the common challenges in many Japanese communities.
To get the situation better, therefore it is expected to improve the capacity of the individuals and neighbourhood association on a day-to-day level by recruiting younger generations into the community management, since they are the generation which are causing deteriorating of community tie but can be the main forces of the mutual help at the disaster and can promote self-help to the great extent.
- Three helps (self-help
- mutual- and
- public- help)
- natural disasters
- risk management
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