Purpose – This study aims to assess and evaluate the disaster management system in Sri Lanka and the capacity of a local community to respond to natural disasters, and to propose a strategy for the dissemination of tsunami knowledge while raising public awareness of tsunami disasters. Design/methodology/approach – The survey focused on three clusters of respondents and different methodologies were adopted to collect data from each group, as follows: residents: questionnaires followed by a structured interview; school children: questionnaires completed under the guidance of a teacher; government officials: questionnaires completed independently by respondents, and followed up with unstructured interviews with officials in charge of disaster related activities. Findings – The results of the survey of residents indicate that; more than 90 percent of residents lacked tsunami knowledge prior to the 2004 tsunami; the main source of information during the disaster was direct information from family and neighbors; school education is important for raising awareness of disaster reduction; and an early warning system is a key requirement for reducing damage in the future. The school surveys reveal that; about 30 percent of school children do not yet understand what causes a tsunami; 90 percent of school children have a keen interest in studying natural disasters; comprehensive disaster education has not been provided; and audio‐visual means are thought to be the most effective tool for disaster education. The survey of officials shows that; seminars and drills on natural disaster have not thus far been conducted among general officials other than the military and police; measures need to be developed to safeguard the interests of tourists; and sirens, TV, and radio broadcasts are effective tools for disseminating disaster warnings to residents. Practical implications – Based on the findings of the questionnaire and interview surveys, the following recommendations are proposed for disseminating knowledge and raising public awareness of tsunami disasters: promote disaster education at the school level; implement community‐level public awareness programs; enhance information management systems; and improve coordination mechanisms within the disaster management system. Originality/value – At present, this is the only study being conducted whose goal is to quantitatively evaluate public awareness of natural disasters and disaster management in Sri Lanka.
Disaster Prevention and Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 1, 2006
Keywords: Earthquakes; Risk analysis; Tidal waves; Questionnaires; Sri Lanka