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Tsunami public awareness and the disaster management system of Sri Lanka

Tetsushi Kurita (Asian Disaster Reduction Center, Kobe, Japan)
Akiko Nakamura (Asian Disaster Reduction Center, Kobe, Japan)
Miki Kodama (Asian Disaster Reduction Center, Kobe, Japan)
Sisira R.N. Colombage (Kobe University, Kobe, Japan)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 January 2006




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.


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.


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.


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.



Kurita, T., Nakamura, A., Kodama, M. and Colombage, S.R.N. (2006), "Tsunami public awareness and the disaster management system of Sri Lanka", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 92-110.



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