Empowering local response and community-based disaster mitigation through legislative policies: Lessons from the Kerala floods of 2018-19





local response, civic engagement, community resilience, disaster governance policy


The present paper draws on a series of qualitative studies exploring civic response and community resilience post the 2018-19 floods in Kerala, India. Data were triangulated from multiple sources and perspectives—community leaders and key informants, rescue and relief volunteers, and survivors. This viewpoint paper aims to highlight the critical role of local volunteerism in disaster mitigation and preparedness, the cost of gaps in emboldening community response, and to suggest actionable means of maximizing civilian potential through legislative policies. The local populace are the first responders at disaster sites and play a vital role in disaster mitigation. Knowledge about local geography, community, and readily accessible resources enables community members to respond efficiently, unlike state deployed disaster task forces who need to be scaffolded into these sites. Liaisons between the state and civilian responders are necessary for informed and time-efficient response. Insights gleaned from interviews with the participants offer several suggestions for streamlining administrative channels and structural reforms in governance. Community response can be emboldened by adopting policies that formalize civilian participation in the state’s disaster mitigation systems. Decentralization of authority to local self-governance bodies and acknowledgment of local expertise is key to fostering disaster resilient communities. This paper argues that empowering local stakeholders through legislative reforms can bridge existing gaps between community-action focused research recommendations and policy in practice. It provides a framework and actionable measures toward actualizing the call for society-inclusive disaster risk reduction practices.

Author Biographies

Adeeba Hakkim, MA

Research Scholar, Department of Liberal Arts, Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad, Telangana, India

Amrita Deb, PhD

Associate Professor, Psychology at the Department of Liberal Arts, Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad, Telangana, India


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How to Cite

Hakkim, A., and A. Deb. “Empowering Local Response and Community-Based Disaster Mitigation through Legislative Policies: Lessons from the Kerala Floods of 2018-19”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 21, no. 4, Sept. 2023, pp. 347-53, doi:10.5055/jem.0766.