Assessing How Small Island Communities Prepare for a Tsunami: A Case Study of Phi Phi Island, Thailand
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The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami revealed that the west coast, and many of its small islands, in the Andaman Sea are vulnerable to tsunamis. Such a devastating event also emphasised the importance of having local communities well prepared to deal with future tsunamis. Since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, a number of risk mitigation measures have been developed in the tsunami prone-areas. However, about 11 years after the event, little is known about the levels of preparedness of Thai residents living on islands exposed to tsunamis. This study aims to identify the elements underlying preparedness of the local people residing in Thai small islands, and scrutinize the preparedness measures undertaken by the government agencies since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Phi Phi Island was used as a case study as it is representative of the many small islands located in the Andaman Sea. The present research relied on a questionnaire survey carried out with over 20 permanent residents from Phi Phi Island – about 10 percent of the residents living in the study area. This research also utilised field observation and analysis of relevant documents, including policy documents, reports, and academic publications. Findings show that preparedness behaviours of the local residents was widely affected by their personal perception, belief, and bias of prior experience to tsunamis. The available resources within the local residents’ daily context (e.g. time, finances) and trust in the authority were crucial factors that considerably affected making decisions in taking preparedness. Many preparedness measures have been addressed in the Island (e.g. Tsunami Early Warning, Tsunami Warning Signage, Land Plan Use Guideline); however, challenges regarding their effectiveness and insufficient maintenance of those measures are evident. The present study recommends that local communities and the elements that shape their perception of tsunamis, should be, to a greater extent, integrated in the preparedness activities carried out by local government agencies. Moreover, strengthrning Community-Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) approach is likely to be useful in order to promote tsunami preparedness.