Indian Journal of Public Health

: 2020  |  Volume : 64  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 381--385

Investigating the experience of local community networks of disaster self-management: A qualitative study in Thailand

Khanitta Nuntaboot1, Peerapong Boonsawasdgulchai2, Nisachon Bubpa3, Marie T Benner4,  
1 Associate Professor, Department of Family and Community Nursing, Faculty of Nursing, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand
2 Assistant Professor, Department of Education Research and Nursing Administration, Faculty of Nursing, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand
3 Lecturer, Department of Family and Community Nursing, Faculty of Nursing, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand
4 Public Health Specialist, OnPro Consulting Health Network, Germany

Correspondence Address:
Nisachon Bubpa
Faculty of Nursing, Khon Kaen University, 123 Moo 16 Mittraparb Road, Nai Muang Subdistrict, Muang, Khon Kaen 40002


Background: Thailand is exposed to multiple climate-related hazards. Those cause disaster, instability and destruction to human life and property. People affected by disasters need self-help capabilities. Therefore, local administration organizations (LAOs) and local community networks are critical. They act as social capital in communities who can contribute meaningfully to disaster management systems. Objective: The study aimed to assess procedures and activities of community networks focusing on disaster management and how social capitals are utilized. Methods: The qualitative study was conducted with 65 informants recruited through purposive sampling and snowball techniques from six outstanding LAOs. We analyzed data from in-depth interviews, observations, and focus group discussions with key informants. An inductive thematic analysis was performed to identify themes on procedures and activities related to social capital. Content analysis was used to analyze the data. Results: We identified three main outcomes. The social capital involved and collaborated with LAOs included civil groups, community organizations, community leaders, and other public and private organizations. Procedures and activities related to social capital working in disaster management in communities included predisaster phase, disaster phase, and postdisaster and recovery phase. The overall local community network was key to help disaster affected people in communities effectively. Conclusion: The findings suggest that social capital participation builds up a sustainable community self-management. The potential enhancement of the local community self-management is strongly based on relationships within the community structure. Community disaster self-management and is likely reducing risk factors and mitigate vulnerability.

How to cite this article:
Nuntaboot K, Boonsawasdgulchai P, Bubpa N, Benner MT. Investigating the experience of local community networks of disaster self-management: A qualitative study in Thailand.Indian J Public Health 2020;64:381-385

How to cite this URL:
Nuntaboot K, Boonsawasdgulchai P, Bubpa N, Benner MT. Investigating the experience of local community networks of disaster self-management: A qualitative study in Thailand. Indian J Public Health [serial online] 2020 [cited 2023 Mar 22 ];64:381-385
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In 2018, about 315 reported disasters affected more than 68.5 million people, killed 11.804 and had an economic loss of US $132 billion, globally. In Asia alone, 17.1 million people were affected by storms, 88% of the global affected population.[1] Global warming, causes frequent, and intensified natural hazards, such as hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, and rain storms which consequently cause floods and landslides. Other countries facing large scale droughts. Increasing epidemics and threat of new diseases causing health problems increasing risks of death, particularly among vulnerable population groups such as infants, elderlies, and chronically ill patients.[1],[2],[3]

Thailand, due to its geographical location, is highly exposed to hydrometeorological hazards. The Thailand Meteorological Department categorizes eight natural hazards occurring frequently: tropical cyclones, earthquakes, floods, thunderstorms, landslides, storm surges, wildfires, and droughts. Disaster statistics recorded the following categories: floods (1898–2011), tsunami (2004), mudslides (1988–2012), storms (1988–2009), fire (1989–2009), droughts (1989–2009), and wildfires (1989–2009) have occurred with a total of 40,000 up to 60,307 times, respectively. The most devastating disaster type has been floods during the past 20 years. The “great flood” during 2011 affecting 64 out of 77 provinces, including the capital Bangkok. About 5.2 million households or 16 million people were affected, or one out of every five people in Thailand. Furthermore, droughts are common in Thailand, more so in the North and North-Eastern region. Water shortage for domestic use and agriculture resulting in loss of agricultural production and economic loss. Furthermore, Thailand has about six active fault zones and is at risk for earthquakes. Most fault lines are in the northern and western parts of the country.[4],[5],[6]

The impact of climate change mentioned above threatens also local community management systems as well as their normal utilization of natural resources available in their area. These risks could be mitigated through resilient community engagement. However, to prevent live threatening events and infrastructural damages in communities, self-management plans, and risk-reduction plans need to be established for those risky environments. This self-managed community networks and involvement of social capitalizing their knowledge and human resources and maintain it, can increase drastically the capacity of local communities to manage social determinants of health, reduce or mitigate threats, reduce health problems, and integrate new innovative and community evolved approaches to deal with disasters.[7]

In Thailand, there are total of 7852 local administration organizations (LAOs). Approximately 36.4% (2816 LAOs) are member of local community networks. Among these networks, 134 (LAOs) were nominated to be training canters (networking management center, coordination center, and learning center), which intended to strengthen the operation of members to be a healthy community. These 134 centers have organized a self-community data system using a Rapid Ethnographic Community Assessment Process (RECAP).[8] This tool assesses social capital mapping, community systems management, and guide data analysis for community enhanced self-reliance. Overall, it supports managing the Thailand Community Network Appraisal Programs (TCNAP),[9] a community data base system for health and well-being as a foundation for community system strengthening and community mobilization. It is a survey form assessing individual and family level, and group and community level. These centers also employed a set of procedures and activities out of the health promotion theme to scale up quality of life among people. Social determinants of health were identified as a risk factor when it comes to disaster in communities and on which local community networks worked on.[10] However, each LAO had procedures and activities managing problems differently, depending on their local capacity and their preparedness measures in place. Understanding on historical operations and how local culture, local knowledge, and the sociocultural context of communities in Thailand has influenced local community networks[11],[12] are useful.

In this context, the present study aimed to assess procedures and activities to engage community networks and how social capital is utilized in disaster management. Better understanding on the utilization of social capital and related procedures to build up a sustainable local community network, which are consistent with the need of LAO, will help to inform policy makers and local governments and communities in how local community disaster networks can be expanded all over the country. These findings will provide evidence for designing and developing strategies on potential use of community participatory approach in disaster management for the LAOs and local community networks.

 Materials and Methods

Study design and setting

For this research, we carried out a qualitative study during July–December 2018 through the approaches of in-depth interviews, participatory observations, and focus group discussions (FGDs) in selected communities of local administration organizations (LAO). We purposely selected study communities from the outstanding LAOs who run a disaster management center. Each LAO represents one subdistrict of the regions in Thailand: (1) the upper north, (2) the lower North, (3) the North East, (4) the East, (5) the central, and (6) the South. All passed the local performance assessment (LPA) carried out by the LPA team with scores above 80%. The LPA team are appointed by the Department of Local Administration, the Ministry of Interior, a Thai government department which is responsible for supporting, facilitating, and strengthening the work of local administrative organizations in providing public services, and assesses all the LAOs annually.[13]

Study participants and selection

We recruited six selected subdistricts participants purposely, who were involved in disaster operations and represented four key actors in the community. The researchers contacted the chief executive of each LAO to identify key actors. These key actors were experienced in their specific field to support the community and involved in different phases of disaster. They participated in strategic planning and risk management, acting as frontline manager, volunteers in various situations of disasters, and carried out activities according to their field of expertise. The snowball technique was applied to identify potential participants. A total of 65 key informants participated and included (i) 17 representatives of LAO, (ii) 28 representatives of civil groups and community organizations, (iii) 9 representatives of community leaders, and (iv) 11 representatives of the public and private organizations [Table 1].{Table 1}

Among the 65 key informants, 26 of them had first-hand practical experience and how disasters have impacted lives and properties in communities. Therefore, they were selected to be representatives of the vulnerable groups who benefited from community networks managing the disasters in the community.

Tools and techniques – Data collection

Workshops and trainings had been organized for researchers before starting the project. Methodology, data collection tools, consent forms, and related issues were discussed. Three qualitative methods were used to collect data: in-depth interviews, participatory observations, and FGDs. Manual and guidelines for interviews, observations, and FGDs were provided to the field researchers.

An interview guide was developed with support of health and disaster experts. The open-ended questions were prepared and used to assess the four key actors experienced in disasters in their communities. The observation guide was developed to observe activities of key informants and other resources, i.e., disaster management office, disaster management learning center, equipment used by volunteers, shelters, available disaster and welfares funds, community mapping showing risk areas and housing of people affected by disaster, as well as evacuation routes and signs. The questions through FGDs were related to activities and benefits received by the people through their community disaster management system in place. The questions were adjusted to ensure consistency with the objectives of the study after a pilot testing has been done with another LAO.

The researchers collected data, from all the informants. Interviews lasted for about 45–60 min for each informant. Notes were taken during the interviews, observation of informants, procedures, and activities which related to disaster management at their workplaces and houses. About 5–7 key informants were included in a 2-h-long FGDs in each subdistrict with a total of 6 FGDs. Interviews and FGDs were script and tape recorded using an audio recorder, after obtaining consent.

Data analysis

The participants' information was analyzed with descriptive statistics. Text data were analyzed by field note analysis and content analysis. The transcripts were read and responses were listed by themes. Coded samples of the transcripts were identified then compared among team members for consensus on the key points. The similarities and differences between data were identified to reflect on procedures and activities, processes and key actors or social groups, community organizations, and related organizations. We conducted the analysis along with the data collection and reviewed all with the informants afterward for triangulation purposes.[14],[15] In order to determine the trustworthiness of the study, Lincoln and Guba's criteria which includes credibility, dependability, transferability, and conformability, were considered.[16]

Ethical considerations

All procedures performed in studies involving human participations were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. IRB approval (#HE 612094) was granted by the KhonKaen University Ethics Committee for Human Research, Thailand on May 25, 2018, and was renewed annually for the duration of the study.


The findings of this study were categorized into three main themes: (i) the social capital who involved and collaborated with LAOs in disaster management; (ii) procedures and activities related to social capital working in disaster management in communities including predisaster phase, disaster phase and postdisaster and recovery phase; and (iii) impact on disaster-affected people in communities through the procedures and activities by the local community networks.

Social capital

The human resources involved in disaster management in the communities, and who collaborated with LAOs, can be categorized in different levels: individual level: village headmen, local scholars, teachers, and religious leaders. Social groups and community organization level: village security team, civil defense volunteers, health volunteer group, rescue volunteer group, subdistrict development committee, disaster management volunteers, environmental volunteers, forest fire suppression volunteers, disaster funds in the community, and the disaster prevention and mitigation center. Organizational level: LAO, subdistrict health promoting hospital, the community hospital, the provincial hospital, schools, child development center, district office, police, provincial disaster prevention and mitigation, and resources such as spaces for community activities, sports grounds, and a community hall. Network level: District disaster management center network. These social capital provided procedures and activities to solve problems and responded to the needs of the population who have been affected by disasters.

Disaster management procedures and activities of social capital in communities can be summarized into three phases:

Predisaster phase

This included the collection and study of community information. The development of a subdistrict risk area mapping and a matrix planning map covering the different stages of a disaster. List of procedure and activities of social capital were gathered. A disaster management manual helped to prepare the community at risk while conducting disaster response drills for local people and for disaster management volunteers was part of the standards. Furthermore, disaster drills for each community, schools and for child development centers were developed; disaster risk areas were thoroughly surveyed in each community; furthermore, a map featuring the most vulnerable people in the communities (i.e., elderlies, people with disabilities) were addressed. A disaster and welfare fund was established while selecting and preparing safe places, as evacuation centers, offering assistance has been relevant.

Some of the interesting relevant quotes in this regard are as follows:

“At our sub-district, more than half of the area is forest. We suffer from floods, droughts, and forest fires. We have made a map of risk areas by using the data from TCNAP program” (CA, LAO3).

“Every village has disaster preparedness plan. It is the duty of all members of the civil protection volunteers, the village security team and the social capital team to practice appropriate drills and to be ready for a good disaster management and response. This is our community potential on disaster management” (CE, LAO 5).

“Locations of safe shelters of victims, are chosen, and the shelters are prepared. Every village has established community and welfare funds for people affected by disasters” (CE, LAO 6).

“At the child development center, we organize emergency drills for the evacuation of children and teachers, in case of disasters. We also do this every year in all the schools” (CA, LAO 1).

Disaster phase

The procedures and activities included a set up of an emergency notification system as well as a hotline. Organizing an assistance system for helping survivors through a referral system for emergency cases; mobilizing funds to support affected areas and people; enhancing skills of volunteers, and set up the food and water distribution system for survivors and staff working at the sites.

“We worked with the village headmen and the civil group leaders to help relocate the elderly, children, and people with disabilities. Disaster management volunteers were called in to help flood victims. Since social capital was identified by using RECAP, we know our community potential. Now we know how to work along with them as a team” (Leader of DMT, LAO 1).

Postdisaster and recovery phase

This included the set up of a home repair system; provision of psychosocial support, music activities and a related welfare fund; support to survivors who lost their job such as supporting in repairing tool machines, agricultural material, and restoring social infrastructure of the local communities, such as temples, schools, playgrounds, and offices for public services.

“We established a sub-district disaster management fund, restored abandoned rice fields as a food source for the community in times of disasters, and promoted the provision of food reserves and agricultural production factors, such as seeds, tools” (VH, LAO 2).

Impact of procedures and activities of the local community network

The impact to different groups of population in the community was critical for them. Reducing loss of lives and property to populations within the community such as elders, home-bound and bed-bound patients, people with disability, chronically ill patients, pregnant women, children, career groups, and farmers were the most recorded. Disaster affected-people were able to receive health-care services while other public services continued including food and water supplies, distribution of housing materials as well as agricultural seeds, poultry, and farming tools. Social welfare funds were allocated for most urgent needs.

“During the flood last year, we set up a system to provide care for our patients, especially older people, those with chronic diseases, and disabled cases who were home-bound and bed-ridden” (PHO, LAO 6).

“If the survivor is a woman, we will send the female volunteer to approach because sometimes, the denominational did not want the man volunteer to touch them” (Leader of OPC, LAO 1).

The impact by the working groups in the communities

The impact by the working groups in the communities was an important aspect to strengthen the societies and creating a sustainable social capital system. Capacity building of volunteers, civil group leaders, and community leaders were necessary to enhance their skills and create a strong response system. Population and social capital data were collected and available in most villages. The information helped to prepare the disaster management response system. Understanding the problems and needs of population is important to assess risks but also mitigation measures. Sharing the information in the communities is equally critical. Forum discussions were used to channel information and to develop plans. Additional social welfare funds, as well as materials were mostly available for urgent needs. To keep all volunteers engaged, learning centers established necessary trainings. Those centers coordinated with the government and nongovernmental organizations as well as other key actors. The working groups reported to the disaster management network at subdistrict level, district level and in the same geographical area.

“Our sub-district learned and recognized about the expertise of social capital. We all know about our community potential. This disaster network shared information, materials and staff when we needed it. We always have a team to support us” (Leader of DMT, LAO 1).

“We have smart women volunteers. They are key actors to help women who affected by disaster. They also can cook for us, for survivors as well as manage the shelter” (Leader of DMT, LAO 1).


This qualitative research aimed to assess procedures and activities of community networks and how social capital is utilized with a focus on disaster management. The strong networks through meaningful community participation and social capital building enhanced resilience of those areas we researched.

We found that the communities developed various procedures and activities to tackle problems and difficulties before, during, and after disasters. Social capital as a working group and who have different skills could well be utilized to solve problems and respond to the needs of the population. All procedures and activities done in the communities enhanced skills preparation to respond to disaster. To maintain these enhancements, it requires continuous effort and further development with clear training curriculums or guidelines, adequate communication channels, budget allocation, and a management and activity plan. Regular and ad hoc village plan meetings and LAO council meetings for policy development/adjustment are imminent to adjust plans and allocate budgets timely. It became clear that the impact of procedures and activities toward the community network, action groups, and working group was important. This experience in a number of subdistricts all over Thailand, working with local community disaster network, is expanded now across the country. Preparing communities on their readiness is a crucial step in disaster management.

Explaining the principles of the development and emphasizing on group integration and networking within communities has been an essential milestone.[17] Working with different community groups is a good investment and where all receive benefits. It will directly or indirectly affecting social, economic, environmental, health, and political aspects. Overall, it can be assumed that the efforts and actions to enhance social capital related to disaster management is crucial for the stability of human-animal and fauna life and property, which is an important dimension of human or planetary health.[18]

The limitation of this study was its limited sample size of only six specific areas, focusing on disaster management. Each region had a different geographic lead in disasters. These factors could potentially affect our results based on people and social capital perception. Therefore, the context of each area must be considered when interpreting the results of this study.


The findings of this study indicate an important understanding in how disaster is managed within a community. The potential enhancement of the local community self-management is strongly based on relationships within the community structure.

Therefore, it is recommended to build up a sustainable local community network by mobilizing four key actors to manage community owned–database. Having the LAOs as the mechanism to drive, cooperate, and support the management of working groups seems a key success factor for community self-management.

Financial support and sponsorship

This study was funded by Center for Research and Development in Community Health System (CRDCHS), Faculty of Nursing, Khon Kaen University, Thailand.

Conflict of interest

There is no conflict of interest.


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