Volume 8 Issue 3 - April 3, 2009
Disaster Rescuing System of Local Government – The 921 Earthquake in Taiwan
Yung-nane Yang

Department of Political Science, College of Social Sciences, National Cheng Kung University
Research Fellow, Sustainable Environment Research Center, National Cheng Kung University

The article has been accepted for publication of “Disasters” on March 6 of 2008. It has been arranged to be published on line in the second half of 2009. And it will be published in 2010.

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There have been disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslide, and flood all over the world. For example, the 921 Earthquake, the Wen-Chiun Earthquake, the Burma Hurricane, and the Katrina Hurricane were all disasters, which resulted in huge loss of lives and properties. An earthquake of the Richter scale 7.3 hit Taiwan at 1:47am of September 21 of 1999. It was named as 921 Earthquake. More than 2000 people died and over 8000 people got hurt in the earthquake. It was the most serious earthquake in Taiwan in the past 100 years. Victims lived without electricity, telecommunication system, and water for a long time. Many county and township government employees were not able to participate in disaster rescuing because they themselves were victims.

The purpose of this paper was to review  the rescuing system and its effectiveness in the case of 921 Earthquake in Nantou County. Rescuing system cannot perform effectively without accurate and instant information before resources are organized and involved in disaster rescuing. Mobilization is important in order to have resources available to the needed victims. And inter-organizational cooperation is necessary to encourage government and non-government employees to be actively involved in disaster rescuing. In other words, organizational cooperation is an important factor to mobilize rescuing resources. However, incentives are needed to facilitate inter-organizational cooperation for enhancing effectiveness of disaster rescuing.

The conceptual framework of this research was showed in the following figure. Three independent variables, including information system, mobilization, and inter-organization cooperation were chosen in this research. Dependent variable was the effectiveness of disaster rescuing. Information was defined as the capacity of gathering and processing of disaster related messages such as photos and stories in the affected areas. Inter-organizational cooperation was defined as departmental, inter-governmental, and international cooperation involving disaster rescuing. Effectiveness of disaster rescuing was defined as the quality and citizen satisfaction of the disaster rescuing.
Conceptual Framework of the Disaster Rescuing System
Six county government employees in different departments were interviewed in this research. It was found that there were problems in the disaster rescuing system of Nantou County Government. For information system, there was few disaster information processed since electricity and telecommunication were seriously damaged by the earthquake. It seemed that the county government officers should have satellite telephones to process disaster related information. For mobilization, the County Magistrate did well to attract resources outside of the county right after the 921 earthquake. He spoke to the radio and asked for rescuing recourses such as water, food, and tents for victims in the county. Plenty of resources were sent to Nantou County after the plea of the Magistrate by radio although the resources were not distributed effectively.

In other words, the Nantou County Magistrate did well in resource mobilization in disaster rescuing. But he didn’t do well in resource management after mobilization. There might be three reasons for the situations. First, Nantou County government employees were not effectively organized and integrated to distribute resources. Second, inter-departmental coordination was not properly organized right after the 921 earthquake. It might be because the Magistrate and department chiefs were busy with reception of the visiting of President, Vice President, and Premier. They didn’t have time to encourage inter-organizational cooperation in disaster rescuing. Third, there were problems in inter-organizational cooperation. For example, fire fighters complained that police was not willing to cooperate with them in disaster rescuing. Therefore, it was suggested that incentive mechanism of inter-organizational cooperation should be improved. In summary, there was  room for improvements in the disaster rescuing system, including information, mobilization, and inter-organizational cooperation for Nantou County government.
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