Community-Based Disaster Risk Management for George Town World Heritage City, Malaysia

Published: 25 July 2023
Last edited: 26 July 2023
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In 2008, George Town Heritage City (Malaysia) was inscribed on the World Heritage List as part of the site of Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca in 2008 under criteria (ii), (iii) and (iv). This designation highlighted the unique influences of the Malay, Chinese, Indian and European cultures in the two cities, which also reflected in the historic urban fabric, the multi-cultural communities and their specific practices, rituals and daily lives, and created a unique architectural style of a townscape that is exceptional in East and South Asia.

George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) as the Site Manager has been working with local communities and other stakeholders in developing community-based Disaster Risk Management for George Town. Among the approaches conducted are empowerment of local communities, implementation of incentives, as well as continuous communication with the agencies and authorities dealing with disaster risk prevention and management


Southeast Asia
Scale of implementation
Area-wide development
Buildings and facilities
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Disaster risk reduction
Fire management
Flood management
Local actors
Outreach & communications
World Heritage
Storm surges
Tropical cyclones / Typhoons
Changes in socio-cultural context
Sustainable development goals
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action
Sendai Framework
Target 5: Increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020
Target 6: Enhance international cooperation to developing countries through adequate and sustainable support to complement their national actions for implementation of this Framework by 2030
Target 7: Increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to the people by 2030


Penang, Penang, Malaysia | George Town Heritage City, Penang, Malaysia


Heritage management is always challenging in terms of balancing conservation requirements, the needs of local communities, and enabling a sustainable and viable future for the site. This solution showcases the approaches implemented to meaningfully engage public accessibility to heritage, particularly on disaster risk prevention and management. Focusing on fire and flood as the main hazards, GTWHI is working with various stakeholders (including building owners, tenants and users) to improve, prevent and mitigate loss in cases of disaster and emergency. In terms of conservation, historic buildings in George Town are built of timber, bricks, lime and stones. These buildings are built adjacent to each other, within narrow streets, therefore are highly vulnerable to fire.


Daytime users (residents, workers, heritage building owners, caretakers, users, and visitors) and night time users (residents, caretakers, and visitors).

How do the building blocks interact?

In any heritage programme, genuine buy-in from the main stakeholders is the most important factor to ensure its success and continuation. To effectively plan and implement these disaster risk management and prevention efforts, GTWHI utilised the extensive social network with the local agencies and local communities to invite inputs and participation in the implementation of these action plans.


The implementation of this programme has required the establishment of a trustful collaboration with local emergency agencies, in particular the Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia as well as the local communities. Based on such collaborative relationship, and through consultations and communications with the stakeholders during the Community-based Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Capacity Training [BB1], GTWHI was able to design posters [BB2] with inputs from the local communities as established in the Community-Based Fire Preparedness and Response [BB3].


This approach promotes the enhancement of Community-Based Disaster Risk Management through workshops, awareness raising campaigns, practical training, incentives and others. These activities allowed to improve fire protection measures at the site and enhance communities’ resilience during emergencies. In particular, local communities are trained to know how to act and respond effectively in the event of disasters such as fires and floods. Through various training and the establishment of communications platforms, dialogue, trust and understanding between heritage building owners and caretakers with the rescue departments have significantly improved. Such preparation is important as all stakeholders work collaboratively to reduce risks, and are able to act promptly in case of disaster and emergency.



In line with the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management strategies for George Town Heritage City, GTWHI promotes knowledge of disaster risk reduction and management through workshops and awareness campaigns with and for the local communities.


The power of community buy-in is best demonstrated by  Mr Khoo Teng Khoon (Secretary, Trustees of Boon San Tong Khoo Kongsi) testimonial. Mr Khoo is is one of the caretaker for the Category I heritage building of Boon San Tong Khoo Kongsi Clan Association building. He is one of the active participants exposed to the concept and importance of disaster risk reduction for cultural heritage, and was given trainings to identify the hazards, vulnerability and possible factors of disasters, hence, developed a disaster risk management plan for Boon San Tong Khoo Kongsi. During the end of the workshop series, Mr Khoo was invited to the Experience Sharing Workshop on Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy among Heritage Cities in Southeast Asia, Pacific and Africa and shared the disaster management plan he prepared for Boon San Tong Khoo Kongsi.


During his presentation, Mr Khoo shared that he is mind-blown with the risks and mitigation opportunities he can conduct to ensure that the Boon San Tong Khoo Kongsi ancestral temple and the legacy passed down from his ancestors can be better safeguarded. Mr Khoo also committed that he will share the knowledge on disaster risk reduction for cultural heritage knowledge with his trustees to ensure their properties can be protected and handed down to the next generation.


Mr Khoo stories is one of the many that have encouraged GTWHI to continue with the path of meaningful community participation, which will eventually lead to a sustainable and better approach to disaster risk reduction and management for the site.

Contributed by

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Ming Chee Ang George Town World Heritage Incorporated

Other contributors

George Town World Heritage Incorporated