Purpose The main purpose of this study is to examine village heads’ information-seeking and decision-making in 2014 Kaohsiung Blast and to analyze if the current disaster trainings help those leaders to enhance disaster risk deduction in an unprecedented disaster. Design/methodology/approach This study adopts after-action review and information-seeking and decision-making literature both from communication research and disaster research. Document analysis, and in-depth interviews with 13 village heads, 1 district officer and 15 residents from the affected areas are conducted. Findings This study finds that the village heads have received trainings of regular types of disasters; however, most of them act like lay people in Kaohsiung Blast. In the beginning of the gas leaking, village heads slack off when first respondents arrive. After the Blast, most of them wait for authority orders and cannot launch minimum self-help and community-help which they learned from the trainings. Practical implications This study confirms that the leadership research should take different categories and levels of leaders into consideration to distinguish public leaders from non-public leaders, professional disaster risk reduction leaders from non-professional leaders, and higher authorities from basic levels of government. The findings from this study provide a basis for the rational design of the job descriptions of village leaders. Originality/value This study is the first empirical research to investigate first-level but non-professional disaster management staffs’ information-seeking and decision-making after a unprecedented disaster in Taiwan.