Outcomes of disaster education are highly dependent on the political context of that education. Based on a rich, in‐depth, case study of the creation of community monitors in a landslide and flood‐prone city in southeast Brazil, I demonstrate how political and developmental contexts add much additional nuance to existing theories of behaviourist and transformative education for preparedness and mitigation. Beyond identifying education's benefits, I argue that risk reduction outcomes are dependent on governance contexts that move over time. I demonstrate political complexity in the programme's implementation and cite the perspectives of a number of participants. Disaster education is shown to be the necessary yet underappreciated twin of technical and militarised approaches that dominate Brazilian disaster response. However, understated is education's situatedness: how it can become an arena of conflict between government and civil actors fighting over state and society in contexts of increasingly hazardous urbanization in Latin America.