Authors: Raffaele Giordano and Alessandro Pagano (CNR-IRSA)

Most of the efforts carried out in the field of organizational studies demonstrate that the network of interactions influencing the performance of a certain organization is more complex than the simple network involving the different agents. An organization can be modeled and characterized as a set of interlocked networks connecting four key entities operating within the organization, i.e. people, knowledge, resources and tasks. Therefore, in order to better comprehend this complex network of interaction, analytical methods are required capable to conceptualize not only the attributes of these entities, but also the set of relations and ties among them. The Meta-matrix conceptual framework could be implemented to this aim. This approach conceives the organization as composed by: social network, knowledge network, resources network, assignment network, information network, resources requirement and knowledge requirement.

go to index

The map and the analysis of the network requires collecting data about how the different agents interacts with each other, how they accessed the information and used it in order to perform some tasks. Two kinds of approaches can be implemented to this aim, i.e. the quantitative and the qualitative approach. The former requires numerical assessment about the different interaction. That is, how many times agent A interacts with agent B; how many times the information C is used by agent A, etc. Collecting this data is often difficult when the interaction is not leaving a tack – e.g. interaction via email, database access, etc. The qualitative approach is based on the elicitation and structuring of experts’ experiences and knowledge. It allows to overcome the limits due to the lack of data. The integration among social mapping and the critical event analysis facilitates the interaction with the experts and, thus, the knowledge elicitation phase.

Most of the methodologies aiming at mapping the network of interactions among people limit their analysis to the social network, that is, to map “who talks to, works with, and reports to whom”. According to the common formulation social network are developed in terms of ties among persons. The improvement of emergency management requires the adoption of an organizational perspective for what concerns the information sharing processes and the cooperative task allocation and performance. Specifically, temporary multi-organizations are created for improving the coordination efforts during the emergency management. This composite agent has to be considered as a network whose behaviour is a function of complex processes for combining and generating collective outcomes. In this perspective, networks are more ubiquitous than those simply social network, and entities besides agents can be networked together.

The adopted methodology for mapping the interactions during an emergency is based on the conceptualization of an organization as a set of interlocked networks connecting entities such as people, knowledge resources, tasks and groups. This meta-network representation effectively combines the knowledge level perspective, the social network perspective and the coordination management perspective.
The following table 6.1.1. shows the meta-matrix approach.

Table 6.1.1 : Meta-matrix framework showing the connections among the key entities of social network (adapted from (Carley, 2005))

The details of the methodology for mapping the interaction among the main entities – i.e. agent, knowledge and tasks – is described in the following.
The first entity to be analysed is the Agent x Agent matrix, at the basis of the social network. Table 6.1.2. shoes an example of the social network.

Table 6.1.2: Agent x Agent matrix

In the above matrix,  Wij represents the importance of the interaction between the agent Ai and the agent Aj as perceived by the agent Ai. Similarly, the value of Wji refers to the strength of the interaction between the agent Ai and the agent Aj as perceived by the agent Aj. The weights can be assessed accounting for the experts opinion. In this work, we use the term “experts” to indicate policy-makers and official responders involved in the emergency management. The experts’ knowledge was elicited through a series of individual semi-structured interviews. A storyline approach (SA) was implemented. Referring to a specific episode of emergency management, participants were required to describe the sequence of actions implemented in order to achieve their goals in the emergency management, the information used and the other agents with whom they interacted.
The first issue to be addressed concerned the selection of the experts to be involved in this phase. In order to minimise the selection bias and the marginalization of stakeholders a top-down stakeholder identification practice, which is referred as ”snowballing” or ”referral sampling”, was implemented (Harrison & Qureshi, 2000; Prell et al., 2008). The selection process started with the actors mentioned in the official protocols of intervention. The preliminary interviews carried out with these agents allowed us to widening the set of stakeholders to be involved.
The results of the interviews were structured in individual Fuzzy Cognitive Maps (FCM) (figure 6.1.1). The structuring phase allowed us to translate the narratives into useful inputs for the SNA phase.
The interactions with the other agents can be activated through both the sharing of information and the cooperation to perform specific tasks. Each link in the FCM is characterized by a weight, which describes the stakeholders’ perception of the importance of that connection. The weight of the link agent-information describes the interviewee’s perception about how crucial is the agent to obtain the needed information. Similarly, the weight of the link information-task represents the role played by the information in facilitating the implementation of that specific task.

Fig. 6.1.1: Fuzzy Cognitive Map describing the individual’s understanding of the connections between goal-task-information-agents

The individual FCMs were also used to define the other matrices. For instance, the individual i-th Agent x Knowledge matrix was obtained considering the weights assigned by the i-th actor to the different agent-information connections. The Agent x Knowledge matrix for the i-th agent is represented in Table 6.1.2.

Table 6.1.2: Knowledge network matrix for the i-th agent.

The overall Agent x Knowledge matrix was obtained as the sum of the individual matrices. Similar processes were implemented to develop the Agent x Tasks, Knowledge x Knowledge, Knowledge x Tasks and Tasks x Task matrices.

In order to facilitate the elicitation of the participants’ opinions about the importance degree, fuzzy linguistic variables can be defined. This method requires the identification of the linguistic labels used by the interviewees to describe the importance of the connections.
The weights in the matrixes are used to develop the network. They represents the strength of the ties between two entities. Figure 6.1.2. and 6.1.3 shows, respectively, the social network and the knowledge network developed for the Lorca

Fig. 6.1.2: Map of the Agent x Agent interactions taking place during the flash flood emergency management in Lorca.

The direction of the links indicates which agent mentioned the interaction. For instance, the link between L.EM2 and L.OP2 shows that L.EM2 perceived itself interacting with L.OP2, but not vice-versa. The thickness of the links represent the weights assigned by the different actors during the knowledge elicitation phase.

Fig. 6.1.3: Map of the Agent x Knowledge network

The map demonstrates that there is no exclusivity in the agent-knowledge interactions, namely there is no actor exclusively owning pieces of knowledge. Therefore, cooperation among the different actors is crucial to overcome the fractured nature of the information system.
The combination of the different networks allowed to map the complex interactions among the main elements activated during the flood emergency, i.e. agents, knowledge and tasks (figure 6.1.4).

Fig. 6.1.4: Network of interaction among Agents, Knowledge and Task according to both experts and local knowledge

Figure 6.1.4 shows the actual complexity of the interaction mechanisms supporting the emergency management. Failure in this network – i.e. lack of an information, missing cooperation for task implementation, etc. – could provoke uncontrollable cascading effects leading to the failure of the whole emergency management process. Therefore, it becomes crucial for the emergency managers to enhance their comprehension of this complexity, in order to implement actions aiming to increase the effectiveness of the emergency management network and to reduce its vulnerability.

The results of the analysis can support emergency managers in different ways. Firstly, the SNA allows to identify the actors that, because of their role in the network, could play a central role in speeding up the information sharing process. These actors should have easy access to the required information. Secondly, the SNA allows identifying the reasons of potential conflicts hampering the cooperative emergency management – i.e. information that should be shared between two different actors in order to facilitate the task implementation, but it is currently owned by one actor with limited capability/willingness to share. Thirdly, the SNA allows assessing the congruence between the information needed for performing certain tasks and the information actually accessible to the actors performing those tasks.
Concluding, the SNA results could provide useful information for improving the protocol of intervention in case of emergency.

go to index

Different kinds of analysis can be carried out through the implementation of graph network theory to the network of interactions. The results of the analysis can be used to enhance the effectiveness of the emergency management network, through the identification of key elements – i.e. key actors, key knowledge and key tasks – and main vulnerabilities, that is, the characteristics of the network that could lead to the failure of the emergency network.
Two different levels of analysis can be performed, i.e. node-level metric analysis and network-level metric analysis. The former allows for an analysis of the complexity of the network surrounding each node. This kind of analysis is used to identify the key elements in the network. The network-level analysis allows for better comprehension of the complexity of the network and makes it possible to identify key vulnerabilities. The results can be used to support the development of strategies aiming at improving emergency management through network performance. Two different groups of actions can be implemented to this aim. On the one hand, actions can be defined aiming at putting the key elements at the core of the emergency management protocols – e.g. enhancing the sharing of key information, emphasizing the role of key actors, etc. On the other hand, actions can be identified aiming at reducing the key vulnerability – e.g. increasing the speed of information by increasing the capabilities of the central agents to have access to crucial information.
The following tables (6.1.3 & 6.1.4) describe the different measures, their meaning and how to use them to assess the performance of emergency management network.

Table 6.1.3: Graph Theory measures for key element detection

Similarly, different graph theory measures can be implemented in order to assess the network vulnerability. That is, those elements that could lead to failures of the network, lower performance, reduced adaptability, reduced information gathering, etc. Considering the complexity of the emergency network, in this work the vulnerability elements were identified though a combination of different measures, as described in the table 6.1.4.

Table 6.1.4: Measures for the detection and analysis of key vulnerability in the
emergency management network

Besides the node-level analysis, the map of interactions can be analyzed at network level. Table 6.1.5 describes the measures that can be implemented in order to assess the effectiveness of the network in emergency management.

Table 6.1.4: Measures for the detection and analysis of key vulnerability in the
emergency management network

Table 6.1.5: Measures for analyzing the effectiveness of the
emergency management network

go to index

The experiences carried out in EDUCEN project demonstrate the usefulness of social network modelling in detecting the actual role of the different actors and information in DRR. The results of EDUCEN activities in LAquila and Lorca CS showed the inadequacy of the official protocol of interaction for describing the actual network of interaction. The official protocols fail to account for the informal interactions activate during an emergency, and for the role of lay people and local knowledge in DRR.

go to index

Social network modelling (SNM) could facilitate a better understanding among emergency managers of the complex network of interactions taking place during an emergency. In doing so, SNM enhances the coordination mechanism among the different responders and, thus, the effectiveness of the emergency management procedure.

The SNM emphasizes the need to adopt a multi-agency approach for the analysis of the network of interactions. Therefore, the emergency management multi-organization can be conceptualized as composed by interconnected meta-networks linking the main entities in organizational management, i.e. the agents, the knowledge and the tasks.
Starting from these premises, this section provides emergency managers and practitioners with guidelines for choosing SNM as a tool be adopted in order to enhance the emergency management process.

The experiences carried out in EDUCEN case studies, L’Aquila and Lorca, demonstrate the usability of SNM for addressing three different issues related to the coordinated interactions in emergency management:

  • Identify all the actors that need to be integrated in the emergency management procedures;
  • Assess the level of accessibility of crucial information in case of emergency;
  • Evaluate the congruence between the information sharing process and the cooperative tasks performance.

Identification of the needed actors

The official protocol of intervention describe only part of the complex network of interactions activated during an emergency. Other actors play a crucial role, although they are not officially integrated in emergency management procedures. Moreover, the results of the EDUCEN activities demonstrate that the importance of particular responders – either institutional or not institutional – is related not only to their official role in the protocol of intervention. Rather influenced by their capability to spread information within the network of interactions, and to share resources and tasks. The EDUCEN results show that the actors at the centre of the map of interaction are those that can enable the collaborative emergency management. They can increase the speed of communication, facilitating the transfer of pieces of information from one side of the network to the other. I.e. these actors could act as interface between the institutional systems of responders and the community. Due to their wide web of interaction and their access to knowledge and information, these actors represent an effective channel for information sharing. Specifically, EDUCEN results show that these actors can increase the accessibility to institutional information. Often this result is achieved through the activation of informal interaction channels. Therefore, the SNM has to be based on the collection of narratives about how the different actors actually interacted during the emergency.

The use of specific approaches (e.g. storyline approach) increases the insight in the sequence of events during the emergency management. Particularly, it supports: i) a general description of the system being investigated (e.g. procedures/protocols and key actors involved); ii) definition of a scenario; iii) determination of the sequence of events during a storyline, focusing on actions and responses implemented by each actor, information used and interactions; iv) analysis of the impacts of the external pressure and the effects of actions of local authorities and community members.

Limiting the analysis to the institutionally defined interactions could be misleading. The following table 6.1.6 describes the roles that can be played by the different actors in the network.

Table 6.1.6: Role of actors

Information accessibility

The EDUCEN results demonstrate the usability of SNM to assess the actual importance of the information available within the network and its accessibility by the different actors. The basic assumption is that if crucial information is not accessible to central actors then cooperative tasks performance could be hampered. Therefore, it is of utmost importance, for an effective emergency management process, to enhance the comprehension of the actual use and accessibility of the different information. The EDUCEN case studies show that one of the most important barriers hampering the effective coordination of emergency management operations is the fractured nature of information in distributed system, where the state of the system itself can be perceived indirectly, through an effective information exchange by collaborative agents. In order to overcome this barrier, SNM allows emergency managers to have a clear idea about who has what information, where information is located in the network and how it is used. The following table shows the results of SNM analysis that can help to improve the sharing and accessibility of knowledge and information.

The results of this analysis allows to enhance the information management in case of emergency: central information and/or most used information should be accessible to a high number of actors. This requires the timely availability, in a proper format, of the key information to agents having the trust of other agents and an important set of interconnections. The lack of this property represents a vulnerability in the network.

Congruence between information sharing and task cooperative performance

Finally, the SNM could be used to enhance the sharing of information, in order to improve the cooperation in task performance during emergency management. Specifically, SNM allows to identify the tasks that are shared among a high number of actors, and the tasks that require access to a high number of information.

go to index


Classical approaches to infrastructural reliability may be limited in describing the complexity of real systems. The resilience assessment of engineering systems, such as infrastructures requires a comprehensive approach moving beyond the merely structural dimension. The ‘culture’ (of both organizations and communities) is a key asset to describe resilience. It is thus required to broaden the perspective, with specific reference to more traditional approaches to resilience, going beyond the analysis of the structural (or ‘technical’) aspects.

Short description of the tool

An innovative approach to resilience assessment of infrastructural systems is based on the conceptualization of its four inter-related dimensions: Technical, Organizational, Social and Economic (TOSE approach). The Technical dimension of resilience refers to the ability of interconnected physical systems to perform to acceptable/desired levels. Organizational resilience is related to the organizations and institutions that manage the physical components of the systems, and is thus significantly affected by ‘culture’: it encompasses measures of capacity, planning, training, leadership, experience, and information management that may improve (or hamper) disaster-related organizational performances and problem solving. Among the influential parameters, the ability to incorporate lessons learned from past disasters, the training and the experience of personnel should be considered. The Social dimension includes population and community characteristics that render social groups either more vulnerable or more adaptable to hazards and disasters, and is strictly connected to ‘cultural’ issues as well. The Economic dimension of resilience is a key driver too, either accelerating or stopping the processes related to emergency management and recovery.

System Dynamics modeling techniques supported to identify and analyze the main elements fostering or hampering resilience according to the TOSE framework. After the definition of a conceptual model of infrastructural resilience, the model was built and tested to evaluate the impact of actions and strategies for resilience improvement on the dynamic evolution of the system. Specific reference was made to drinking water supply systems. Finally, it has been used to identify critical feedbacks, and to evaluate their influence on the implementation of policies aiming to enhance infrastructural resilience, assessing their evolution with time.

EDUCEN application of the tool

Resilience assessment was performed with specific reference to L’Aquila Case Study, implementing the TOSE approach on drinking water supply through System Dynamics Modeling techniques (SDM). L’Aquila case study was used to collect and structure the knowledge needed for model building and validation. The model was developed investigating the evolution of drinking water supply service in the aftermath of the earthquake of 2009. It was also used in order to perform a scenario analysis: this may support decision-makers to understand the impact of different strategies, conditions, assumptions on the response of the system. The key outcome of modeling is the analysis of the evolution of water deficit with time, which is a way of interpreting and representing the resilience. The comparative analysis of multiple scenarios helps describing the impact of different states of specific variables on the model outcomes.
The key advantage of the proposed modelis connected to the possibility of quantitatively modeling resilience according to the TOSE approach. The joint impact of Technical, Organizational, Social and Economic aspects is taken into account and described

How to use the tool

Building, developing and using a SD model to assess the infrastructural resilience according to the TOSE framework requires some key phases.

  • Knowledge elicitation: scientific knowledge available in literature should be integrated with expert knowledge, to be elicited through semi-structured interviews. Literature evidences help developing the conceptual model and identifying cause-effect relationships. Expert knowledge support in better identifying such relationships and determining the influences among the different dimensions of resilience.
  • Conceptual modeling: the conceptual model definition should support representing the sum of cause-effect chains influencing the evolution of infrastructural resilience in case of a disaster. The experts should integrate the conceptual model, adding or deleting variables and modifying links. The modelling process ends when no new concepts and/or relationships emerge after a number of interviews. Specifically, the experts should identify the main variables and connect them according to the expected influences. They should also provide a quantitative interpretation of all the considered variables (even non-physical ones) and of their potential states. Finally, they should describe the dynamic evolution of the variables, the main causes of changes and the potential effects.
  • SDM model building: the conceptual model is the basis for the stock-and-flow model. The key variables should be modeled as stocks, according to the SDM principles. Another subset of variables are instead defined as ‘conveyors’. A few of them are related to either external conditions or to potential actions/policies. The structure of the model should be then discussed and validated with experts and, in case data are available, using a quantitative calibration.

Example of application in other cases

Kongar et al. (2017) recently proposed a comparison between the earthquake-induced physical and functional impacts to different infrastructures systems in L’Aquila and in Christchurch. The main aspects of the TOSE approach are considered. The SDM model was developed specifically for L’Aquila CS within EDUCEN activities, without being implemented in other CS. Nevertheless, the methodological approach is broad enough to be replicated with minor changes and adaptations in different cases, conditions, and even on various infrastructural systems


A method specifically related to social networks is Social Network Analysis. Several tools have been identified in the literature to conduct network analysis that use open-data, raw-text data input – e.g. information from newspaper. With such data it is possible to conduct scenario analysis to simulate what would happen given a certain set of circumstances. The following box describes the characteristics of the most commonly implemented SNA tools.

  • onasurveys Combines the survey and data analysis tools into one package.
  • yEd It’s a Java based (cross platform) programme for drawing complex diagrammes.
  • Netdraw It’s free, easy to use, and constantly being upgraded. Combined with Ucinet (not free), a very complex and powerful tool.
  • Proximity Open-source software under development by the Univ. of Massachusetts Knowledge Discovery Laboratory. It is specifically designed for social network analysis and other similar applications.
  • InFlow
  • Pajek Look at Pajek – a social network analysis software. It is freeware.
  • AutoMap ( is a product of CASOS at the Carnegie Mellon University and is a text mining tool that enables the extraction of network data from texts.
  • BioWar ( is a CASOS package that enables community leaders to prepare for biological attacks using computational models of social networks and communication media.
  • Construct (, developed by CASOS, is a multiagent model of group interactions where agents communicate, learn, and make decisions in a continuous cycle.
  • DyNet ( is a reasoning support tool intended to simulate reasoning about dynamic networked organizations under varying levels of uncertainty.
  • i2 Analyst’s Notebook ( is a commercial visual investigative analysis tool that allows investigators to organize large volumes of disparate data and conduct link and timeline analyses.
  • Organizational Risk Analyzer (ORA) ( is a risk assessment tool that examines network information and identifies individuals or groups that are potential risks to a network given social, knowledge, and task network information.
  • Palantir ( is a commercially available information analysis platform for integrating, visualizing, and analyzing structured, unstructured, relational, temporal, and geospatial data.
  • Starlight Information Visualization System ( is a visualization-oriented user interface for temporal and spatial information analysis and network modeling.

go to index

Authors: Piotr Magnuszweski, Michalina Kulakowska, Lukasz Jarzabek (CRS)
Very well suited for transferring knowledge of previous disaster and risk awareness are serious games. ‘’Serious games are designed to support learning and raise awareness of important issues’’ (Boyle et al. 2014, Pereira et al. 2014 in Mossoux et al. 2016). Games have a positive contribution to the learning process because they are experimental: the players can experience complex situations and test new strategies without having to deal with the real consequences of their decisions. Serious games furthermore create a fun environment which facilitates debate between people who are not otherwise brought together.
Successful attempts at Disaster Risk Reduction are hardly possible without engaging endangered communities into informational and educational activities. Such commitment is very important as it strengthens risk reduction efforts and enables actors to express and share their opinions with others.
What is more, we shouldn’t forget about potential problems connected with knowledge exchange. In many cases, people involved cannot even formulate their message because the situation is unclear or unstable. Sometimes knowledge exchange can also be disturbed due to cultural factors or history of previous conflicts or interactions.
We can use simulations and serious games to overcome such obstacles. For example, we can make participants take on the same roles that they play in real-life. Such activity is called policy exercise. This gives them an opportunity to describe the situation from their point of view andy share their knowledge, opinions and concerns with others. Such activity is also a useful tool for researchers and policy-makers since it helps them understand endangered communities and learn more about the people they want to protect. On the other hand, we can make participants play roles different from those which they assume on a daily basis. This activity is called a serious game or simulation. In this case, the participants are given the opportunity to understand positions and actions of other actors. Apart from sharing their own knowledge, they can address conflicts and problems they experience in contact with other stakeholders. This promotes empathy and can be treated as the first step in creating a better common understanding of the situation.

• Games, when used properly, in disaster risk context can give access to tacit and informal knowledge of endangered communities. What is more, by sharing information, opinions, and concerns, the players are engaged into solution-finding process.
This spurs new ideas and makes participants more willing not only to accept them but also to take part in their implementation.

An example of an intervention that employs a policy exercise is the simulation that was run during the EDUCEN project with local stakeholders in Lorca, Spain. The main objectives of that exercise includes:

  • exploring how cultural factors affect different phases of disaster risk management;
  • demonstrating the benefits of ex ante disaster risk reduction and preparedness and motivating the players to put them into practice;
  • improving understanding and communication of disaster risk in a cross-cultural environment;
  • improving disaster-related communication flow among all relevant organizations and individuals, before and during an emergency situation;
  • ability to deal with evacuation in an urban area inhabited by multilingual and multicultural community.

Games, simulations, policy exercises

In his article “Manifesto for a Ludic Century” (2013) Eric Zimmerman calls the 20th Century the age of linear information, and the 21st Century the age of games. Because we live in a world of complex systems, we need systemic tools to describe it. Linear media (books, movies, lectures), no matter how attractive, allow its users only to learn passively (“learning-to-know”), without exposing them to direct practice (“learning-to-do”) (Aldrich 2009). Games, simulations and policy exercises, on the other hand, offer their users possibility to learn actively, as they act as metaphors reflecting specific systems (Mendler de Suarez, Suarez, Bachofen, 2012). Consequently, a carefully designed game provides its players with a first-hand experience of the system that it represents.
Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman (2008) propose a definition of a game as “a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome”. This is a broad definition that includes different types of games: board games, video games, role-playing games and many others. Most of them are played mainly for entertainment and the term “game” is usually associated with such activities. A specific subset of games are games designed for purposes other than entertainment, e.g. training, education, or social change (Ratan & Ritterfeld 2009). Such activities are called “serious games”, game-based learning, simulations or educational simulations (Aldrich 2009).
Serious gaming developed from other fields, including game theory, drama theories and systems analysis. In such games, participants affect each other and the outcome of their actions results from individual and/or collective decisions. Each member of a system is equipped with only partial knowledge and limited access to resources required for a solution. Also their views on the issue differ. The expected result of a serious game is thus to improve understanding of a complex issue. The success depends on how players deal with the rules, how they interact and how they use their power and resources (Duke, 1974).

Such games can employ procedural rhetoric – “the practice of using processes persuasively” (Bogost, 2007). A set of processes is applied by a game designer in order to “construct” game’s reality. These processes are later experienced by players during a gameplay and help them grasp the mechanisms ruling the real world. Consequently if a game designer desires to communicate the need for better cooperation between different actors involved in flood risk management, her game should allow players to discover that their success depends on effective collaboration. Procedural rhetoric makes the message more transparent and more easily adopted by the target audience (Walsh, Magnuszewski, Slodka-Turner, 2012).

Games can be used to understand the complexity of many issues. This complexity may arise from social-cultural, economic or ecological factors and depends on the number of actors involved. Moreover, the actors may represent diverse goals and groups of interest and offer different solutions. Depending on their purpose, games may thus resemble real-life situations. For example, games used to help create policy require detailed information about the system it is embedded in and life-like feedback which would help verify the feasibility of the created policy. Educational games may also be more abstract and allow participants to take on roles which are different from those they play in their real-life. In this way, players are able to grasp the complexity of a problem and understand the interdependencies between actors. Such games have been successfully used to communicate the trade-offs between climate change mitigation and adaptation in an urban environment (Juhola et al., 2013), to explore social aspects of river floodplain management (Stefanska et al., 2011) and to study land-use related issues (Krolikowska et al., 2007).

Similar goals may be achieved by applying policy exercises (Duke & Geurts, 2004) – also known as open simulations. They use social simulation tools that combine computational models and participation of real actors. During policy exercises participants usually assume their real-life roles and function in their cultural context. This way, they are able to discover the motivations behind their decisions and the external factors that influence them. Policy exercises are based on collaboration between actors and scientists and analyze how problems emerge in complex systems and what intervention would be most effective. According to Mayer (2009), policy exercises allow us to capture and integrate technical-physical and social-political aspects of policy problems. What is more, as policy exercises feel real, they enable players to store more information, learn faster and develop intuition in decision-making. A huge advantage of this approach is that even untrained actors may engage in highly complex processes (Stefanska et al., 2011).

Coles and Zheung (2011) provided an initial approach to a decision-making support for disaster managers interacting across cultural boundaries. During disaster response, a cross-cultural partnership is the key to establishing a common operating perspective. Lack of communication means less effective use of resources and misunderstanding the objectives. Disaster managers that work in cross-cultural partnerships should know which objectives are misunderstood, which shall be changed or renegotiated. As soon as an operating perspective is created, actors should cooperate to develop an optimal outcome acceptable for a whole partnership and for individuals. The individual chance for gaining benefits grows when other actors’ opinions and motivations are added to the understanding of the problem.

Policy exercises and serious games can be applied especially in disaster response planning and in training activities before the real crisis occurs (Walker, 1995). Yamori (2009) proposes games as tools for effective risk communication that support the shift from one-way knowledge transfer (from experts to local citizens) to collaborative risk assessment and management that includes a diverse set of stakeholders. Visman (2014) describes Ready and Telephone participatory games that were used in urban risk reduction in Nairobi, Kenya. The Ready game helps identify the actions that can be taken by local communities in response to a flood risk in their neighborhood. The Telephone game allows improving the communication flow in early warning systems. Both games have helped improve humanitarian programming and decision-making, highlighting the role of provincial administration in risk reduction programming and engaging the meteorological service in early warning system development together with local Red Cross. Such games were designed in cooperation with community representatives and thus reflect the cultural setting of a specific community. As a result, they can be used by disaster responders to test their assumptions and methods before actual intervention in that community. Policy exercises and games can also help experts understand cultural factors behind decisions of community members. They can also be used in disaster preparedness trainings and may be adapted to address diverse attitudes, perceptions, behavior and cultural values and beliefs within the various communities (Mendler de Suarez, Suarez, Bachofen, 2012).

There is no widely accepted code of ethics for simulation and gaming. There are different codes for specific professional groups like APA (American Psychological Association) or STOP (Polish Association of Non-Governmental Trainers). However, running simulations and games, the organizers should consider many ethical issues. Most people treat games as entertainment, yet it doesn’t mean they are prepared or fully aware of what can happen during a gameplay. It must be remembered that there are some topics (e.g. religion, sexual orientation, disabilities) that can make participants feel uncomfortable and discourage them from taking part in the game.

To avoid any negative effects on participants, several principles can be adopted:

  • participation in gaming activity should be voluntary,
  • using proven group work techniques helps create an atmosphere of openness and trust,
  • during activities that affect the emotional sphere, an additional time to debrief emotions in a safe environment should be planned into the activities (Crookall 2010),
  • information about the possible emotional consequences of the activities should be provided to participants (APA, 2010),
  • a detailed introduction into each activity should be provided, especially the parts with interpersonal interactions,
  • high-quality debriefing should be carefully planned and delivered (Kriz 2013, Kriz et al. 1995).

Workshops that include games demand a lot of preparation. This is why it is important to plan all the activities carefully in advance. There are many guidelines available on how to run game as a training tool. For preparing DRR-related activities and games, we highly recommend using the Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre’s game facilitation guidance document (Red Cross / Red Crescent 2014). It must be remembered, however, that the final shape of the workshop and game depends on various factors, e.g. the number and age of participants, time schedule, and room availability.

Serious games can sometimes act as standalone learning tools, but most often they are accompanied by a debriefing session after the game. During such session players analyze their moves, share their thoughts and emotions with others and reflect on the whole experience (Crookall 2010). Proper debriefing session allows participants to go through any stressful aspects of the whole experience and transform it into positive one. Moreover, the review of the simulation results gives the moderator an opportunity to compare these results with real-life conditions and data.

Workshops with games can be built around David Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning model. This four-stage cycle consists of the following phases: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation. Gaming workshop following Kolb’s cycle starts with an experience – a game; then during the first part of debriefing, players reflect upon their moves; conclusions from that part should be then used to make theories about the real-life problem; and then players should be encouraged to put these theories into action in their daily activities (Daszynska-Zygadlo, Pajak 2016).

Policy exercises and serious games allow skilled disaster experts to include cultural factors in their activities aimed at effective and efficient risk reduction, disaster preparedness and response actions. The list of benefits connected with applying games into DRR activities is very long, and the examples provided within this text and the handbook should be treated as an inspiration only. It is worth remembering that most games are open for modification and experiments thus we encourage every DRR professional not only to include games in their actions but also to actively pursue new ways of its application.

Figure 6.2.1. Infographic about games

Gifts of Culture

Gifts of Culture is a board game role-playing simulation of a culturally diverse community. Players become the representatives of various groups living in a flood-prone valley. Though they represent various views and ideals, they all have the same goal – for their group to have a better life. How will they achieve that with the constant threat of flood looming above their heads?

Each of the actions players can undertake has its advantages and disadvantages. Information sharing and collaboration can greatly improve their outcomes, however, diverse cultural backgrounds make it very difficult.

The Gift of Culture allows players to experience how cultural differences can lead to troubles but at the same time they can also be helpful. Play and use the “gift of culture” to improve community flood resilience.

The game was designed and developed within the EDUCEN project.

Why use this game:

  • Players understand different ways how cultural factors affect disaster preparedness and ability to cope.
  • Players improve collaboration and information sharing skills, especially in regards of collaboration between organizations and individuals representing diverse cultural backgrounds leading to improved disaster resilience.
  • Players increase their understanding of disaster risk for heterogeneous cultural backgrounds.

To use this game download it from the website:

Flood Resilience Game

The Flood Resilience Game is an educational game that allows players to experience, explore, and learn about the flood risk and resilience of communities in river valleys.

The game is designed to help participants – such as NGO staff working on flood-focused programs – to identify novel policies and strategies which improve flood resilience. The game is set in a community living in an area exposed to floods, occurring with different severity. Players take roles of members of different citizen groups (workers, farmers, entrepreneur, financial services agent), local government and water board officials.

The direct interactions between players create a rich experience that can be discussed, analysed and lead to concrete conclusions and actions. This allows players to explore vulnerabilities and capacities leading to an advanced understanding of interdependencies and the potential for working together. The game has been designed to align with the framework of the Zurich Flood Resilience Measurement tool (but also operates completely independently).

Why use this game:

  • Players experience the effects on resilience of investments in different types of “capital” – such as financial, human, social, built, and natural.
  • Players have a better understanding of the influence of preparedness, response, reconstruction on flood resilience.
  • Players learn of the benefits of investment in risk reduction before the flood strikes.
  • Players explore the complex outcomes on the economy, society and the environment from long-term development pathways.
  • Players discover the types of decisions needed to avoid creating more flood risk in the future, incentivizing action before a flood through enhancing participatory decision-making.
  • Players experience all these complex ideas with a simple and concrete game elements so that participants can connect with their daily realities.

To use this game download it from the website:

About That Forest

About That Forest is a web-based role-playing simulation game that takes place in a forest and the community that lives in it. Participants take the role of people living in the forest. They try to achieve their goals, facing many challenges, interacting with the decisions made by other people living in the forest and an uncertain environment. The village where the community lives is located by the river that runs through the mountainside. Because of that, the village is exposed to floods that are caused by the rainfall. Forest has a capacity to absorb the rainfall. The bigger the forest is, the more rainfall it can absorb. Rainfall that is not absorbed by the forest gets to the river and causes floods. Floods cause financial losses for the community members. These losses are distributed unequally between the community members. Players don’t know how much money other community members have exactly, but they can see how wealthy the others are.

Why use this game:

  • Players learn practices that create a sustainable system in any environment, business or organisation.
  • Players practice strategic and leadership skills.
  • Players explore effectiveness and stability of policies for management of common goods.
  • Players understand how disasters factors into policies and management of the common goods.

To run this game register on the Games4Sustainability games platform and run your own session:

Learn how to use the games platform here:

Evacuation Challenge Game
The Evacuation Challenge Game presents challenges connected with disaster response and evacuation during the disaster (in this case – zombie apocalypse!) in diverse culturally and linguistically environment. Participants take on the roles of citizens and rescue team members, but unbeknownst to them, the road to the safety won’t be easy!
The game was designed and developed within the EDUCEN (European Disasters in Urban Centres: a Culture Expert Network) project within the EU Horizon 2020 Programme.

Why use this game:

  • Players understand problems connected with language barriers during risk situations.
  • Players understand problems encountered by people with disabilities.
  • Players learn about problems connected to evacuation in multicultural and multilinguistic environment.
  • Players realise importance of cooperation and communication.

To use this game download it from the website:

Read more about: Detailed description of the games developed and proposed within the Educen project

go to index

Author: Çaglar Akgungor (AKUT)

Disabled people have special needs that are often neglected or classified under those pertaining to a broad category of “disadvantaged groups” when the emergency management plans are prepared. Moreover, the resources dedicated to the “disadvantaged” are usually disproportionally low for fulfilling those individuals’ needs and demands. Concerning Istanbul, some limited action has been taken since the 1999 earthquakes, but it is far from having overcome these shortfalls. Consequently, additional action is needed to include the disabled in disaster preparedness processes and to increase their autonomy (and resilience) vis-à-vis catastrophes. Taking these needs into account, EDUCEN’s Istanbul Case Study aimed to reduce this specific group of urban citizens’ vulnerability to disasters by developing a disability-included community disaster preparedness model, in collaboration with disability organizations. For that purpose, both “soft” (based on human interaction) and “hard” (based on technology) tools have been used, often in combination. The main issue here was to use available tools and techniques within reach of virtually any NGO with a modest financial capacity, hoping to produce a model that can be replicated in other parts of the World.

“Extended” Focus Group Meetings in Istanbul Case Study:
We made use of focus group-like interactive sessions during the EDUCEN Istanbul Case Study in order to collectively review AKUT Association’s community disaster training materials with our disability partners. The sessions differed from the focus group concept as it is often described in social sciences; hence the name “extended focus groups”. The focal point of the meetings was AKUT’s disaster preparedness presentation, a slide show that consists of 3 modules (earthquake, fire and flood) and 120 slides in total. Two questions in relation to this content were asked to the participants: “What can be modified or added in order to make our content disability-adapted?” and “How this content can be made accessible?” The resulting discussions, in combination with communication requirements (orally describing each slide for participants with sight impairments; sign-language translation for participants with hearing impairments) often doubled, even tripled the meeting duration (up to 6 hours instead of 2 hours and 30 minutes) and the need for additional meetings occurred.

In fact, each focus group meeting in EDUCEN Istanbul Case Study is a series of successive meetings in itself, separated by convivial breaks to ensure an adequate comfort level. As for the participants’ motivation, it was proven important to emphasize that the focus group meetings were collaborative efforts among equals and not “feedback collection” sessions led (and benefited from) by a host organization, making the participants themselves actors of the solution development process.
The meetings were document mostly through hand-written notes. Few images were recorded in order to prevent any feeling of stigmatization in participants.

Regarding the organizational and logistics aspects, there is a non-negligible number of details to take into account. We suggest you to look at the Istanbul case study manual which can be found on the EDUCEN handbook website.

Sign Language

Contrary to popular belief, speech and language are not the same thing and people with hearing impairments who have never been exposed to sound can perfectly communicate through the sign language. The latter is a natural language with its own grammatical structure and vocabulary, created spontaneously by the community of people with hearing impairments. The deaf people feel about the sign language as do users of any spoken language, it it “their natural vehicle for clear description, reasoning, expression of opinions and feelings, humor, story telling”. The sign language “creates the deaf community, and not the lack of hearing or the lack of speech. In other words, the deaf community is defined by what it is, and not by ‘what it lacks’” Unfortunately, the sign language is surrounded by many false beliefs. For instance, no two sign languages are the same (usually every country has its own) and sign languages are not more iconic than spoken languages (there is not necessarily an analogy or similarity between the form of a sign and its meaning). To these we might add another: Never having been exposed to sounds can make the learning of a spoken language very difficult for someone with hearing impairments and consequently their reading skills remain low.[^3] It is clear that these realities should be taken into account in the disaster risk management, where conveying information correctly is of highest importance.

People with hearing impairments need to receive the information that is necessary to their own protection in their native language, which requires translation service. As it is with all disadvantaged groups, they have right to benefit from all information, knowledge and services offered to the rest of the population. Therefore, the need for accurate translation is evident for the whole of disaster management cycle; first as an ethical obligation.

Translation alone is not sufficient, the content has to be complete as well in comparison with the informative material destined to the general population. In some cases, simplification of the vocabulary derived from the spoken language may be necessary, yet this kind of adaptation do not justify a decision-making in the name of people with hearing impairments about which information will be useful or not to them.
In EDUCEN Istanbul Case Study, video clips of sign language translation have been inserted into the core training material (a slide presentation) to make it accessible and to allow deaf people receive the training together with non-deaf people, which also prevents social isolation. The sign language video clips start automatically every time slide is shown and present the same narrative given orally by the trainer while respecting the timing.

Audio Description

Audio Description is the technical name of the auditory narration activity that aims to describe visual elements in artistic or media productions for people with sight impairments. It can be used in order to make accessible static objects, such as pieces displayed in museums or art exhibitions, as well as scenes, settings, people and actions in live art performances, sports events, films, television shows and similar productions. Also called “video description” or “descriptive narratives”, it consists of informing the spectator with sight impairments about the visual content, focusing first on the essential elements for comprehension. The narrative is usually placed in pauses between dialogues or in the rests in pieces music; thus it has to be as concise as possible while conveying, in an objective and intelligible manner, the maximum amount of information. There are various ways to provide audio description depending on the type of production and the medium. Currently, most television broadcasters offer audio description integrated soundtrack as user menu option, the same way it is done with distributed video (DVD and later technologies). For live or not-live performances in public venues such as theaters, “live” or pre-recorded -but synchronous- audio description narratives can be provided to users through dedicated radio receivers. A more recent application is to make the audio description available online so the user can download and listen it from his/her mobile devices.

Audio description is a vital tool for educational activities and became one the tools of which we have made use for improving accessibility of AKUT’s disaster preparedness training materials. Descriptive narratives have been added to the slide presentation in two ways: First, they were added to video clips integrated in the slideshow for describing what the existing narrative did not mention. Secondly, descriptions of functional visuals have been slipped into the trainer’s narratives.

For a training module designed for “mixed” audiences, it is important that the description work be realized subtly -without compromising its informative value- in order to not to distract participants who have sight. This might tend to result in shorter description narratives than usual, however this limitation can be tolerated for protecting diversity.

Use of audio description also became necessary for the “audio book” which is based on the narration of AKUT’s disaster preparedness booklet, which contains many didactic visuals that should be made accessible, such as maps, tables and photograps.

Suggested reading on audio description:
US Department of Health and Human Service’s Provisional Guidance for Audio Description []
American Council of Blind’s “Audio Description Project” Web Pages []

Tactile Tools

For people with significant sight impairments, touch is a primary way of perception and information collection, hence the enhanced tactile acuity in most blind people. In this context, a “tactile tool” is any method that provides access to information and supports learning process through the use of haptic channel. Braille alphabet seems to be most well-known of tactile tools. Our experience is that it is almost automatically brought to the table by people who have sight, when it comes to design any pedagogical activity involving blind people. Nevertheless, Braille’s prevalence is significantly lower than it is often thought and the new digital technologies involving use of audio or text-to-speech interfaces will likely to decrease this prevalence. Braille has also the disadvantage of being a text-only tool that cannot be used for making visual elements accessible and its production and distribution cost is relatively high compared to ink-prints. Yet, the use of tactile is not limited to reading. It is possible to devise various methods to convey information through the sense of touch, and often without having to resort to sophisticated technology.

Simple, readily available objects can be transformed into efficient accessibility tools in consultation with the potential end-users. For example, EDUCEN Project Istanbul Case Study has brought an interesting tactile tool into AKUT’s existing training materials, which consists of a gas tap, two water taps of different style and an electrical fuse box mounted on a small piece of plywood. This object is expected to facilitate the understanding of shutoff procedure during building evacuations.

AKUT’s partners with sight impairments have also suggested that using a toy or small scale art model can be useful when instructing earthquake protection postures. This was also taken into account. Yet, we have discovered that using a “live” model (for example the trainer himself/herself) to whom the blind participants could touch would also work.

go to index

Author: Funda Atun (Politecnico di Milano)
Mega-event related activities can be organized into six main groups, namely planning, construction of the site, training, collaboration, communication and legacy, in three different time periods; before, during and after the event. Security, Safety and Resilience are the three main notions and are strongly connected with mega-event related activities.
Security issues are more present before the event, during the construction of the event site. Security includes all the measures taken to protect the construction site before and during the event against any kind of attack. Regarding successful security, ın London an ex-military officer mentioned that “you need to find the right balance between making people alert and interested in security, and not alarming them.” Safety means the protection of people and properties from hazards caused by non-malicious incidents. In such events, however, absolute safety is not possible (interview with an officer of fire brigade, June 2016, London). Regarding resilience, one of the officials from Milan said that auto protection is the key for resilience, and it is important to accept that there will be a phase of chaos during the event.

Guidelines for planning of the event

Planning activities involve the definition of organizations and personnel, budget and timing. Choosing the right people according to skill requirements and keeping key people on major projects throughout the entire process is the key for a successful event. Another issue is the budget estimation. Generally, the cost of the mega-events is underestimated and funding overestimated (House of Commons, 2007). Timing is also crucial, and a criterion that is difficult to meet. It is true that the roles/duties of all involved authorities/personnel are defined clearly and publicly. However, as an official from the fire brigade mentioned, being able to improvise is necessary to be quick in decision making for a timely response to an incident (interview with a fire brigade officer, February 2015, Milan).

Guidelines for new constructions

Disaster risk reduction must be a part of all development and infrastructure system investments, to increase the resilience of the systems. There are the other issues, such as the new risk landscape, including terrorism, traffic jams and changing hazard conditions that increase the vulnerability of cities and the multiple interaction patterns of infrastructure systems. The latter occurs between the three layers existing in the city: spatial, organizational (public institutions or private, depending on the owner of the infrastructure system) and social (the users of the system).

The maximum building rights, the negotiating criteria, and any specific requirements and rules should be defined in the plans for the areas of transformation, and they cannot go against the DRR plans. In the areas of transformation, the inclusion of public functions and disaster risk reduction features should always be allowed if the area is located in a disaster risk prone area.
Coordinated actions for development should consider sustainable use of the territory. It is crucial to consider in the plans the integration and enhancement of policies regarding cultural heritage, heritage, rural products and environmental and water resources.

Guidelines for training

A respondent from Milan mentioned that it is possible to solve every problem with the help of technology, which has zero cost in some of the cases; however, the problem is the involvement of humans in every system. Therefore, they conducted at least ten drills with a blind control station to test the communication mechanisms. Through training and test drills, they do not only test the system and learn what to do; they also know each other and build trust between officials from different organizations. Trust is the key to flexibility during collaboration and communication activities.

Guidelines for better collaboration:
Indeed, mega-events are multi-organizational activities. Before all else, it is important to support the organization and operation activities with innovative IT tools. All the stakeholders involved with different temporal and spatial scales before, during, and after the event should be represented in the meetings and during the decision-making processes. The stakeholders should be grouped according to their target group and context.

Trust should be built before the event on vertical and horizontal levels between stakeholders. That helps to achieve an understandable, co-produced, shared and useful knowledge, and, most importantly, it helps to achieve flexibility when a decision has to be made rapidly. It is important to be in contact with actors from different practical backgrounds, such as academics, practitioners, and NGOs.

Guidelines for better communication:
In the Milan EXPO 2015, the communication plan was established by considering the current plan. There is a communication system between municipality and province. Through the communication system, they deal with ordinary information. For emergencies, they have a communication protocol. The protocol has to be signed and filled in by prefecture and all the other related institutions. It is updated every 1.5 and 3 hours after inserting the information into the common platform. Then, a situation report is prepared according to the collected data.
The state of emergency declaration was via SMS, and the dissemination of warnings was via megaphones. Inside the EXPO area, the organizations have their own systems to warn people. Additionally, there was a connected video and radio communication system inside and outside the EXPO area.

The key message here is that with such big events, the huge amount of data is a challenge. If data arrives casually, it cannot help anyone. The data has to be filtered, as no one has time to search for particular data in the huge amount of data overall.

Guidelines for the legacy achievement

Regarding the legacy, there are several issues, from an increased number of tourists to the introduction of advanced technology in certain areas. Also, the current safety and security mechanisms can be tested by hosting a mega event. Such events are also engines of urban developments and lead to regeneration and urban renewal in deprived areas. The key for the new construction areas is sustainable use of the territory and event site, even after the event. Moreover, the public should know more about the organizations and they can follow them through social media channels, which make it easy to reach them when it is necessary. Besides, in both cases, the volunteer teams are still active in case of necessity.

A well-organized mega-event is helpful for the formation of human capital in the field of design, implementation and management of the event. If the social inclusion strategy is adapted during the implementation phase, the labour market can be adapted and allow access to those from a lower social status. Mega-events also trigger tourism in the medium and long term; the numbers both from London and Milan prove this statement. The main reasons are improved conditions, increased visibility, and increased supply conditions.
The overall key message for a successful mega-event is the “right people, right training and right sources at the right time!”

go to index

Author: Scira Menoni (Politecnico di Milano)

There has been an increasing interest in the last years in developing better tools and methods for psot disaster damage data collection and analysis. Reasons are summarized by the Sendai Framework in the first pillar “Understanding disaster risk”. According to De Groeve et al. (2013) who took the lead of the European Commission technical effort of providing Europe with better and better shared damage databases, damage data are important for a variety of purposes, summarized in figure 6.5.1.. First, with better knowledge of damage and losses we can improve program resources to cope with them and possibly to avoid them (accounting). Understanding better the causes of damage, that is called forensic investigation, including also the man-made causes arising from excessive exposure in hazardous areas and high levels of vulnerability, we can better address reconstruction decisions and also reveal lessons to help mitigating risks in areas similar to the ones that have been affected (identifying and prioritizing needs). Finally, improved damage data can be used for calibrating and verifying the risk models, testing damage forecast outputs against observed damage that has actually occurred in a given scenario, in the particular event that has occurred.

Figure 6.5.1. Purposes for which post disaster damage data are collected (adapted from De Groeve et al., 2013)

The method and the tools that have been tested and further deeloped during the Educen project are the result of a long lasting collaboration between researchers at the Politecnico di Milano and the Civil Protection Authority of the Umbria Region. Such collabortion constitutes a real example of co-production of knowledge, intended as the blending of scientific, legislative and organizational knowledge (see Mejri and Pesaro, 2015). The starting point is in fact the belief that not only scientific knolwedge is relevant for post-disaster damage data collection and analysis, but also knowledge regarding the legislative system in one country as regard the declaration and the management of state of emergencies, knowledge regarding how public organizations work and how emergency and recovery are managed and what are the norms, the rules, and the practices that characterize such complex tasks.

In fact, the Umbria Region case study constitutes a real example of co-production of knowledge and tools, that have been established in a joint effort to respond to multiple needs, partly scientific and partly administrative. We are firmly convinced that the success of the Umbria Region case is due to the fact that civil protection officials and researchers were able to meet on a common ground and integrate their perspective. What has permitted this process of sharing and blending of experiences, methods and tools, what has permitted to develop jointly the procedure and to apply it, is the fact that on both parts there were “pracademics” willing to cross borders between different types of knowledge (scientific, administrative, legislative) and who had experience in both fields (Duncan et al., 2014; Posner, 2007). On the one hand, a significant portion of the personnel of the Civil Protection Authority including in particular those working at the Functional Centre, had been originally researchers at the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) working on hydrology and hydraulic risk in the Perugia facility. It may be hold that the most relevant feature such civil protection practitioners exhibit is their wish to systematize procedures and to develop system oriented approaches that will be apt to tackle the complexity of contemporary emergencies.

Figures 6.5.2. Researchers and professional volunteers surveying affected businesses

On the other side, researchers of the Politecnico di Milano displayed orientation to practice applied research, and were looking for tools and methods that could be of use in the real world and not just in laboratories. Even though researchers of the Politecnico are not “pracademics” in the most common sense of the word, there is a rather long tradition of co-working and co-design with professionals and public administration officials that go back to the work of Donald Schon (1984) as expressed in the “Reflective Practitioner”, and which has evolved more recently in the participatory planning approach that has gained so many adepts in the last decade (Susskind, 2013).

In the year and a half of the project a number of attempts have been carried out to “export” the experience to other regions. In fact the case is known in several arenas, the most important of which is certainly the Technical Group constituted by DG-ECHO and led by the JRC in Ispra on Disaster Loss Data for the improvement of national databases and enhanced civil protection capacity at the European level. A number of meetings have been carried out with the National Department of Civil Protection in Italy (on the 5/11/2015 and on the 22/03/2016) to present the practice and provide hints for the ongoing development of post flood damage data collection to support compensation and also request for the Solidarity Fund.

go to index

In Figure 6.5.5. the set of activities necessary to carry out the post-flood damage data collection and analysis to support a comprehensive reporting is represented as it has been set out in the Umbria Region case.

Figure 6.5.3.: sequence of activities for post-flood damage assessment

The following activities are envisaged:

    1. First the identification and mapping of the flooded zones. This seems an apparently trivial activity, but it actually requires profound knowledge about how the maps can be actually obtained, what are the procedures to acquire satellite data, aerial flights, or the execution of direct surveys by public administration personnels or volunteers.

In order to carry out this task hydraulic engineering and hydrology are needed to identify the best solution for mapping and carry out the modelling that sometimes need to complement observation. Knowledge in GIS techniques, satellite images interpretation, and aerial photography is also essential to carry out this task. Within the Umbria Region for example a community of practice has been developed together with technical volunteers and with the officials in charge of rivers inspection to survey the perimeter of inundated zones after a flood using topographic methods. The different sources of information, from the air and from the ground, and modelling, are complementing each other.

  • Second, the collection and storing of data that are collected in the form of notifications or aid requests by the civil protection emergency control centre. Such notifications may come from public utilities providers, from municipalities, from any agency that reports damage that needs to be taken care of. The important point here is the storage of this data so that it will be available after the problems have been solved to carry out deeper analysis. This activity requires the coordination of the operational knowledge of those working in the operational centre and knowing how data are collected and the procedures to respond to help requests on the one hand and information science knowledge to help create the best repository for the coming data and information.
  • Direct surveys carried out at affected residential, commercial and industrial buildings. To be effective those surveys need to count on prior preparation, such as provision of maps of the areas to be surveyed and forms to be compiled to collect all relevant information. Know what: for each category of buildings to be surveyed one needs to know why certain data have to be collected and what is their utility for forensic investigation, compensation purposes etc. Knowledge on damage types on different structural, non-structural and content components of buildings need also to be possessed so as to understand why a certain indicator has been inserted in the survey form.
    Know how: the survey is a technique per se that has been tested and experimented since long, there are therefore tips for well-conducted surveys that have to be shared among all those in charge of this task. Having a reference place where to find such knowledge is helpful to carry out quick checks during an emergency or to teach new volunteers or staff that have recently joined.
  • Analysis and organization of data coming from various authorities ranging from municipalities, to utilities providers, to economic sectors associations, who report damage suffered in their territories or by their affiliated. Such damage is generally reported to a variety of organizations and agencies and are very rarely used to compile a comprehensive damage assessment. Yet they are used nowadays in Italy to provide some compensation according to a recovery plan detailed on the basis of the money that is made available for the disaster by national authorities. Such data are also needed to request access to the European Solidarity Fund, in case the latter is applied for.
    Know what: the list of authorities, utilities providers, agencies and organizations one may need to contact to get data about disaster damage may be large and subject to some changes even within the same territorial context. Also the data providers may change according to specific arrangements that can be context dependent but also derive from specific legislation or ordinances set for one specific event.


Know how: the analysis of data coming from different authorities, sources in different formats are never easy to treat so as to provide a coherent and comprehensive picture of the damage. One may need knowledge on the better techniques to be used to harmonize data from different sources, but also find references and examples of how this has been successfully done in past experiences in the same community of practice or somewhere else.

Figure 6.5.4. General overview of the structure of the Information System under development

An IT system need to be developed (figures 6.5.4). Such a system is still under development in the form necessary to support the activities that are foreseen in figure 6.5.5. The system shall support only to data collection but support different queries to for multiple purposes, beyond compensation, including forensic analysis, improvement of risk modelling capacity, assessment of needs apart from compensation, orienting towards a resilient reconstruction, and accounting, to identify trends and to support the monitoring of policies and programs for disaster risk reduction (see De Groeve et al., 2013).

  • Production of a first report summarizing the severity of the event and the damage that has been surveyed in the days after the event. Such report is generally produced to ask for the state of emergency declaration, to which the possibility to access funding for emergency and recovery is linked. Rapid post-disaster damage assessment is a branch per se, that requires specific techniques and knowledge on how to carry out estimation when the full picture is still not clear.
    Know what: a first report can be produced for a variety of purposes that can be made explicit and that may lead to slight differences in the way the report is compiled.
    Know how: there are some examples of rapid post event assessments that have been developed worldwide and that can constitute a useful reference (for example the PDNA methodology). Of course, for the community of practice it is fundamental to capitalize on the procedures and the experiences that have been developed in exercises and in real events.
  • Production of a more advanced and complete damage assessment report. A full report of the event, comprising several types of analyses and the delineation of the complete scenario of damage and losses that occurred, should be produced, comprising qualitative and quantitative synthesis of queires in the form of graphs, tables and maps (Menoni et al., 2016 and Menoni et al., 2017). In fact one may think of one comprehensive report or more reports, each responding to a specific need and target, such as compensation, orientation of recovery and reconstruction, forensic, etc. This report or those reports constitute a fundamental material to be able in the future to compare situations and damages across time and space among individual events. This report should contain a more robust assessment of the damage, carried out sometime after the event so that also indirect and longer-term damage can be estimated. In addition a forensic analysis of the damage should be
    carried out so as to guide recovery and reconstruction decisions.

Know what: a more advanced report, and there might be more than one, depending on the time at which it is developed (for example one six months after the event and one year later), requires a much deeper analysis of the damage. A comprehensive overview of physical damage and losses should be provided together with an analysis of the hazard, exposure and vulnerability factors that weighted more on the final loss account. For such an analysis also an understanding of the hazard and risk maps that were available before the event is necessary to assess on the one hand the level and severity of damages that could have been estimated before and on the other the extent to which mitigation measures were actually tailored to that level and severity of risk.

Know how: some examples of how to develop such a comprehensive report are available for example in France and in the UK; within the Umbria Region community of practice a sort of agreed upon flexible index has been developed and constitutes a guidance for such advanced reports.

go to index

In order to rationalize the methodology that has been developed by doing as described in the previous paragraph, the following steps and methods have been set up, which can be considered as a reference for any other authority at the European (or even international level) wishing to carry out the same procedure. Whenever aspects that are specific to Italy are addressed they will be mentioned explicitly.

First it is fundamental to appoint an authority and a team in charge of data coordination. This means that the team is reponsible for grouping the data that different authorities, even in the same public adminsitration, are collecting from a variety of sources and from multiple levels of government or public agencies. This is the case of the data collected by municipalities, by public authorities in charge of the road system, by civil protection officials, by departments in charge of damage to businesses. Furthermore the team should attempt to get data also from private or semi-public bodies, such as lifelines managing companies and insurers. Data can be obtained directly but sometime also indirectly, through the requests of help of citizens that experience outages or need support to finalize their claims.

The team should coordinate also the data that are collected through surveys directly by the civil protection, for example of lifelines and critical facilities that have been damaged, of residential units or businesses they visit in the affected areas.

Figure 6.5.5. Timeline of the joint procedure to collect and analyze post flood data

Second, the damage data collection procedure should follow the time scale of the disastrous event and its managment. At first rapid assessment and survey for the declaration of the state of emergency must be produced. Then more accurate damage surveys should follow in order to support compensation and also repair projects. In every country the timing for submitting different reports is set by law or by decrees. In figure 6.5.5 it is shown how the damage assessment procedure that has been agreed upon is actually tailored to the timing set by the Italian system.

Table 6.5.1. Main activities included in RISPOSTA, according to the logical axes of the procedure (time, actors, actions and exposed sectors)

Third, a shared protocol for post flood damage assessment must be defined and agreed upon among all stakeholders who are partners in the data collection and analysis effort. In the case of the Umbria Region such protocol aims at including besides the Regional Civil Protection Authority in all its branches, also municipalities, public lifelines companies, private lifelines companies, volunteers and the Politecnico di Milano (see Table 6.5.1.). In the protocol the different steps previously described are addressed and a responsible authority or body is designated to perform it. The protocol has been already shared in public meetings with the different stakeholders. It should have been passed as an annex to the Regional Civil Protection regulation, but the earthquake has delayed its official approval by the Regional Government. The whole procedure that has been developed with the Umbria Civil Protection Authority is named Risposta and has been already published and disseminated in scientific publications (Ballio et al. 2015; Berni et al., 2017)

go to index

In order to carry out the surveys, ad hoc forms need to be developed; such forms can be in papery form as was the case in the case of the Umbria Region.

Table 6.5.2. Indicators that have been surveyed in the case of industrial and commercial activities

In the case of a complete and functioning information system one needs to know what are the variables and the data to be collected, then a user friendly interface can be created to insert the data directly into the database overcoming the double steps of first filling the forms manually and then inserting the data in the system.

It would be better though to develop a full information system according to step d. in order to be able later to carry out different types of queries supporting a range of different analytical and reporting purposes, including of course compensation purposes, that are the primary ones from the point of view of a public administration in the aftermath of a disaster.

In the following tables, the variables and data that are have been collected in the Umbria case are shown; they can be considered rather comprehensive and fulfilling the purpose for which the post-disaster damage data collection procedure has been developed.
In table 6.5.2 the data to be collected for industrial facilities are indicated; in table 6.5.3 the data for residential buildings are summarized.

Table 6.5.3. Indicators that have been surveyed in the case of residential buildings

go to index

Up to now the full event comprehensive report has been defined and standardized. The idea being to provide public officials a sort of checklist of topics and aspects to be covered after each event, so that all relevant damage and losses are covered according to a predefined following examples of “Retourn of experience” reports produced in France after cases of floods (Direction Territoriale, 2014) adapted and systematized according to the concept of multiuse and comprehensive overview of damage and losses. Important key features of the standard report are:

  • The reporting of both the feature of the trigerring and cascading phenomena at the regional and the local scale. For floods this means to describe the meteorological conditions that produced the flood, the general hydrological patterns in the region and the localized phenomena of inundations, including water depths, velocity, duration, transport of sediment, presence of contaminants, etc.
  • The reporting of damage by sector as shown in the box 1. Damage to each sector should be described at the regional and the local scale, depending on the relevance and type of damage. For example systemic damage is generally more relevant at the regional and even above-regional scale, while damage to residential units can be easily represented locally.
  • Damage and losses should be reported and analyzed through graphs, tables and maps when useful to localize and cluster damage. Descriptions of the latter should describe with words graphs, tables and maps.
    For the detailed description of the application of the reporting system to the Umbria case study one may refer to two publications, one already published, one forthcoming (exected in May 2017) (Menoni et al, 2016 and Menoni et al., 2017).

Table 6.5.4. Standardized index of the complete event report

go to index

In the following boxes key messges for civil protection organisation, for the general public, and for researchers have been elicited.

Key messages for Civil Protection Organizations

Key message 1. Better damage and loss data are important to support a number of policies, from international, such as the indicators of the Sendai Framework for DRR, to European, in particular with respect to the Guidance for Recording and Sharing Disaster Damage and Loss Data (EU Working Group, 2015), to national. Enhanced damage data are fundamental for evidence based decisions regarding mitigation measures, to better understand damage mechanisms so as to reduce pre-event vulnerabilities and also for improving risk assessments, that need to be more contextualized fully acknowledging the characteristics of the built environment and of urban and regional fabric.

Key message 2. Better damage data in the long run will permit to improve substantially damage accounting to support programming of resources that will be needed to cope with future events, particularly if climate change and other social and economic drivers that may change the situation we were used to in the past, are considered.

Key message 3. Improving the quality and the detail of damage data is not impossible, as shown in the case study of the Umbria Region. One need coordination capacity, willingness to interact with stakeholders of different private and public organizations to collect the data. Enhanced and enabling IT system should permit a better organization of data, their storage and subsequent query.

Key message 4. Data should not be collected just as a formal compliance to some norm or international policy; rather they should be used and exploited as much as possibile to extract all possible information content in analyses of different types from forensic to accounting, and also to improve risk modelling. Different types of reports, for different purposes are much easier to produce once the data have been collected in a rational, coordinated and systematic way. We simply lack this type of reports. Reports that are available, but become soon outdated and many times get lost, are like the one we have used for the earthquake in Umbria, made for administrative and very specific purposes like a meeting or a request by the national government.

Key message 5. Improving the quality and the detail of data will not avoid issues of reliability, double counting, subjective judgement. As shown by Handmer (2002) in his compelling article titled “The chimera of precision: inherent uncertainties in disaster loss assessment”, there is no such thing as “true” or “perfect” damage data. However a lot can be done to make both the collection and the use of data for reporting more transparent, rigorous and beneficial for different communities (from citizens to researchers to insurers, to public officials to decision makers).

Key messages for the public

Key message 2. Citizens may have enormous advantages in improving the quality and the speed at which damage data are collected, as they may have more control on the entire process from self-declaration to confirmation and validation by certified surveyors to compensation.

Key message 4. Having at societal disposal overtime better damage databases will permit decisions that are more grounded on facts and evidence rather than on assumptions that may prove to be wrong leading to mitigation measures that are both expensive and not as useful as hoped for.

Key messages for researchers

Key message 1. In a multi-stakeholders partnership it may well be advisable that research institutions take on themselves the task of developing some types of comprehensive reports of damage scenarios, to improve the understanding of the damage drivers and causes (forensic) and for enhanced risk modelling.

Key message 2. Working with real data, developing complete and comprehensive assessments of damage and losses may help researchers to be closer to the ground and to reality, to overcome established assumptions that are shared among researchers but cannot be verified in reality. For example many scientific articles deal with damage provoked by floods to residential houses, however our work has clearly shown that at least in some contexts (mountain areas for example) damage to economic activities and lifelines is much more relevant and more effort should be invested in understanding such damage and modelling it.

Key message 3. Researchers are sometime very focused on specific aspects of the risk condition, for example on the hazard or on specific aspects of the built environment (such as material and construction techniques). Whilst this is certainly welcome to advance in the scientific understanding of the risk mechanisms, public administrators and civil protection organizations need to intervene on the entire spectrum of the disaster. An approach that considers in a more systematic fashion the different sectors that may be affected by the event, their mutual interdependency and their interaction with the specific features of the hazardous phenomena is key for a practical use of damage analyses. Such work may be also useful for researchers to put the specialized work they are conducting on his/her own into a wider context.

Key message 4. Working together with civil protection officials in collecting data provides a huge advantage to researchers, that compensate for the time consuming effort. In fact, this way researchers become more aware of what the data they will use for scientific purposes actually mean, what type of damage description or what costs is actually implied by the figures. It is a rather different situation when researchers receive the data already packed in a closed form from administrations or insurance companies.

go to index

Authors: Karina Barquet (SEI)

Collaborative Learning is a framework and set of techniques intended for multiparty decision situations. It is a means of designing and implementing a series of events to promote creative thought, constructive debate and the effective implementation of proposals that the stakeholders generate (Daniels & Walker, 2001). Collaborative Learning is used to facilitate a shared understanding of complex issues by combining the presentation of information with dialogue amongst a group of stakeholders in order to clarify the scope and definition of problems. The aim is to create an enabling environment in which stakeholders with divergent views are able to engage in constructive dialogue to jointly design strategies or recommendations to a specific problem (Feurt, 2008).

PROCESS of collaborative learning follows these steps: assess, design an action strategy, implement the strategy, evaluate results, and design next action.
RELATIONSHIPS are important and stakeholders are considered equal partners. Differences in knowledge and worldview are respected and treated as resources for collective problem solving.
COMMUNICATION among stakeholders is honest, sincere, understandable and appropriate. Procedures exist for fostering dialogue that contributes to a shared understanding of areas of agreement and disagreement. Consensus is not required in order to make progress on shared goals.
INCLUSION, to the extent possible, of all groups with a stake in solving the problem should be represented in order to consider diverse aspects of the issue (scientific, political, economic, legal, etc.). Strive to identify and include people who will provide comprehensive perspectives on the problem being addressed and are in a position to take actions that will move toward the desired outcomes.
PARTICIPATION should aim at actively involving stakeholders in the co-creation of knowledge about the nature of the problem to be addressed, development of an action strategy to make progress and selection of tasks that can be accomplished within their sphere of influence. Stakeholders should be willing to commit to these working principles.
FACILITATORS are catalysts for innovation and change. They support stakeholders as they analyze information and develop strategies that make sense in their work environment.

go to index

EDUCEN adapted the 4 phase collaborative learning cycle as outlined by Feurt (2008). The activities implemented in each of the steps are explained below.
Phase 1 Assessment. A review of secondary material from each of the participant cities as well as data generated by city coordinators in the course of the project was carried out as a first step. Based on this data collection, semi-formal skype interviews were conducted with each of the pilot coordinators guided by a questionnaire designed to identify the cultural aspects of DRR within the pilots. This questionnaire was sent to each pilot coordinator a couple of weeks ahead of the interview to give coordinators the time to prepare. The interviews with pilot coordinators generated further knowledge about the particular cultural and disaster risk contexts of each of the pilot cities, the methodological issues that each of the coordinators is facing, the stage of the project of each of the cities, and the similarities and differences between cities.

Figure 6.1. Collaborative Learning Cycle

Based on the summary from the secondary data analysis, the data collected, and the information gathered through the interviews, a situation map, in the form of an excel sheet, was developed. This map was used as point of departure for the subsequent stakeholder engagements in the project. The situation map contains information on key issues, such as the hazard in focus (e.g. floods), the main challenges linked to the hazard, the target group approached in each of the cities, the goal that each pilot city has in EDUCEN, the type of objectives in the project (management, communication/information, physical/infrastructure, or institutional/organizational), the method used to achieve the goals in each of the cities, and whether any of the experiences in one pilot city could potentially be transferred to another pilot city (internal document Objective Matrix 2016). Hereon, we identified the main opportunities and challenges for change in each of the pilot sites. These were grouped into 5 categories: communication, trust, social exclusion, coordination, and participation (Barquet, Thomalla, Osbeck forthcoming).
Phase 2 Design the process. This phase was carried out in close cooperation with city coordinators and other local stakeholders from some of the EDUCEN cities. Through a one-time workshop, the problem statements was firstly confirmed, and later further developed based on three strategic questions: WHAT, WHO and HOW, posed in relation to the 5 key issues identified under Phase 1 and highlighted in the table below.

Table 6.1. Key topics in culture and drr

Group Activity 1: “Think, Write, Share”

Duration: 1 hour
Room setup: 3 tables with 6 chairs each (5 stakeholders plus 1 translator per table). Tables should be spread across the room. Each table has a topic (volunteers, gatekeepers, communication)
Material needed:

  • 1 Flip Chart with the title (Gatekeepers, Volunteers, Awareness Raising) on top
  • big post-it’s on each table (1 color per theme)
  • Signs with assigned groups per table pens
  • markers


  1. Stakeholders will look for their names on the list and go to the table assigned to them.
  2. A facilitator per table is assigned
  3. THINK: Stakeholders will read through the set of questions given in each of the tables. Each question contains a short background and a set of questions. (3 minutes).
  4. WRITE: Stakeholders will individually answer the questions. One answer per post-it and at least one answer per question per person (4 minutes).
  5. SHARE: The table will take rounds where each person shares their thoughts. One post-it per person per round without interruptions. Stakeholders need to wait for their turn to be able to speak. Facilitator will collect the post-its and paste them on the flipchart (10 minutes).
  6. After 15 minutes change table according to List 2. Repeat the steps above.
  7. After 15 minutes change tables one last time. Repeat the steps above.

Group Activity 2: Categorize Issues

Duration: 30 minutes
Room setup: 1 room per group (total 3 groups). In this exercise stakeholders were grouped in their respective countries: Spain, Italy, Sweden/Netherlands.

Material needed:

  • 1 Flip chart (prepared according to template) on each room
  • Post its (3 different colors, 1 color per room)
  • Printed lists with issues from Activity 1
  • Big signs for doors with case-name in each of the rooms
  • Pens
  • Markers


  1. Stakeholders will look at the list with issues from Activity 1 and select those that seem relevant to their context.
  2. For each selected issue, stakeholders will discuss a possible strategy to address the issue. One issue/strategy per post-it
  3. After 30 minute-discussion, take a break. All material should be left in the room because stakeholders will come back to the same rooms for Group Activity 3.

Group Activity 3: Rank issues

Duration: 30 minutes
Room setup: same as in Activity 2
Material needed: same as in Activity 2


  1. Stakeholders will go through the list of selected issues with corresponding strategies
  2. For each post-it, stakeholders will have to think about the actors that should be involved for implementing the strategy
  3. Stakeholders will then rank their post it’s on the scale in the flipchart (fig. X)
  4. Group leaders should take notes on why issues were positioned that way. Each group will have a chance to present their results during the final activity.
  5. After a break gather back with the whole group.

Activity 4: Lessons learned and feedback to plenary

Duration: 45 minutes
Room setup: Large room with all groups gathered. Tables and chairs facing the whiteboard

Material needed:

  • Group flip charts
  • Whiteboard or board to stick the flip charts
  • tap



  1. Group leaders will have 10 minutes each to present their flip charts and discuss the selection of strategies, actors, and how issues were positioned.
  2. After all groups have presented, all stakeholders will engage in an open discussion on lessons learned and ways forward.

go to index

Broadly defined, stakeholders are persons, groups, or communities who have a concern in a process or in a geographical area through residence, employment, or interest. Stakeholders may be self-identified, or they may be selected. Stakeholders may represent themselves directly, or they may represent their community or particular interest groups. Stakeholders involve a whole range of actors from statutory agencies through to individual citizens (Forrester, Gerger Swartling, & Lonsdale, 2008). EDUCEN has specifically focused on two type of civil society actors: volunteers and gatekeepers/leaders.

Implementing collaborative learning in DRR

Good stakeholder engagement processes do not ‘just happen’ (Forrester et al., 2008). They require careful planning in order to identify who participates, the timing of events and modes of engagement, and the outcome of that engagement, as well as analysis and evaluation of the process.

go to index

This WIKI intended to provide guidance on analysing, identifying and mapping cultural assets and challenges of culture in urban disaster management. The guide builds on the information collected in the State of the Art report written for the EDUCEN project and aims to set the stage for a practical application of this information in real situations.
Culture is a critical driver of risk perception, vulnerability, and resilience. Yet the multiple roles that culture may play as an asset or obstacle in disaster risk reduction (DRR) have so far not been explored and set out. There is a lack of compelling exemplary stories of culture in DRR inEuropean cities. Most studies that triggered our attention for ‘culture’ and ‘disaster’ either (a) provided non European examples (b) described disasters in rural areas (c) focused predominantly on the protection of physical cultural heritage or (d) were to a large extent historical in their content.

EDUCEN aims to investigate the influence of cultural aspects on how different people may perceive a risky situation and act/react according to this perception. EDUCEN understands ‘culture’ as: The (learned) knowledge, beliefs, values, art, rules and law, customs and norms, and social structure that people use to comprehend and give meaning to the world around them, and which together form the “toolkit’’ or repertoire of habits, skills, and styles from which people construct “strategies of action’’.
Important to note here is that individuals are not passive recipients of culture but rather active participants that create and give meaning to culture. People can select certain aspects of culture, whilst rejecting others, to construct ‘’strategies of action’’.

The following glossary is the result of the wiki activity implemented under the EDUCEN project when the meaning of terms has been agreed upon by project partners.

go to index


Vulnerability has been conceptualized in many ways depending on various research disciplines, but it is developed largely in those social sciences addressing environmental risks and hazards (Kasperson & Kasperson 2005). A working definition is provided by Wisner et al who consider vulnerability as “the characteristics of a person or group and their situation that influence their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist, and recover from the impact of a natural hazard’’ (Wisner et al. 2003: 11). It involves a combination of factors that determine to what extent people, their livelihood, property, or other assets are put at risk by events, or series of events, in nature and society.
Inherent in the approach is that risks are different for everyone, even if they face the same hazard. Vulnerable populations are those at risk not simple because they are exposed to hazard but because they cannot absorb its impact as a result of marginality. Taking into account people and the differences among them (Bradshaw 2004), vulnerability is a key concept in predicting and understanding the existence of differentiated impacts of a natural disaster on the various groups in a society. Vulnerability however is not a fixed property of social groups or individuals, but is embedded in complex social relations and processes (Hilhorst & Bankoff 2004), and therefore subject to change.

Guiding questions to be used as a starting point for analysis and data collection

  • What cultural factors/dimensions contribute to the vulnerability to disaster?
  • Are there certain groups of people that might be more vulnerable due to their position (age-, gender-, ethnic-, economic-, social- position?) and why?
  • Are specific groups in society particularly vulnerable in one or more stages of the disaster cycle (e.g. migrants, refugees, women, retirees, people with an impairment)?
  • How are people’s perceptions, knowledge, and access to information of influence on their vulnerability?
  • To what degree are vulnerable local communities supported to actively participate in risk reduction decision making, policy making, and planning and implementation processes?


Contrary to the concept of vulnerability, resilience starts from people’s own capabilities and potential. The word resilience is derived from the Latin word resilio, meaning “to jump back’’ (Klein et al. 2003). The concept of resilience has quickly gained popularity in the field of disaster studies and emergency management as an effective and efficient way to reduce prevailing vulnerabilities and thereby the risk of disaster (Engel et al. 2014). The review of Keck and Sakdapolrak (2013) of literature published on resilience provides insight into a variety of definitions. Keck and Sakdapolrak found that all definitions of resilience have in common that they are concerned with social entities –individuals, organizations, or communities-, and their abilities or capacities to tolerate, absorb, cope with and adjust to various kinds of environmental and social threats. Based on their exploration of the literature, the authors propose to define (social) resilience as being comprised of three dimensions:

  1. Coping capacities; the ability of social actors to cope with and overcome all kinds of adversities
  2. Adaptive capacities; their ability to learn from past experiences and adjust themselves to future challenges in their everyday lives
  3. Transformative capacities; their ability to craft sets of institutions that foster individual welfare and sustainable societal robustness towards future crises.

Guiding questions to be used as a starting point for analysis and data collection

  • What cultural factors/dimensions contribute and / or diminish resilience to disaster in your case?
  • Are there certain groups of people that are more resilient to disaster? Why?
  • What strategies do people use to increase their resilience? cope and deal with adversities?
  • How and what did the community learn from past crises? What adjustments have been made?
  • Have proactive adjustments been made to develop increased competence to deal with threats? Have these adjustments been institutionalized?


The EDUCEN project adopts the understanding of risk of Douglas and Wildavsky, valuing risk perception as a socio-cultural phenomenon. Perceptions of risk are embedded in culture. As noted by Douglas and Wildavsky (1982), the cultural belief system determines the collective notions of how the world functions. These collective notions also contain social constructed ‘’images’’ of the world, including perceptions on what is dangerous and how to cope with risk. Individual aspects of risk perception are influenced by the social community that people live in and vice versa. The cultural context is also interrelated to individual perception as well as to the social system.
This social knowledge is essential for the members of a society to evaluate situations and act in an appropriate manner. Consequently, understanding the ways risks are dealt with requires a thorough understanding of the cultural setting. Inherent in such an understanding is the recognition that these risk perceptions often rely on intuitive risk judgement or beliefs rather than on rational deliberations, and therefore may differ considerably from risk assessments by experts of the same event. As Alexander argues, “decisions about whether to mitigate a natural hazard are often not a function of how dangerous the hazard is in absolute or objective terms but how dangerous it is perceived to be’’

Guiding questions for analysing, identifying and mapping risk perception

  • Has there been previous experience with disaster?
  • How does this previous experience influence current risk perceptions? (heightened risk perception?)
  • What is the expectation of people from public authorities? Do they expect public authorities to take preventive measures? How does this influence their perception on risk?
  • What is the influence of people’s social, economic status and gender on their perception of risk?
  • What knowledge on disaster in their area do people have? Where does this knowledge come from (science, authorities, beliefs, stories etc)? What is the influence of this knowledge on risk perception and behavior?


Communities living in hazard-ridden or disaster-prone areas develop an array of coping mechanisms as well as more deeply embedded practices to deal with threats and opportunities their environments encompasses. The assemblage of cultural practices that over time emerges in response to recurring disasters has been identified as ‘disaster subcultures’ (Moore 1964; Wenger and Weller 1972, 1973; Anderson 1965, 1968). Moore (1964) first put forward the notion of ‘disaster subcultures’ to refer to these subcultures and shed light on ‘those adjustments, actual and potential, social, psychological and physical, which are used by residents of [hazardous] areas in their efforts to cope with disasters which have struck or which tradition indicates may strike in the future’ (Moore 1964: 195).
Experiencing recurrent disasters pushes communities to develop cultural strategies and practices, to deal with these adverse events and ensure increasing levels of resilience. Since hazards vary per locality, different groups face different potential disasters. Subsequently, wider cultures that cover larger geographical areas, are generally unable to provide all its members with an exhaustive assortment of appropriate hazard-related solutions. In addition, hazards generally do not strike on a daily basis. Therefore, readily available solutions and habitual modes of actions are often insufficient, and unique adaptations are required to deal with recurrent hazards. Over times this leads to a specific local subculture encompassing adaptive strategies that enable the community at hand to survive within hazardous environments.
Even though disaster subcultures consist of coping mechanisms that communities have historically found adequate, it is important to note that they can become a debilitating factor when conditions change.

Guiding questions for identifying, analysing and mapping disaster subcultures

  • Are the three key conditions for the development of disaster subcultures met:
    (1) Does the community face and acknowledge the existence of a recurrent threat?
    (2) Does the hazard allow for a period of forewarning?
    (3) Is the impact of hazards salient to different segments (various status levels) of the communities?
  • What has been the influence of previous disaster experiences on protective behavior?
  • What strategies and practices (socio-cultural, physical) have been developed to deal with recurrent disasters?
  • Do formal and informal mechanisms serve to equip newcomers with requisite disaster knowledge?


Religion, as part of our definition of culture, influences how we see disasters by providing meaning and sense of the world. It is thought to bind people together, gives comfort, and religious rituals are practiced as a way to cope with disasters. Vice versa, disasters influence religious beliefs by challenging existing interpretations of the world. Overall, religion can be used by people to understand, give meaning to and adapt to natural hazards.

It can be concluded from the literature on the topic of religion and disasters that religion plays an important role in the aftermath of disasters. For individuals affected by disaster, religion can serve a variety of functions. Also, it can be concluded that there is consensus on considering religion as a resource rather than a hindrance in the planning of disaster risk-reduction policies (Gaillard and Texier 2010).
It is possible for disaster management and planning to integrate the leadership roles of clergy and the historical experience of the church in charitable works into effective programmes of disaster relief. Yet again, due to the importance of the local context for religion (Oliver-Smith and Hoffman 2002) and the multifaceted and distinct roles of religious institutions (Cheema et al. 2014), a thorough understanding of the local context is crucial.

Guiding questions for identifying and analysing the role of religion

  • What religious institutions can be identified in the study area?
  • What role does religion play in regular life?
  • What is the influence of religion on the understanding and provision of meaning to disasters?
  • What has been the function of religious institutions in previous disasters?
  • What potential functions of religion can be identified in the different disaster phases?
  • What potential obstacles related to religion can be identified in the different disaster phases?
  • What is the influence of spiritual leaders on preparedness, response and recovery behavior?


For our purpose gender is defined as “the socially defined or constructed roles, attitudes and values which communities and societies ascribe as appropriate for one sex or the other. Gender does not describe the biological sexual characteristics by which females and males are identified. “Gender roles vary according to socio-economic, political and cultural contexts, and are affected by other factors, including age, class and ethnicity. Gender roles are learned and negotiated, or contested. They are therefore changeable. Besides differences in roles between women and men, roles among women and men differ as well.

Gender dynamics often translate in particular gender specific patterns of vulnerability as well as resilience. They also affect patterns of coping, how disaster experiences are built up, and risks perceived, how risk awareness is distributed and attitudes forged. In many instances the distribution of knowledge, assets, income, livelihood possibilities, decision making power, and access to services are also highly gendered. It now has been recognized that gender inclusiveness is vital for policies to become effective. As a clear example, the Sendai Framework 2015-2030 states as part of its general principles that “A gender, age, disability and cultural perspective should be integrated in all policies and practices, and women and youth leadership should be promoted”

Guiding questions to identifying, analysing and mapping gender issues

  • What are the key community and social norms concerning the roles of men and women in government, wider public, and community?
  • Are there specific gender roles that can be identified in response and recovery of disaster?
  • How would the effects and impact of disaster differ for men and boys on the one hand and for women and girls on the other?
  • How would the effects and impact of disaster differ among men and among women?
  • How are women, men, girls and boys included in disaster management planning and implementation processes? Is there a difference?
  • Are potential gender-specific patterns of vulnerability and resilience taken into account?
  • What are the implications of the above for disaster management in terms of needs, access, and assistance?

go to index


Cultural memory involves understanding how catastrophic events are absorbed into history. It reveals how communities adapt their cultural reservoirs over time in light of disastrous events based on accumulated shared experience and local knowledge of a group of people. A distinction should be made between collective memory, or social short term memory, and cultural memory, or social long term memory. Collective memory is based on oral tradition, shared by the group, often the family, and tends to disappear with the death of the last eye witness of the event. Cultural memory goes furtherback and is understood as a social long-term memory based on written and material sources. This form of memory needs to be underpinned with documents such as newspapers, archives, pictures, monuments,and photo albums (Pfister 2010). These kinds of memories are central to the constitution of culture. Hazards are retained in memory if they occur frequently, and the more frequently they occur, the more people are likely to foresee them and to try todevelop adequate adaptive strategies. “All preventive strategies are based onthe expectations generated by repeated experiences. Repetition therefore becomes a key concept inhistorical research on learning from disasters’’ (Mauelshagen in Pfister 2010). Severe disasters need to be permanently remembered in order to safeguard against the same devastating impact if they recur. The documentation of disasters and extreme events is therefore a crucial element in cultural memory.

Guiding questions to be used as a starting point for analysis and data collection

  • Is there knowledge on previous disasters in the history of the area? What knowledge?
  • How are previous disasters documented? (e.g. in the form of written records, photos, videos, documentaries, testimonies, evaluations)
  • In what way are they memorized? (e.g. oral history, physical signs, monuments, exhibitions, documentaries)
  • Did the memory of disaster in someway inspire the invention of social practices and techniques in dealing with catastrophes?
  • How can the memory of the previous disaster(s) be used to inspire the invention of practices/to safeguard against the same devastating impact in your area?
  • Is the knowledge on previous disasters in the area integrated incurrent disaster management practices? If so, how?


Physical infrastructures involve amendments to the physical surroundings and landscape to serve a given purpose (e.g. transportation; supply of electricity; orwater supply, management, and treatment).There are three elements which form the shape of acity;

  1. The man-made structure, including street network and placement of buildings on it
  2. The nature
  3. Activities (economic, social, organizational)

Although all cities include infrastructure, buildings andactivities, the shape, distribution and density of those elements provide the city with its general structure. The pattern of a street network, the building blocks on it and the buildings give shape to a city and structural characteristics differ between cities. Nature also affects the structure of cities. In some cities, natural elements are integrated into the city pattern. The third main element in physical culture of cities are the activities taking place. What and how land is used has an impact on disaster risk and vulnerabilities. We understand a city as a constructed space in which human actions take place. Cities are composed of two things: a large collection of buildings linked by space, “the physical city”, and a complex system of human activity linked by interaction, “the social city” (Hillier &Vaughan 2007). The physical and the social are therefore intrinsically linked.

Guiding questions to be used as a starting point for analysis and data collection

  • How is the city formed by the man-made structure (including street networks and buildings), nature, and activities (economic, social, organizational)?
  • How can this infrastructure function as an asset/obstacle to effective urban disaster management?
  • To what extent are local building practices adapted to potential disasters?
  • Are there risk-sensitive land-use regulations, building codes and health and safety codes across all building types? How well are they enforced?
  • How do land use policies and planning regulations for housing and developing infrastructure take current and expected disaster risk into account?
  • What measures are being taken to protect critical infrastructure located in high-risk areas?
  • What human activities take place that influence disaster risk and vulnerabilities?


Cultural heritage is commonly defined along the lines of ‘the archaeological and historical built environmentand moveable heritage’ (Taboroff 2003). This heritage serves a role in preserving local identity and personality, but also local knowledge; preserving heritage has educational purposes in awareness raising, as the layout of a city (plazas, avenues), the construction of buildings and infrastructure may reveal a logic that is often more in tune with urban exposure to natural hazards than today’s urban development.
This is even more the case for ancient civilisations. While modern urban citizens are unlikely to be persuaded to live in round Mayan houses for reasons of disaster proofing, preserving knowledge on early civilisations and its context reminds us of tested design principles that are easily forgotten. Material culture is composed of the tangible objects, movable or immovable, that people create or share, from stormsurge barriers and dikes, to disaster-proof houses that protect people from environmental hazards. Preserving and restoring ancient homes, roads and infrastructure can also have a very concrete use in Disaster Risk Reduction, preventing expensive unreflective planning for the future ‘from scratch’.

It makes good sense to include the time-honed cultural practices in this definition, and arrive at cultural heritage as the ‘products and processes of a culture that are preserved and passed on through the generations’ (including also nonmaterial culture).

Guiding questions to be used as a starting point for analysis and data collection

  • What material cultural heritage is present in relation to disaster in your case? (e.g. objects created or shared that protect people from environmental hazards)
  • What is the role of this material cultural heritage in current disaster management?
  • What other cultural heritage is present in your case that could be vulnerable to disaster?
  • To what extent are measures being taken to preserve this cultural heritage?


Urban places create new and complex emergency challenges concerned with typical city problems suchas segregation, socioeconomic deprivation, and inequities in health, well-being, and health care accessibility (Cutter and Emrich 2006). “The most common change in the composition of (mega)city hazard is increased polarization and spatial segregationof groups that have different degrees of vulnerability to disaster’’ (Mitchell 1999). In cities all over the world it is clear that poor and rich neighbourhoods are diverging with respect to the degrees of risk they are exposed to. Spatial patterns of hazards shift (and exposure increases) as cities grow, Mitchell notes. Spatial segregation is a feature of metropolises all over the world but it does not follow the same geographical pattern in every city. In some cities low-income households tend to live in peripheral areas of the city, while high-income households are more centrally located. In other cities, low-income households are concentrated in city centres, surrounded by suburban areas inhabited by higher income residents. In several cities disadvantaged communities with high concentrations of low-income groups are populated largely by ethnic minorities. Immigrants in WestEuropean countries, especially those newly arrived, are for example frequently overrepresented among theurban poor (Arbaci 2007).

Spatial segregation in cities on the basis of ethnicity/race and/or income has clear relevance for hazard vulnerability and disaster management. Understanding the distributional impacts of naturaldisasters across income and/or ethnic groups and neighbourhoods in a given city is crucial for planning,mitigation and recovery.

Guiding questions to be used as a starting point for analysis and data collection

  • Can patterns of spatial segregation be identified (e.g. do people with similar income/social or ethnic background live in the same area)?
  • What is the nature of this segregation?
  • What is the effect of spatial segregation in the study area?
  • How does this affect vulnerabilityand resilience to disaster of specific groups and areas?
  • To what extent is spatial segregation taken into account in the different phases of disaster management?


Social capital is typically defined as a function of trust,norms, and networks and is thought to be a key factor in community activities (Joshi and Aoki 2014). Socialties used to link groups and individuals together are referred to as ‘networks’ (Islam and Walkerden 2014).A growing body of literature emphasizes the role ofsocial capital in the context of disaster management. Social capital, in creating networks, can be subcategorized in three types: bonding-, bridging- and linking social capital. Different case studies demonstrated that the effectiveness of these networks strongly influences the capability to mobilize social capital in order to reduce disaster impacts (Joshi and Aoki 2014, Islam and Walkerdem 2014) EDUCEN attempts to locate and support the strengthening of networks in cities (bonding capital) while at the same time identifying differences and attempting to provide tools to deal with them (bridging capital) in disaster risk reduction. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, bonding and bridging networks quickly become relevant. In many cases, spontaneaous and informal network operate more or less cooperatively with trained organizations during the response phase (Vallance and Carlton2014). Similarly, the bonding social networks facilitate the sharing of crucial information needed to keep safe during the emergency. Bridging networks are usually active in providing access to additional resources (Islam and Walkerdem 2014). During the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase, affected communities usually need support from institutions through linking social networks. What the social capital concept emphasises is that community members are active agents rather than passive victims. This provides an important corrective to the predominant top-down, command and control approach, that often dominates in emergency management.

Guiding questions to be used as a starting point for analysis and data collection

  • What forms of bonding capital can be distinguished? What examples of bonding capital can be distinguished in relation to disaster?
  • What forms of bridging capital can be distinguished? What examples of bridging capital can be distinguished in relation to disaster?
  • What forms of linking capital can be distinguished ? What examples of linking capital can be distinguished in relation to disaster?
  • How do the three types of social capital function under stress?
  • How can they be strengthened to function as an asset during disaster?
  • What is/ can be the role of social media during heightened risk situations and disaster?

go to index


Besides having to take into account differences in their own organizational cultures, the stakeholders in disaster management also need to take account of the culture of the affected people. In order to reduce risk effectively, the different organizations in disaster management need to understand how to communicate and act in a way that takes account of the perspectives, behaviour, attitudes and understandings of reality, – the culture-, of the affected people (IFCR World Disasters Report 2014).The key to effective performance in disaster risk management and emergency management and ensuring incorporation of culture and risk perceptions of the affected people lies in community participation (Pandey and Okazaki 2005). Communication (risk as well as crisis communication) and trust have come forward as two other important aspects that disastermanagers need to take into account in relation to the affected people’s culture. Cultural differences therefore must be considered in the development of crisis communication strategies.Moreover, constructing messages is as important as their transmission. For example, technical language or jargon can hinder or confuse the communication of risk. Warning to the general public have to be communicated in a way that residents can relate to. Warning systems need to be attuned to the cultural and social demands of minority groups. Furthermore, language abilities, culture, and literacy levels must beconsidered when conveying important information (Critchfield et al. unknown).

Guiding questions to be used as a starting point for analysis and data collection

  • How is local culture taken into account in disaster preparation and response? What examples can be identified?
  • To what extent do local communities participate in the different stages of disaster management?
  • How are cultural differences considered in risk and crisis communication?
  • How are warning systems attunedto the cultural and socialdemands of minority groups?
  • How is communication attuned todifferent literacy levels and language abilities? (including minority groups, refugees, migrants, foreign retirees, and people with visual or hearing impairments)


Organizational culture refers to the climate, learned behaviour, and practices that organizations developover time. It guides the way people work, the way they communicate, and the values they share (Schein 2004 in Thompson 2012). Culture points to phenomena that are below the surface, but that are powerful influences on the organization in important ways. It creates shared values in organizational members and also guides their actions much like an individual’s personality does. Culture affects organizations at several levels of operation.

There are important cultural differences between the stakeholders in disaster management which rely on their system of values and their social relations. The cultural differences between the stakeholders involved in disaster management are found in relation to, amongst others, language, training, and resources. The issue of training for example reflects the organizational culture; firemen are trained to deal with fires, the ambulance services treat the injured, and police are trained to manage people. The use of jargon within an organization may also negatively affect the coordination among different actors.Thus, there are several cultural issues to be considered in relation to disaster operations; the safety culture, risk perception, hierarchy, communication and decision-making, learning and training of the involved groups. These factors have significant effect on the perceptions of organizations regarding themselves and towards disaster management (Rozakis 2007).

Guiding questions to be used as a starting point for analysis and data collection

  • When and how do the different stakeholders in disaste rmanagement cooperate?
  • Which different values and assumptions can be identified between stakeholders in disaster management in your case?
  • What different ‘language’ and terminology can be identified between stakeholders in disaster management in your case?
  • How do or can these differences obstruct effective disaster management?
  • How do or can these differencesfunction as an asset for effectivedisaster management?


From the 1990s onwards, civil and military actors have been operating simultaneously in disaster or conflict situations. The interaction between military and civil societal processes has taken many forms, from operating on parallel processes, sharing of information, to actual shoulder-to-shoulder cooperation (Rietjens and Bollen 2008). Most of the studies dealing with this topic focus on complex emergencies in fragile states rather than on civil-military interaction in response to natural disasters (Tatham and Rietjens 2015). Recent years have however shown increasing attention to the role of the armed forces in disaster response within their own national territory. In many of these disasters, local civilian authorities are overwhelmed and call upon the armed forces to provide first aid and logistical support. Armed forces often have unique capabilities for dealing with specific kinds of emergencies, such as toxic chemical spills, which frequently lack in other response organizations. European (and North American) armed forces have been active in responding to requests by the civilian leadership for assistance. The range of disasters for which military assistance may be required is comprehensive. It ranges from support to local authorities to assist in flood control (Switzerland,Austria, Germany) and firefighting (France, Greece on an annual basis) to providing wide/ranging assistance in responding to major catastrophic events such as earthquakes. The Italian military’s response to the L’Aquila earthquake is instructive in this regard (Clarke2014). Operations conducted by the British Army in response to the flooding in early 2014 in the south and west of England were also extensive, with 3000 troops employed in flood relief and another 5000 on standby.

Guiding questions to be used as a starting point for analysis and data collection

  • How is the deployment of armed forces in domestic contingencies organized?
  • What are the domains and tasks that armed forces perform in national disaster relief
  • What forms of interactionbetween civil and military actors can be identified?
  • What potential obstacles for involvement of the armed forces in disaster response can be identified in your case?
  • What potential assets for involvement of the armed forces in disaster response can be identified in your case?
  • Has there been previous experience with assistance from the armed forces during or after disaster? What went well and what led to difficulties?

go to index