Planning to adapt: identifying key decision drivers in disaster response planning

Charlotte Brown, Josh Hayes & Mark Milke
Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems, 38:1, 20-35, (2021) DOI: 10.1080/10286608.2021.1887155


Traditional disaster response plans are struggling to adapt to the increasingly complex, unique, and uncertain disaster impacts. Decision-making under deep uncertainty suggests the consideration of decision trigger points and adaptive processes to develop plans that are flexible for any oncoming challenge. Two disaster response planning situations are examined here: disaster waste management, and volcanic eruption clean-up. Both of these are examined in terms of how we can use adaptive processes to develop flexible plans oriented around key decision drivers. The indicators developed show that orienting plans around both hazard-centric drivers (level of earthquake shaking, ashfall depth) and impact-oriented descriptors (number of displaced people, hazard of waste) offer several benefits. Coupling the development of impact-oriented descriptors with scenario discovery and scenario planning will help disaster planners to identify key decisions, decision criteria and triggers that can be built into the planning process.

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