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Climate scientists develop game for managing disaster risk

9 September 2021
Traditional theories and models for reducing the risks of natural disasters focus substantially on isolated dangers, even though the impacts are increasingly intertwined. That’s the reason climate scientists at VU Amsterdam have developed a game to help policy makers understand the complexity of their measures for disaster risk reduction in an area with multiple dangers.

Marleen de Ruiter, Anaïs Couasnon and Philip Ward of the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) worked together to develop the game, which they named “Breaking the Silos”. De Ruiter: “In the online role playing game various stakeholders — including policy makers, risk managers and researchers — take decisions about the implementation of measures for disaster risk prevention after a fictional disaster has hit their land. They have to do this within certain time restrictions and with limited financial means. Afterwards the players collectively evaluate the impact of the measures and their effect on other natural disasters.”

The research results were recently published in the academic journal Geoscience Communication. In the published article, the researchers cite the sequence of disasters in the Philippines. Every year that country is hit by an average of 20 storms, including hurricanes. The northernmost province Batanes has therefore built housing of stone that survives the annual onslaught. The stone houses were indeed less susceptible to the strong winds, but turned out to be more susceptible to earthquakes. “This shows that when devising measures to reduce and prevent the risk of disaster, you have to look further than one solution for one type of emergency”, De Ruiter explains. This is also evident from the recent earthquake in Haiti, where 2000 people lost their lives and over 12,000 were wounded; and then two days later the island was hit by hurricane Grace.

The disaster risk role playing game has for now been issued as an online game due to the pandemic, but eventually will also be available in a face-to-face format. De Ruiter: “We’re trying to ensure that the game reaches a wide audience of decision makers in the area of disaster risk prevention; by doing so, we hope to make a contribution to their capacity for working in an increasingly complex world.”

Photo: Susan Mohr, via Unsplash