Scenario-based disaster exercises: A quantitative study of what makes scenarios effective

by Morgan, Mark J., Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2016, 205 pages; 10124155


The use of scenarios in emergency management is a critical component of successful planning, training, and exercising. Many studies exist on how to use scenarios successfully; however, research has not evolved to define what makes scenarios effective or ineffective. A review of almost forty years (1975-2014) of literature found no articles focusing on what makes scenarios effective, and more than one author during this period conceded the lack of a formal, defensible study on scenario efficacy. Despite the lack of a defensible study, practice-based characteristics of “good” scenarios appeared intermittently in the literature that supported this study’s examination of five characteristics of effective scenarios: design, empathy, meaning, story, and symphony. Thus, to address the research gap in the emergency management knowledge base, this study used a quantitative cross-sectional, web-based survey study to explore the perceptions of 102 Certified Emergency Managers (CEMs) from the International Association of Emergency Managers across the United States. Their responses helped answer the study’s two questions: “How do the study scenario characteristics affect the perception of scenario efficacy?” and “What is the relative importance of each individual study characteristic to effective scenarios based on participant perception and ranking?” Participating CEMs completed a survey using the online tool SurveyMonkey® that included a series of seven preparedness scenarios. Participants rated each scenario for efficacy, cited the presence or absence of a study characteristic as the reason for their efficacy rating, and finished by ranking the study’s scenario characteristics by relative importance. Story and meaning emerged as the two most important characteristics relative to scenario efficacy; however, inferential analysis confirmed that all five of the study scenario characteristics contributed to scenario efficacy. The study results suggested a sixth characteristic of effective scenarios – varying the scenario subjects used for a specific group (differentiation). This study provides the emergency management community and users of scenarios valuable information that may enhance their preparedness programs, specifically exercises.

AdviserHarold Cohen
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsInstructional design; Management; Public administration
Publication Number10124155

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