Risk Accelerators in Disasters
Modern societies are increasingly threatened by disasters that require rapid response through ad-hoc collaboration among a variety of actors and organizations. The complexity within and across today’s societal, economic and environmental systems defies accurate predictions and assessments of damages, humanitarian needs, and the impact of aid. Yet, decision-makers need to plan, manage and execute aid response under conditions of high uncertainty while being prepared for further disruptions and failures. This paper argues that these challenges require a paradigm shift: instead of seeking optimality and full efficiency of procedures and plans, strategies should be developed that enable an acceptable level of aid under all foreseeable eventualities. We propose a decision- and goal-oriented approach that uses scenarios to systematically explore future developments that may have a major impact on the outcome of a decision. We discuss to what extent this approach supports robust decision-making, particularly if time is short and the availability of experts is limited. We interlace our theoretical findings with insights from experienced humanitarian decision makers we interviewed during a field research trip to the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.
KeywordsDisaster response humanitarian information management robust decision support risk management preparedness sensemaking
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