Online Role-Playing Games for Improving Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration in Concurrent Disaster Response Planning
Lead PI:
Divya Chandrasekhar

Effective community-level post-disaster response and recovery requires that actions of all stakeholders involved in response be coordinated. But existing approaches to disaster response and recovery management typically underemphasize the role of such multi-stakeholder coordination, particularly the involvement of community residents. Literature also provides limited advice on how to address overlapping or concurrent disasters, especially where one of the disasters is a pandemic. This becomes problematic when local authorities must respond to multiple events at once; when response to specific disasters (e.g., pandemics) is siloed; and when disaster concurrency exacerbates disproportional impact on socially vulnerable community members. Effective and equitable response planning for Ôoverlapping' or Ôconcurrent' disasters, therefore, requires better and more effective understanding and this Smart and Connected Communities Planning Grant (SCC-PG) study advances the NSF's mission to promote the progress of science by generating scientific knowledge of factors affecting disaster response actions of diverse community stakeholders in the face of multiple hazards. This study also advances knowledge of the role and value of inter-stakeholder collaboration in disaster response planning as well its success factors. Lastly, this study advances NSF's mission to promote national health, prosperity, and welfare of local communities by focusing on disaster response in the Intermountain West, which is at significant risk from fast and slow-onset disaster events such as wildfires, extreme heat events, earthquakes, and climate change.

This SCC-PG project employs community engagement techniques, qualitative inquiry methods and table-top role-playing games (RPGs) to lay the foundation for development of an online multi-player AI-mediated RPG to improve inter-stakeholder collaboration in response planning for concurrently occurring disasters. The project examines four research topics: i) factors affecting response decisions of various community stakeholders (such as residents, non-profits, government, and utility providers); (ii) types of information, data or communication structures needed to improve inter-stakeholder interaction and collaboration for response; (iii) effect of information exchange and collaboration on response decisions made at the individual and collective level; and (iv) characteristics of effective and equitable communication or collaboration structures for multi-stakeholder response planning for concurrent disasters. The results of this study and the subsequent SCC-IRG research will help any community undertaking disaster response planning to identify response actions that are at once more equitable, can work simultaneously for pandemics and other disasters, and integrate social and infrastructural dimensions.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Divya Chandrasekhar
Divya Chandrasekhar is an Associate Professor in the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah with expertise in community recovery from disasters. Her research has examined post-disaster community participation and capacity building, networking and coordination among recovery institutions, and disaster recovery policy in South and Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the U.S. Dr. Chandrasekhar is a member of the Utah Seismic Safety Commission, the Utah State Hazard Mitigation Team and a member of the Roundtable on Risk and Resilience of Extreme Events (Resilient America) of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Her research has been funded by National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Transportation and Communities, the Department of the Interior, and the Natural Hazards Center at Boulder. Dr. Chandrasekhar received her Master's and Ph.D. degree in urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in physical planning from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.
Performance Period: 10/01/2021 - 09/30/2022
Institution: University of Utah
Award Number: 2125196