Using Games to Educate About Disaster Preparedness

Educating the public about disaster preparedness is important, especially in third-world countries and underdeveloped nations. To that end, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Center in conjunction with PETLabs has developed a series of games with which to educate civic leaders and others in what to do before, during, and after disaster strikes. Called “serious games,” they highlight the humanitarian costs associated with severe weather events and climate change. Some of the games and their descriptions include the following:

Weather or Not: A card game where those participating are given various scenarios, some involving a major storm, and are tasked with deciding whether they should preposition relief supplies. If their decision does not coincide with actual events, preposition supplies and no flood happens or vice versa; then they are penalized for over-reacting or failing to prepare in the other case. What seems the best-case scenario is to prepare if probabilities of flooding are over 50%.

Before the Storm: Another card game includes giving participants, split up into groups, a series of weather forecasts laid out at 10 days, 48 hours, and 12-hour intervals. They are asked to then select the correct preparedness response from the deck. There are also blank cards with which they can come up with their own response. The teams are divided up into Actors, who decide what they think the best action to take should be, and a Director, who makes the final decisions about what to do. The game continues until all participants have had a chance to serve as Director.

Dengue, Catch the Fever!: A fun-looking game that teaches its participants the risk of Dengue Fever and how this risk can change according to the weather. One side plays the humans and the other side plays the mosquitoes, with each side trying to take the mosquito’s eggs or the human’s blood, respectively. The amount of eggs increases or decreases according to factors such as heat and rain.

While entertaining, the purpose of these games is to educate the participants and hopefully fuel discussion on other ways that can be utilized to protect ourselves in the case of calamitous weather or situations that warrant caution, such as a Dengue Fever outbreak.

For more information about the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Center and PETLabs “serious games,” visit: http://paxsims.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/serious-gaming-the-challenges-of-humanitarian-preparedness/