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Robust Preparedness for Surprise Extreme Events: Multi-site Fires and Earthquakes

Shira Daskel, Yaakov Ben-Chaim, Adar Ben-Eliyahu, and Ronen Avni


In the present study, theoretical and practical aspects of decision support tools were developed for planning and preparing for extreme adverse events of multi-site fires and earthquakes. In the field of multi-site fires, the study examined the robustness of Israel Fire and Rescue Services as an organization that builds capability in dealing with fires, and examined how well it develops capability to respond to surprises which are unpredictable future events. Info-gap decision theory for decision-making has been used to analyze robustness in the face of uncertainty, and to support responsible decisions in planning in the face of surprises. The research on multi-site fires focused on allocating the resources required in response to an event that maximizes robustness to uncertainty (to surprises).
Social-emotional preparedness for extreme adverse events and crises is a critical factor in the ability of the population to recover and return to function from such events. Characteristics such as good citizenship, solidarity, emotional regulation skills, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and emotional-personal strength contribute to the population's ability to function, to the willingness to comply with instructions, to assist emergency and rescue services, and to reduce crime and violence. All of this helps to reduce secondary damage and shorten recovery time from the crisis.
Social-emotional preparedness plans are usually evidence-based programs, based on past occurrences. These past occurrences are inevitably different from future occurrences (which have not yet happened in reality), and therefore do not provide reliable planning in the face of the deep uncertainty that characterizes an extreme event such as an earthquake. Because catastrophic cases are characterized by deep uncertainty, preparedness plans based on the best assessment of these future scenarios are not reliable enough and are vulnerable to surprises. Thus, the preparedness plan should be designed so that the level of robustness in the face of uncertainty is high enough to meet critical requirements at the time of future occurrence.
In the present study, an innovative and unique multidisciplinary methodology has been developed, which includes theoretical and practical aspects for constructing a social-emotional preparedness plan that is highly robust in the face of uncertainty in the event of an extreme earthquake. The application of the methodology and the examination of the level of robustness in the face of uncertainty were carried out by qualitative conceptual analysis using info-gap decision theory. The findings indicate gaps between the level of robustness of a social-emotional preparedness plan in different scenarios and the need to formulate a highly-robust social-emotional preparedness plan according to a specific scenario rather than planning based on a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
The main conclusions that emerge from the study are:

1) The robustness levels of Israel Fire and Rescue Services in the face of extreme events of multi-site fires are relatively low. This is mainly due to the complexity of multi-site fire events.
2) Steps can be taken to raise the levels of robustness in the face of uncertainty by implementing continuous monitoring and control of such events. The collection, processing, and analysis of data that are currently not collected or documented will improve both system understanding and error estimates.
3) There are currently no clear definitions of success in fire events. This means that it is notpossible to set pre-defined goals for the event or to measure and quantify compliance with such goals. Without the specification of critical requirements or goals, it is not possible to examine alternatives in the frame of info-gap decision theory (as critical requirements do not exist). 4) It is important to analyze the robustness of social-emotional preparedness plans concerning different scenarios to make decisions immune to surprises.

Policy Recommendations
Based on the findings in this report, the researchers make the following policy recommendations:
• In the face of uncertainty, levels of resilience can be raised with proper oversight, surveillance, and monitoring during the event of a fire. The real-time collection, processing, and analysis of data, along with the integration of data from other sources, can improve the NFRS response to multi-site fires.
• It is recommended that the NFRS establish goals and definitions of “success” in the case of extreme events.
• A national strategic plan for firefighting and prevention is needed. The plan should provide detailed recommendations for prevention, the evacuation of the populations, and tactics for firefighting and rescue.
• A plan for learning and integrating info-gap theory decision making techniques should be created and implemented among decision makers in the NFRS, as well as in other emergency and government agencies, in order to effectively navigate situations with high levels of uncertainty.
• The program outlined for strengthening social-emotional resilience should be implemented in schools throughout the country. The cooperation and participation of various stakeholders (emergency and rescue services, the local government, and various community representatives) should be elicited. Additionally, the program should give students exposure to peers from different grades. Several options for expanding the program are detailed in the report.
• Generally, plans for strengthening social-emotional resilience should be assessed in light of the specific scenario they are created to address. The plan that maximizes resilience in the face of uncertainty should be chosen.

Final report (Hebrew)

See publication: Ben-Haim, Y. (2019). Cascading failures in hierarchical networks with unity of command: An info-gap analysis. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 41, 101291.