Articles | Volume 16, issue 10
Research article
26 Oct 2016
Research article |  | 26 Oct 2016

Towards thresholds of disaster management performance under demographic change: exploring functional relationships using agent-based modeling

Gunnar Dressler, Birgit Müller, Karin Frank, and Christian Kuhlicke

Abstract. Effective disaster management is a core feature for the protection of communities against natural disasters such as floods. Disaster management organizations (DMOs) are expected to contribute to ensuring this protection. However, what happens when their resources to cope with a flood are at stake or the intensity and frequency of the event exceeds their capacities? Many cities in the Free State of Saxony, Germany, were strongly hit by several floods in the last years and are additionally challenged by demographic change, with an ageing society and out-migration leading to population shrinkage in many parts of Saxony. Disaster management, which is mostly volunteer-based in Germany, is particularly affected by this change, leading to a loss of members. We propose an agent-based simulation model that acts as a "virtual lab" to explore the impact of various changes on disaster management performance. Using different scenarios we examine the impact of changes in personal resources of DMOs, their access to operation relevant information, flood characteristics as well as differences between geographic regions. A loss of DMOs and associated manpower caused by demographic change has the most profound impact on the performance. Especially in rural, upstream regions population decline in combination with very short lead times can put disaster management performance at risk.

Short summary
Disaster management is a core feature to protect communities against floods. But what happens if a loss of resources or an increased flood frequency puts its performance at stake? We use a simulation model as a "virtual lab" to explore the impact of change processes on disaster management performance. Demographic change, causing a loss in manpower, has the most profound impact on the performance. Performance might be at risk in particular in rural, upstream regions with very short lead times.
Final-revised paper