Develop culturally aware disaster preparedness and response training


Disaster preparedness and response training activities should take into account different cultural factors and the needs of different cultural groups in a disaster situation. Such activities should make specific use of the strengths and opportunities that culturally aware disaster training programs provide. At the same time, due to constant cultural change in societies, it has to be ensured that training issues in disaster response related to different cultural groups/cultural factors are frequently re-evaluated and adapted. To meet expectations of the general public, citizens should be invited to participate in disaster preparedness training activities, e.g. emergency drills or workshops, at least every 1-2 years.

Applicable to:

Stakeholders: Policy Makers, Disaster Managers

Disaster Phases: Preparedness, Response

Types of Actors Concerned: Non-active citizens, Active citizens, National civil protection bodies, Healthcare and emergency services, NGOs

Hazards: Natural hazards, Man-made non-intentional hazards or emergency situations, Man-made intentional hazards

Cultural Map Entries:

Education engages people and raises awareness of mitigation actions suggested by governments and experts

Importance of knowledge with regards to perception of risk and trust in authorities

Role of simulation exercises in raising citizen disaster risk awareness

Fist aid courses as one way to prepare for a disaster

Low awareness of guidelines and disaster procedures amongst citizens in Malta

Children who are alone at home during a disaster see as a vulnerable group

Importance of raising awareness of importance of disaster preparedness from an early age

Role of online communities in a disaster situation

Citizen responsibility to use new technologies and social media for support activities in disasters

Informing citizens as a preparedness measure

Citizen perceptions of disaster simulations

Age differences in reactions to citizen training as a preparedness measure

Group vs individual ideologies influencing attitudes towards training for disaster preparedness

Citizen reactions to disaster simulations as training for disaster preparedness

Participation in preparedness activities increases social cohesion and trust in fellow citizens and authorities measures

Importance of training first responders about religious norms and sensibilities to be considered during a disaster

Importance of an awareness of cultural and community differences amongst disaster practitioners

The importance of training on how to deal with multi-ethnic and religious neighbourhoods

The importance of training disaster practitioners on how to deal with poor vs wealthier neighbourhoods

Including migrants in disaster awareness activities

"Territorial belonging" of individuals and its impact on the response to a disaster

Collective and historical memory of past disaster situations important to citizen risk perception and preparedness

Placing local people in decision-making processes

Capacity building and training in DRR

Reducing children vulnerabilities through education

Community-based disaster management and risk reduction

Voluntary capacity building in disaster contexts

Empowering communities and individuals in planning, coordinating and re-building during disasters

NGO roles in disaster management

Teaching communities to understand technologies in India

Implementation activities of the Territorial Coordination Master Plan of the Province of Potenza

Specific drills with citizens in Portugal - the ShakeOut initiative


Recommendation 1.A for implementation related to specific types or methods of training

Organise large-scale training events, e.g. First Aid and CPR training in sports arenas, to combine skills training with fostering social cohesion amongst citizens from different cultural backgrounds (e.g., but not limited to, different ethnicities, worldviews, or educational backgrounds), and use these events to identify specific cultural needs (e.g., different communication styles).

Related cultural factors: Worldviews, Gender roles, Age-related roles, Ethnicity

Recommendation 1.B for implementation related to specific types or methods of training

Organise community workshops for disaster preparedness where the participants build, or re-build, a collective memory of local disaster risks through the use of historical artefacts and pictures, to encourage citizens via these collective exercises to take up responsibility and action through a shared cultural identity.

Related cultural factors: Individual/collective memory, Local knowledge

Recommendation 1.C for implementation related to specific types or methods of training

To enhance disaster preparedness in specific cultural groups, e.g. people who are engaged frequently in multi-player online games, employ virtual reality as a training method. This could, e.g., be achieved by cooperating with the designers/developers of multi-player games.

Recommendation 2.A for implementation related to organisational/logistics issues

To improve acceptance of educators in disaster awareness and preparedness activities, use the potential of peer education, i.e. engage peers as educators for training of citizens within the same cultural group, with the same social status, the same age group, and/or the same religious or ethnic background.

Related cultural factors: Norms/values, Customs/traditions/rituals, Age-related roles, Ethnicity, Socio-economic status

Recommendation 2.B for implementation related to organisational/logistics issues

Taking into account that cultural training requires specialist knowledge, which may not always be available in all locations of disaster management institutions, and to ensure that all practitioners “speak the same language” related to cultural issues, develop a (national) culture training resource centre for disasters, where specialised cultural training for practitioners can be conducted centrally, and with specialist trainers who can be deployed for local events across a wider area.

Related cultural factors: Languages

Recommendation 2.C for implementation related to organisational/logistics issues

To ensure that disaster practitioners and volunteers integrate cultural factors in their daily practices, develop and integrate a module on cultural competencies for the respective training programs.

Recommendation 3.A for implementation related to aims of culturally aware training

Citizens from all cultural (including immigrant) backgrounds should be involved in the planning of emergency and disaster response activities, i.e. before a disaster occurs, to ensure that practitioners learn early about these differences and adapt the guidelines and procedures accordingly.

Recommendation 3.B for implementation related to aims of culturally aware training

Encourage citizens to participate in disaster simulation exercises, aiming to strengthen the solidarity and sense of community amongst citizens before a disaster occurs.

Related cultural factors: Social networks

Recommendation 3.C for implementation related to aims of culturally aware training

Use disaster simulation exercises, in contrast to emergency drills for practitioners only, as an opportunity to increase mutual understanding between practitioners and citizens, as a learning experience for both, and to improve mutual trust.

Related cultural factors: Attitudes toward authorities, Social networks

Recommendation 3.D for implementation related to aims of culturally aware training

Make citizens partners rather than “obstacles”. To help citizens establish self-control and facilitate empowerment in case of a disaster, encourage them in training activities and promotional campaigns to reflect and build upon personal skills they already have that could be useful in a disaster, e.g. technical skills, organising talent or detailed local knowledge.

Further reading:

Bankoff, G. „Cultures of Disaster, Cultures of Coping, Hazard as a frequent life experience in the Philippines”, in C. R. Natural Disasters , Lanham: Lexington Books, 2009.

Bankoff Greg, Georg Frerks, Dorothea Hilhorst, Earthscan, Mapping Vulnerability: Disasters, Development and People, 2012.

Chaudhary, A.G., 2013. Educational Gaming - An effective tool for learning and social change in India. Journal of Creative Communications, 5(3).

Felicio, S.P.A.S. et al., 2014. Stop disasters game experiment with elementary school students in Rio de Janeiro: Building safety culture. In ISCRAM 2014 Conference Proceedings - 11th International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management. Available at:

Gampell, A.V. et al., 2017. Beyond Stop Disasters 2.0: an agenda for exploring the contribution of video games to learning about disasters. Environmental Hazards, 0(0), pp.1–12. Available at:

International Federation of the Red Cross (2009) Disaster: how the Red Cross Red Crescent reduces risk , 2009,, Accessed 06.06.2016.

Heeter, C., Hall, E. & Hall, E., 2009. Do Girls Prefer Games Designed by Girls? Media and Information, 4(1).

Ma, M., Oikonomou, A. & Jain, L., 2011. Serious games and edutainment applications Springer, London. Available at:

Macklin, C. & Sharp, J., 2012. Freakinʼ hard: Game Curricula about Game Design, Issues and Technology. In Games, Learning and Society: Learning and Meaning in the Digital Age.

Marsella, J. L. Johnson, & P. Watson, Ethnocultural Perspectives on Disaster and Trauma , Hawaii: Praeger, 2008.

Marsella A.J., Christopher M.A. (2004). Ethnocultural consideration in disasters: An overview of research, issues, and directions. Psychiatr Clin North Am.27: 521-39.

Misomali R., McEntire D. (2008). Rising Disasters and Their Reversal: An Identification of Vulnerability and Ways to Reduce It. In Pinkowski J. Disaster Management Handbook. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, USA.

Prashantham, B., “Asian Indian. Cultural Considerations for Disaster Workers”, in A. J. Marsella, J. L. Johnson, & W. Patricia, Ethnocultural Perspectives on Disaster and Trauma , Hawaii: Praeger, 2008.

Ryu, D., 2013. Play to Learn, Learn to Play: Language Learning through Gaming Culture. ReCALL, 25(02), pp.286–301. Available at:

Schott, G.R. & Horrell, K.R., 2000. Girl Gamers and their Relationship with the Gaming Culture. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 6(4), Available at:

Shaw, A., 2010. What Is Video Game Culture? Cultural Studies and Game Studies. Games and Culture, 5(4).