Theme: How Emergency Managers (Mis?) Interpret Forecasts
Venue: Room 302, School of Public Management, Tsinghua University
Date: Wednesday, Januray 5 , 2017
Time: 19:00-21:00 PM
Speaker: Patrick S. Roberts, Associate professor, Center for Public Administration and Policy, School of Public and International Affairs ,Virginia Tech Univerisity
Chair: Prof. Peng Zongchao, Professor and Associate Dean, School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University; Director, Center for Crisis Management Research, Tsinghua University
Discussant: Dr. Lu Xiaoli, Assistant Professor, School of Public Policy and Management; Associate Director, the Center for Crisis Management Research, Tsinghua University
Emergency managers who work on weather-related disasters such as floods comprise a critical part of the front line response to disasters. Yet, while these professionals operate in a realm of uncertainty related to forecasts and other unknowns, the influence of uncertainty on their decisionmaking is poorly understood. We employ a national-level survey of county emergency managers in the U.S. to examine how these managers interpret forecast information, using hypothetical climate, weather, and flood emergency management scenarios to simulate their responses to possible flood disasters. Our broadest finding is that even emergency managers with experience employ decision shortcuts and make biased choices in the face of forecast information, just as do members of the general population. Their degree of risk aversion and the choices they make vary depending on the format in which probabilistic forecasts are presented and whether otherwise identical outcomes are represented as gains or as losses. We argue that forecast producers who take these decision processes into consideration when developing and communicating forecasts could improve preparatory responses and potentially reduce disaster loses.
Patrick S. Roberts is an associate professor in the Center for Public Administration and Policy in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech in Alexandria, Virginia. He holds a Ph.D. in Government from the University of Virginia, and he spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow, one at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University and another at the Program on Constitutional Government at Harvard University. Patrick has published in a variety of scholarly and popular journals, and his research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States Naval Laboratories, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Korean KHRIS research institute, and the Social Science Research Council. He is the author of Disasters and the American State: How Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Public Prepare for the Unexpected (Cambridge, 2013).