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Next Generation Scenarios: Studies and Guidance

By taking action in advance of earthquakes, landslides and volcanic eruptions, it is possible to reduce impacts on people and societies. But where to start? Scenarios provide an excellent mechanism for thinking through complex problems.

Scenarios can show specific consequences–to people, buildings, infrastructure, and land. This approach makes complex technical information understandable for people who may be overwhelmed by risks and uncertainties. They can envision what could happen. They can make informed decisions to limit potential harm and damage.

But there is room for improvement in the way scenarios are developed, particularly in low-resource international contexts. We researched the question: How could scenarios be improved to motivate mitigation actions and policy change? Too often, past geologic hazard scenarios stopped at characterizing the risk or failed to motivate change.


“Next generation” scenario phases, workflow activities, and cross-cutting themes. Advancing Scenario Practice to Build Resilience to Geologic Hazards devotes a chapter to each workflow activity.

We developed guidance for “next generation” scenarios that support locally owned, locally led, and locally sustained resilience efforts. Advancing Scenario Practice to Build Resilience to Geologic Hazards is about engaging people in processes that will create an ecosystem for change. It is for people in areas of high geologic hazard risk worldwide who are seeking ways to move forward on resilience. Our findings are based on interviews with people in four countries (Nepal, Ecuador, New Zealand, and California, U.S.A.) who have developed and used geologic hazards scenarios as well as research of past scenario efforts and emerging approaches.

A “next generation” scenario effort begins with community engagement and further develops through risk assessment and solutioning. This spurs mitigation action planning, the process of determining responsibilities, timeframes and resources needed. Then comes implementation of positive changes.

The free, downloadable document, Advancing Scenario Practice to Build Resilience to Geologic Hazards, describes a “next generation” scenario effort in detail. There are three sequential phases. Planning emphasizes risk mitigation action as the outcome. Co-production is a process in which diverse stakeholders and decision-makers, researchers, and practitioners share knowledge, develop scenario outcomes, and develop feasible solutions. Implementation refers to the actions that the community undertakes to reduce and mitigate its risks from geologic hazards. Each phase includes distinct activities, and cross-cutting themes thread through every activity.

Download “next generation” scenario guidance here

Watch a video discussion of research findings:

Advancing Scenario Practice to Motivate Mitigation - Key Findings from Past Scenarios


California interviews and document research on earthquake scenarios was funded by a separate grant from the USGS.

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