Practitioner Needs Analysis – “Valuing What Works – Success Factors for Disaster Preparedness” Research Study

The practice of disaster response and preparedness is primarily tacit work that has had limited formal study and observation. While there are vast number of reports and documents describing best-practices and lessons-learned in the area of disaster preparedness and response, very few of these involve rigorous study of practitioner work practices, needs, and preferences for information. In order to better support existing practices, it is first necessary to better understand how practitioners are currently doing their work. The long-term purpose of this research is to help GDPC and the larger humanitarian community to better understand of what practitioners need to support their success in highly dynamic and decentralized humanitarian environments. These results are intended to help inform and improve the future development of tools, support services, plans, and protocols for disaster preparedness practitioners.


November 1, 2012 – April 31, 2014.

Research Questions

  • What are the ways that national societies are already working to further preparedness?
  • What are the workflow processes, relationships, information flows and current needs of national societies to prepare and respond to disasters?
  • What particular elements (environments, relationships, support, communications/information) are sought or desired by national societies for preparing and responding to disasters?

The methodology of the research project includes a quantitative analysis of hazard and preparedness characteristics of countries worldwide, expert interviews with practitioners  from the Red Cross network and four to six field visits to RCRC national societies for a two-week ethnographic study of their preparedness and response work.

Project partners

The research is conducted and coordinated through the Human Centered Design and Engineering Department at the University of Washington. Lead researcher is Robin Mays, PHD Student and Researcher at Human Centered Design and Engineering, University of Washington and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow (2012 – 2015). She receives support from Rebecca Walton, Assistant Professor of Technical and Professional Communication, Utah State University who holds a PHD from Human Centered Design and Engineering, Washington State University. The research is also supported by Professor Mark Haselkorn and a student group at Human Centered Design and Engineering Department.

Target Audience

Front-line Red Cross and Red Crescent practitioners in the field of disaster preparedness and response.

Dissemination Plans

During the field visits the research team will actively engage with the front-line practitioners. This interaction will allow for some knowledge transfer on an individual level. The final results will actively be shared with the Red Cross network and the wider humanitarian community through the GDPC website and presentations. The results will also inform the design and development of tools and products of disaster preparedness to ensure they meet the needs of practitioners on the ground. The research also aims at developing a replicable action research model that will enable future research in the area of practitioner needs analysis. On the academic part, the research team is disseminating the results through Publish articles and conference presentations.

Full Report 

The full report is available in the ‘Resources’ section, here:

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