Tsunami-A Simulation

  • SumoMe

This was a simulation I was part of designing for my Doctoral program at NSU. We were charged with designing a simulation for educational purposes. Coincidentally, a few days before this assignment was due the Japanese tsunami hit the northwestern coast of Japan and the idea for our simulation was born.

TSUNAMI!-A Disaster Response Simulation
Born out of the Japan Tsunami on March 11th, 2011, Tsunami places a player in the role of manager of emergency crisis coordinator for a small island population close to frequent tectonic activity. Tsunami allows players to simulate different emergency response scenarios of disaster response to varying magnitudes of a Tsunami. This type of simulation is invaluable for urban planners and emergency response teams to play out a number of different scenarios and to find ways to best respond to a tsunami disaster with the least amount of casualties to the population.
How to Play Tsunami:

In the role of emergency crisis manager, players are led through the manipulation of many variables in order to minimize casualties given a major tsunami event just off the coast of fictitious, Higher Ground (HG) Island. Players, being able to manipulate variables such as magnitude, proximity, and depth of an under sea earthquake, can see what effects these different variables would have on the size of the tsunami waves that come ashore. However, the real focus of the simulation is to examine different response scenarios to a tsunami event that has happened in close proximity to HG Island and has an arrival time of less than 30 minutes before reaching the shores of HG Island. Players have to plan out and execute different disaster response scenarios. Scenarios would include designing evacuation routes, evacuating a population of up to one million people, organizing and mobilizing search and rescue team, rescuing stranded victims, setting up temporary housing, aid, and medical facilities stations for displaced citizens, and reestablishing transportation routes and lines of communication. As players advance through different scenarios they will be earning credit, which they can use to “purchase” additional resources to implement into their tsunami responses. Tsunami also allows players to work in a multi-user environment where they can meet up with other players to plan response scenarios. Response plans can be archived so that players on a multi-user team can come back to them and adjust them asynchronously.

Registering for Tsunami:

To register for Tsunami all players need to be at least 13 years of age. This adheres to COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) regulations and being that Tsunami is a complex, multi variable environmental disaster response game, it may not be suitable cognitively for kids that are younger.
To be able to begin planning for your tsunami disaster response all players must complete mini tutorials in the following areas.
·            Designing evacuation routes
·            Evacuating a population of up to one million people
·            Organizing and mobilizing search and rescue team
·            Rescuing stranded victims
·            Setting up temporary housing, aid, and medical facilities stations for displaced citizens
·            Reestablishing transportation routes and lines of communication
This is designed so that players have to chance to manipulate variables in just one response criteria at a time to see how that affects other areas of a tsunami response. Once all of these lessons have been completed, players can then customize their avatar and begin playing the tsunami simulation.

Once the Tsunami player orientation has been completed players can then invite other players to join their tsunami response team. Players could in their player profiles list areas of expertise in a crisis response system (i.e. I am a search and rescue specialist…). This would allow players to form teams that are made up of several people who all have special skills in those areas. Otherwise players would be free to play in the simulation as a single user.

Player Roles:

Site Emergency Coordinator:

The SEC leads and coordinates all who have a role in an emergency situation.  The Sec coordinates and develops emergency plans with the Evacuation Coordinator, Search and Rescue Coordinator, Crisis Communications Director, and the Medical Crisis Response Manager.  The SEC is responsible for the overall direction of all crisis management operations.

Evacuation Coordinator:

In an emergency, ECs guide and direct people out of the building to assembly areas and  check to make sure all assigned charges have left. They account for the people under  their responsibility once they reach the assembly area. ECs report injured or missing  people and other important information to the SEC (Site Emergency Coordinator).  If an  escape route or assembly area is unsafe, the ECs will direct their charges to alternate  gather points or safety areas. ECs are responsible for communication between their  group of people and the SEC. If the SEC or their designated alternate is not on the  scene, ECs will assume the SEC tasks until the SEC arrives.
Search and Rescue Coordinator:

Responsible for the planning, co-ordination, conduct and control of search and rescue operations.  The SRC (Search and Rescue Coordinator) organizes the rescue. All available information about the person(s) missing or in danger is gathered; search and rescue scenarios analyzed, and search/rescue teams assigned.  Reports directly to the SEC and coordinates medical efforts with the MCRM.
Crisis Communications Director:

Responsible for all Communication  between the SEC and other disaster teams/coordinators.  Additionally responsible for the routing of all information to and from the site to the outside to include both official and private entities.  Reports directly to the SEC and assists in the coordination of communication between emergency coordinators and teams.
Medial Crisis Response Manager:

Responsible for the organization and allocation of individuals and teams in order to effectively provide emergency medical treatment, triage, and fatality management.  Reports directly to the SEC and coordinates medical efforts with the SRC.
Tsunami variables:
Tsunami! allows users to modify the variables before starting the disaster response scenario. However, once the following variables have been set, they cannot be altered once the simulation begins. This is to force players to “live with” their decisions much like real urban/community planner would.

Earthquake settings: Players can choose the magnitude, the proximity to HG Island, and the depth that the quake occurs for their simulation. They would be able, through a google earth plugin, choose past quakes from around the globe using the USGS (United States Geological Survey) layer that shows earthquake locations and information.

Population: Players can modify their coastal populations on HG Island from 200,000-2 million people

HG Island: Players are can change the topography of HG Island to see different outcomes as the tsunami waves comes to shore.

Transportation infrastructure: Players can layout a full road, rail, and underground transportation system

Communications infrastructure: Players can decide ahead of time what communications they would use to notify the population for a coming tsunmai and then in the wake of a tsunami, what tools they would use to communicate with affected citizens, various disaster response teams and the world.

Tsunami Simulation inter-player communications.
As players design their infrastructures and develop their response teams of other players they would have the following communication options.

  • Live Chat (IM)
  • Multi-user videoconference
  • Asysncronous forums and discussion boards
  • Tsunmai! proprietary email system

Desired Outcomes

  1. Design a response system that minimizes casualty.
  2. Experience a race against the clock scenario to bring as many citizens to safety within a defined period of time.
  3. Reveal the importance of coordination and communication in an emergency response situation and develop a solid decision-making system.


Huang, Y., Wang, J., Jiang, R., Liu, M., & Dong, L. (2010, August 8). Simulation
and evaluation for the emergency management under the situation of fatal
disaster. Mediacom 2010 International Conference on Multimedia
Communications, 258-262.

Stop disasters. (2011). Retrieved fromhttp://stopdisastersgame.org/en/isdr.html

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