Applying a framework for defining emergency management scenarios


  • Douglas Raymond Hales, MA
  • Peter Race, MA



scenario, capability-based planning, vignette, risk


Introduction: Scenarios are used extensively to support emergency management (EM). Virtually every user within the community, from policymakers to first responders, uses scenarios in one guise or another. They provide the context to characterize a dynamic problem space, to support the rehearsal of response options, and to facilitate the evaluation of new technology. With such far-reaching implications, there needs to be a means to guide scenario selection.
Objective: The Canadian Centre for Security Science sponsored the development of a framework to characterize scenarios and to assist in evaluating EM capabilities, explicitly in the area of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear response. The framework also complements capability-based planning and provides a means to share scenarios.
Methodology: The Public Safety and Security Planning Scenario Framework assists the EM community, which ranges from the national to the community level, by selecting scenarios based on user perspectives and objectives. In developing the framework, three challenges were addressed: a taxonomy was required to frame and define what constitutes a scenario; parameters were needed to describe and characterize scenarios; and structure was called for to assist in ordering the collection and comparison of representative scenarios.
The first challenge involved reviewing existing literature to define the term “scenario.” Typically, scenarios are used to consider near-term threats, to capture planning assumptions, and to provide the perspective necessary to assess concepts and capabilities. The framework proposes a set of criteria or dimensions (eg, risks, triggers, and time horizons) that can be used to characterize scenarios. To test the framework, a representative set of scenarios was cataloged using these dimensions. Analysis of the resulting set was instructive in revealing the differences in planning scenarios across the chemical, biological, radiological/nuclear, and explosive communities. As the framework matures, it is hoped that it will promote information reuse and provide a valuable forum for capturing best practices and developing standards, enhancing efficiency and effectiveness improvements both locally and nationally.

Author Biographies

Douglas Raymond Hales, MA

President & Principal, D Hales Consulting Inc., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Peter Race, MA

Consultant, Capability Engineering and Project Management, CAE Professional Services (Canada) Inc., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


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How to Cite

Raymond Hales, MA, D., and P. Race, MA. “Applying a Framework for Defining Emergency Management Scenarios”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 9, no. 1, Jan. 2011, pp. 15-24, doi:10.5055/jem.2011.0043.