Storytelling—Plots of resilience, learning, and discovery in emergency management


  • Bob Freitag, CFM
  • Thad Hicks, PhD, CEM, MEP
  • Alessandra Jerolleman, PhD, MPA, CFM
  • Wendy Walsh, MA



resilience, community resilience, disaster, panarchy, preparedness


Almost everyone can relate to the experience of telling a story. This article explores how storytelling is being used to identify risks and create hazard mitigation strategies, as well as how it can promote learning within the field of emergency management. Storytelling is both a pedagogical tool and an invaluable resource for practicing emergency managers. This article illustrates the ways in which the process of telling a story enables participates to talk about stressful concerns, internalize complex concepts, and even have fun. The article explores how storytelling drove the public process leading to the adoption of hazard mitigation plans, and how eight types of stories, as defined by the American humorist Kurt Vonnegut, can strengthen emergency management education. This article also explores how research suggests that storytelling can provide an effective way for both the tellers of story and their listeners to find meaning in events, provide context to what is being taught, transmit emotion along with information, develop a professional identity, build empathy and compassion, and help with remembering events and lessons learned. The authors have a long history of utilizing storytelling and present this article in order to share and explore storytelling as applied to the discipline of emergency management.

Author Biographies

Bob Freitag, CFM

Research Faculty, Director of Institute for Hazards Mitigation Planning and Research, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Thad Hicks, PhD, CEM, MEP

Professor, Emergency Management, Ohio Christian University, Circleville, Ohio

Alessandra Jerolleman, PhD, MPA, CFM

Assistant Professor, Emergency Management, Jacksonville State University, Lowlander Center, Louisiana Water Works, Lafayette, Louisiana

Wendy Walsh, MA

Higher Education Program Manager, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Training & Education Division/National Training and Education System, Emmitsburg, Maryland


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