Knowing the unknowns: Uncertainties during radiological emergencies

Ferdiana Hoti Krasniqi, Tanja Perko, Tafili Vasilike, Roser Sala, Nadja Zeleznik, Yevgeniya Tomkiv, Catrinel Turcanu, Peter Thijssen, Ortwin Renn

    Research outputpeer-review


    Emergency management implies making decisions under uncertainty. Though this is a truism, uncertainties faced by different actors during radiological emergencies have not been investigated as intensively as other emergencies
    and lack a systematic analysis during realistic conditions. Hence, the goal of this study is to identify and analyse the uncertainties that may appear during radiological emergencies. Furthermore, this research explores among which actors and at which stages of decision-making process these uncertainties appear.
    For this purpose, non-participatory observation has been used during 11 nuclear or radiological emergency exercises in the period of 2017–2018 at 29 observation points in 6 countries and 1 international exercise. The
    observers recorded actual behavior of different actors (participants of the observed exercises) under live conditions.
    Results provide valuable insights into the complex decision-making process related to actions taken for the protection of individuals and society at large during realistic exercises of a radiological emergency. Most uncertainties
    synthesized from our observations are related to the practical implementation of emergency actions, e.g. the potential for unexpected failure of communication tools or channels, or the inadequacy of emergency
    plans to cope with the real situation. A high number of uncertainties were also associated to knowledge gaps, e.g. related to the consistency of radiological assessments or the insufficient familiarity of emergency actors with the
    rules and procedures. The findings of this study can inspire emergency planners and other stakeholders to strengthen radiological emergency management, advance emergency response practices, and improve communication
    and collaboration between different actors in emergency situations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number102240
    Pages (from-to)1-15
    Number of pages15
    JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
    StatePublished - 17 Apr 2021

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