Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Industrial Engineering (MSIE)

Degree Level



Industrial Engineering


Ashlea Bennett Milburn

Committee Member

Ed Pohl

Second Committee Member

Kim LaScola Needy


Disaster Response, Eliciting Expert Knowledge, Engineering Education, Orienteering Problem, Role-Playing Game, Search and Rescue


After a disaster, emergency managers need to know who needs help, what type of help they need, and how soon they need it. Traditionally, they have relied on 911 calls and ground assessments to collect this information. Because the needs of a population are not able to be identified in a timely manner by ground assessments and because individuals are often unable to get through to 911, many civilians in distress turn to social media outlets as a last-ditch effort to obtain the services they need. Due to the uncertainty concerning the accuracy of social media posts, responding to disaster related information sourced from social media is considered a liability by emergency managers. Historically, the academic literature has not focused on obtaining an in depth understanding of the post-disaster decision environment. As a result of this gap in the literature, academics have been unable to provide viable routing solutions for incorporating social media data in disaster response operations, emergency managers have refrained from using this data, and civilian’s last-ditch efforts have been left unserved by officials. This research presents 2 spreadsheet-based role-playing games to combat these problems: Logistics to the Rescue and Dispatch to the Rescue. In both games, players assume the role of an emergency dispatcher, assigning locations to routes. Logistics to the Rescue is geared towards K-12 students and provides a platform to familiarize them with emergency response logistics. Dispatch to the Rescue is geared towards emergency management personnel and aims to communicate the benefits of incorporating social media data in disaster response while concurrently eliciting expert knowledge regarding the post-disaster decision environment. Individually, Logistics to the Rescue promotes students to pursue careers in STEM by providing a distinct narrative portraying engineering as creative and cooperative rather than technical and a-social, and Dispatch to the Rescue provides invaluable insights into the underpinnings of the environment emergency personnel work within after major disasters. Both games serve as pedagogical tools for simulating post-disaster environments showcasing how engineering can be used to save more lives in a disaster response while reinforcing the benefits of incorporating social media in disaster response.