Using a Town Meeting Scenario to Explore the Impacts of Hurricane Sandy

Jennifer Haney, Bloomsburg University
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Initial Publication Date: April 11, 2014 | Reviewed: July 21, 2015


In this role-playing activity, students are assigned into a series of groups which will explore specific roles related to Hurricane Sandy in the fictional location of No Beach Island, New Jersey. This will take place in a mock town meeting where the community is requesting input for how to address the challenges of rebuilding their homes, businesses, and infrastructure. This will allow for the class to learn more about the multiple perspectives, issues, and interests resulting from this devastating disaster.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

  • Students will gain a better understanding of the significance of Superstorm Sandy and its implications for strengthening hazard mitigation and resilience measures in disaster prone communities.
  • Students will develop skills related to critical thinking and synthesis of ideas to effectively prepare for their specific roles in this exercise.
  • Students will further develop their presentation skills while working within subject matter that requires an understanding of complex physical and social processes.
  • Risk and resilience are the key components around which this exercise is organized. More specifically, students will gain a better understanding of the importance of increasing disaster resilience and reducing vulnerability in high risk communities in a post-Sandy world where the impacts associated with sea level rise, flooding, and tropical storms and hurricanes will continue to increase in both frequency and severity. It also addresses the numerous challenges associated with engaging in disaster resilience measures at all levels of government.

Context for Use

This role-playing activity was used in an upper-level Environmental Risks and Hazards course. It requires at least a week for the students to adequately prepare for this exercise and research their specific roles. However, the exercise itself requires only a class period. For example when I used this activity, the students had an hour and fifteen minutes for the mock town meeting.

I strongly suggest that if this activity is used in a similar course that it is reserved for the second part of the semester. In order for this exercise to be useful, the students must have a general working knowledge of hazard vulnerability, resilience, emergency preparedness and response, and hazard mitigation. These are all topics explored in detail during the first part of the semester in my course. This activity is relatively easy to adapt to other courses. In fact, I do a similar exercise in an introductory level.

Environmental Issues and Choices course that I also teach. The role-playing activity uses the same mock town meeting scenario to explore the various interests and stakeholders in a fictional northeastern Pennsylvania community located in the Marcellus Shale faced with the decision on whether or not to allow hydraulic fracturing in their area.

Description and Teaching Materials

Most of the information required for the implementation of this exercise is included in the word document. I would like to add that I posted a series of links to relevant reports, articles, and other documentation to assist students in preparing for their roles on my institution's equivalent of Blackboard (BOLT).

Students are required to select one spokesperson from each group to make their statement on the panel. The other group members however, will act as concerned citizens in the audience and should ask questions of the representatives.

Instructions for Assignment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 14kB Apr11 14)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Please be sure to give students a week to adequately prepare for their roles in this activity.


I require students to complete an assessment/evaluation form after the activity is complete which addresses each of these goals.

References and Resources

See above 'Description'.