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Using reasoned imagination to learn about cascading hazards: a pilot study

Arnaud Mignan (Institute of Geophysics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland)
Anna Scolobig (Department of Environmental Systems Science, Climate Policy Group, ETH-Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland)
Anne Sauron (HES-SO Valais-Wallis, Sion, Switzerland)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 6 June 2016




The purpose of this paper is to present the results of a pilot study involving high school teachers in natural sciences. The aim was to foster critical thinking about cascading hazards via the use of reasoned imagination. Cascading phenomena can lead to extreme catastrophes and are thus a challenge for disaster prevention and management.


Following a presentation listing some known cascading phenomena, the participants completed a questionnaire consisting of a blank hazard correlation matrix (HCM) and some open-ended questions. The HCM qualitatively described possible interactions between 16 different perils selected from a large spectrum of natural, technological and socio-economic hazards.


Most participants were able to describe cascading phenomena within the HCM by reducing them into sets of one-to-one interactions. Based on their experience and imagination, the participants foresaw additional interactions that were not discussed, never observed but are scientifically plausible. The majority of the respondents reported that they learnt something new and wanted to learn more about cascading hazards.


The HCM is especially effective in translating complex hazard scenarios into basic interactions and vice versa. Being imaginative (here via the use of reasoned imagination) and accessible, the HCM could be used as basis for transformative learning in the education of the public and of practitioners on the role of cascading hazards in catastrophes.



The work leading to these results has been funded by the Swiss Competence Center for Energy Research – Supply of Electricity (SCCER-SoE) and by the “Harmonized approach to stress tests for critical infrastructures against natural hazards” (STREST) project, funded by the European Community ' s Seventh Framework Programme [FP7/ 2007-2013] under Grant Agreement Number 603389. The workshop in which the multi-hazard experiment took place was funded by NERAS@S, a European educative project in seismology and earth sciences of teachers at schools.


Mignan, A., Scolobig, A. and Sauron, A. (2016), "Using reasoned imagination to learn about cascading hazards: a pilot study", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 329-344.



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