What role can citizens play in disaster management?

During disasters, citizens react in various ways. Some will try to flee the situation immediately while others will wait for help or indications from the authorities. In many cases, there are also citizens that spontaneously try to help others. They can form a valuable resource in disaster management. However, they can also aggravate the situation.

In ENGAGE we have been looking at case studies in which different citizen actions were analysed and evaluated on various levels. Sometimes citizen actions were the key to mitigating a situation and sometimes they were actually hindering the work of first responders. This makes the topic of citizen involvement during disaster risk management a controversial one. The question is, can citizens help or are they putting themselves in danger, which consequently increases the pressure on first responders? When is it good to help and what kind of help is needed? How can citizens be a resource in disaster situations, helping first responders resolve the imminent danger quicker?


As citizens are central to any disaster, their perception, actions and attitudes are vital. To dive deeper into this topic, we want to ENGAGE citizens and hear directly from them what their view is on the topic of citizen involvement during disaster mitigations.

For this, it is important to understand who “the citizens” are, as everyone of us is a citizen, whether we are a trained volunteer that comes to a scene, a shop owner who’s shop is on fire, a person that is trying to escape the shop, a person that walks past the shop and wants to help but does not have any first aid training, a person that does not feel capable of helping but has first aid training… By understanding what is hidden behind the term citizen, understanding the different facets of being a citizen and maybe even being able to cluster them, we might discover what effective citizen engagement during a disaster might look like.

For this reason we are constantly looking for opportunities to reach out to citizens. Recently, we started collaborating with Assaggi, which is an association dedicated to scientific education and dissemination for citizens, organizing public events and meetings. Together we invite citizens to join the conversation on the 30th of November 2022 at Libreria Tomo in Rome, Italy. There we will present ENGAGE results and the impact these can have on citizens. We will then invite citizens to share  their opinion on their role and involvement during disasters, their perspective on what the role of first responders is, their intention for involvement, possible communication issues during emergency mitigation, and general feedback about ENGAGE results.


Are you in Rome and would you like to join the event? Write an email to laura.moens@dblue.it. The event will be in Italian but our ambition is to replicate it in other countries in the future.

If you have additional ideas on how to reach citizens or if you represent a citizens’ organisation/association/collective, please reach out to us!


Authors: Tatjana Beuker and Laura Moens (Deep Blue)

Photo Credit: U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa