Research Portal

September 29, 2022

Assessing the Expectations Gap – Impact on Critical Infrastructure Service Providers’ and Consumers’ Preparedness, and Response

While community lifeline service providers and local emergency managers must maintain coordinated response and recovery plans, their timelines may not match expectations of local consumers of lifeline services. Indeed, it is quite likely consumers have unrealistic expectations about lifeline restoration, which could explain current inadequate levels of disaster preparedness. This hypothesized expectation gap has received little attention because engineering research typically addresses providers’ capacities, whereas disaster research addresses household and business preparedness. Our project will address this neglected issue by assessing consumers’ (households, business owners/managers, nonprofit managers) expectations about lifeline system performance, and comparing them to lifeline provider capacity in a post-hazard event scenario (following a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake of 9.0 magnitude or greater) in two communities—Kirkland and Shoreline, WA (likely to experience most shaking in this scenario).

Our research will assess the role of the expectations gap in influencing consumers’ and providers’ preparedness as well as response. First, we estimate the gap between consumers and providers expectations using an earthquake scenario in two case study communities. We posit that low consumer preparedness for lifeline disruption is in part a function of low expectations that lengthy disruption will occur. Next, we test the effect of providing consumers and providers with information about this gap. Our proposed sharing estimates of lifeline restoration times should change these beliefs if our assumption about this specific basis for low preparedness is correct and if our audiences attend to, process, and act upon this information. In our longitudinal research, consumers (households, businesses, and nonprofits) and lifeline providers will complete two questionnaires each. Besides lifeline provider surveys, we will collect information about lifeline providers’ capabilities and work with them to estimate restoration times using an expert elicitation-based estimation framework. We will address the following research questions:

  1. What do consumers think is the likely level of critical lifeline disruption from an earthquake and the timeline for restoration?
  2. What are consumers’ current levels of preparedness for lifeline interruption?
  3. What do lifeline providers and an independent engineering expert think are providers’ capabilities to maintain and restore lifeline services?
  4. How do consumers’ expectations compare with providers’ capabilities (expectations gap)?
  5. How will this study’s feedback about the expectations gap affect consumers’ and providers’ lifeline resilience expectations, as well as their mitigation and preparedness intentions?