The person responsible for role-play is appointed early in the planning process. This is to ensure that he or she has an extensive knowledge about the scenario, exercise objectives and script. The role-play director co-operates closely with the exercise planning group. When there are a large number of role players representing different subgroups (media, spectators, next of kin, survivors etc.), each group should have its own leader.

A few descriptive lines about role content are not sufficient to create a fictional reality. This part of the preparation takes time, but is rewarded with realistic role-play that becomes the structural framework of the exercise. The role-play becomes meaningful when evacuees and their families have credible relationships.

Kirsti Silvola – Special Adviser, RVTS East

  • Be active; ensure that everyone involved in planning the exercise understands what you do, what sort of information you need and when. Ask for help if there are things you don’t understand.
  • Be flexible; there are always a few changes of plans before the exercise and there is always something that needs adjusting at the last minute.
  • Assess the need for other professionals that can be responsible for subgroups of role players if the exercise is comprehensive. Regardless, it is useful to have a support person that can be present during the exercise, as role players often are placed in different facilities, for example evacuees and next of kin.
  • Establish early contact with those responsible for physical injuries; clarify responsibilities. Physically injured victims must be “written into” the role-play.
  • Take into account that “things take time” – working with role-play is time consuming. Total time for preparation 1-2 weeks.
  • Consider the needs of the crisis response teams when planning the evaluation at the end of the exercise. It can be helpful to use the role players’ experiences; let them talk about their experiences directly to the crisis response teams and others involved in providing care and support.
  • If incoming phone calls from family members is going to be a part of the exercise, phone numbers of the role players need to be provided to the callers. Who will be calling? Always use fictional names in the script and during the exercise. The list of names must be provided to the exercise coordinator beforehand.
  • To write the script and create roles/relationships, you need to know the following:
    1. Scenario
    2. The number of people injured and deceased
    3. Particular objectives of the exercise, such as the crisis management in high school, day care centres, media etc., the crisis response team’s reaction to wrongly triaged persons, the police’s handling of access restriction etc.

Role content and relationships depend on both the scenario and on those playing the roles. If there are only young role players, assign appropriate roles such as spouses/partners or friends rather than parents. If there are few role players, more “action” can be added by having family or media call in or information posted on social media etc.


  • Decide the need for role players based on category and numbers, as well as budget.
  • Plan the logistics required to execute the role-play, including transport and catering. Create a cost estimate.
  • Divide role players into appropriate subgroups. Select a person that is responsible for each group.
  • Plan how to “reuse” role players in different scenes throughout the exercise.
  • When the practical framework is set, a fictional reality is then created in the form of a manuscript that describes role content and relationships.
  • Schedule meetings for instructing role players.