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How Game Theory Can Improve Responses to Natural Disasters

As one of the most destructive Atlantic Hurricanes to hit Houston, Hurricane Harvey resulted in more than 40 inches of rain over four days and causing catastrophic flooding. In the aftermath, there will be around half a million individuals seeking aid from the government and applying more stress to disaster relief organizations. The largest obstacle for the disaster relief organizations is mostly due to the ever-increasing number of US nonprofit organizations. These organizations are all working towards the same goal of assisting those in need at the disaster site but the lack of coordination between these entities is almost like a second disaster.

In past natural disasters such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the thousands of nonprofit organizations working without a central coordinating entity created a huge influx of non-priority supplies which in turn delays the delivery and processing of essential items. For example, after the earthquake in Haiti, there was a huge necessity for water supplies and because of the influx of items such as clothing and blankets, it caused a flood of nonessential goods to flow in and create a huge congestion at the disaster site.

The reason game theory can be used to improve how these natural disasters are dealt with lie with the non profit organizations. If they were able to analyze their interactions with other nonprofit organizations and put constraints into place where there is a minimum and maximum set for the needed supplies at each geographic location, the resulting undersupply or oversupply of goods would be negated. The end result would be prioritizing a Nash equilibrium that would efficiently delegate where these organizations would provide aid and to the quantity of aid necessary in those places.

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