Flood Snakes & Ladders


The new version of Flood Snakes & Ladders, using words, pictures and models from children and young people who were directly affected by flooding, is now available.

To find out more…go to our sister project website: CUIDAR (Cultures of Disaster Resilience among Children and Young People).


Background to Flood Snakes & Ladders – How It All Began

diceThe first version of Flood Snakes & Ladders was designed as a training tool for front-line workers to provide an insight into the difficulties that families encounter during the long-term recovery process that follows a disaster. It was developed by Lancaster University researchers from the Hull Floods Project which explored people’s recovery from the floods of June 2007 in Hull.

The idea for the game came from the adult participants involved in the research – they joked that recovering from a flood was a bit like a game of snakes and ladders – you think you’re making progress and then you have a massive setback and have to go back to square one! Based on this insightful comment, we designed the game to simulate the ‘backwards and forwards’ nature of recovery.


While flooding is the case study used, the issues raised by the game will help those interested in understanding recovery following a wide range of disasters. This guide introduces the game and provides step-by-step instructions for how to play it.

Why Flood Snakes & Ladders?

Within the disaster management field, much research and planning is devoted to dealing with the disaster event itself. However, our research shows that the longer-term recovery process that follows a disaster can be equally difficult for families to deal with.

Flood Snakes and Ladders is a game that has been developed to provide its players with a personal experience of this disaster recovery process. It uses anonymised quotes from real people who took part in our research in Hull to showcase the highs and lows of recovery and how these are linked to the ways in which the recovery process is managed. It is a versatile training tool that can be used in a variety of situations. For example:

  • With emergency planners – as an exercising tool to highlight the issues that they might wish to think about when planning recovery
  • With policy makers – to help them experience how their policies are played out on the ground
  • With public and private sector practitioners involved in disaster recovery – for example, insurers, loss adjusters, damage management professionals, local government workers, teachers, health professionals – to showcase good and bad practice and stimulate debate on the best ways to manage recovery
  • With students – to help them explore the disaster recovery process for themselves, to illustrate the potential consequences of climate change and to highlight social and economic inequalities within communities
  • The game also makes an excellent ice-breaker for courses dealing with a wide range of subjects – from hazard and disaster management to emergency planning and understanding the social impacts of climate change

These are just some examples of the ways in which the game can be used – there are many more so do think creatively when deciding how to use it and let us know of any other good ideas you may have!


Who can play?

Flood Snakes & Ladders works best with groups of 10-30. However, it is possible to play with smaller or bigger groups.

What equipment do I need?

The game is simple to set up and play. You will need the following facilities:

  • A room that is large enough to lay out 30 floor tiles
  • A computer with PowerPoint installed that is linked to a projector and screen
  • A giant inflatable dice (you could of course, use a small dice but a large inflatable one is more fun and effective in involving the audience!)
  • Flood Snakes and Ladders PowerPoint file and Flood Snakes and Ladders Introductory Slide
  • Flood Snakes and Ladders Facilitator’s Notes
  • A print run of the Flood Snakes and Ladders Floor Tiles
  • You may also want flip-chart paper and pens and/or some handouts for people (see facilitator’s notes) but this is optional

How long does it take?

You need about 45mins-1 hour to get the best from the game.



We are very grateful to all those who have given us help and feedback to develop the game. In particular, we would like to thank the project participants, who gave us the idea in the first place. We are especially grateful to Jacky and Gordon Dixon and Sandy and Paul Henderson who kindly provided many of the photographs used in the game.

Special thanks must also go to the Cabinet Office and the Economic and Physical Sciences Research Council, who gave us funding to develop the game further.