Date of Award

December 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil Engineering

Committee Member

Kapil Chalil Madathil

Committee Member

Anand Gramopadhye

Committee Member

Kalyan Piratla

Committee Member

Patrick Rosopa


Insurance loss prevention survey, specifically windstorm risk inspection survey is the process of investigating potential damages associated with a building or structure in the event of an extreme weather condition such as a hurricane or tornado. Traditionally, the risk inspection process is highly subjective and depends on the skills of the engineer performing it. This dissertation investigates the sensemaking process of risk engineers while performing risk inspection with special focus on various factors influencing it. This research then investigates how context-based visualizations strategies enhance the situation awareness and performance of windstorm risk engineers.

An initial study investigated the sensemaking process and situation awareness requirements of the windstorm risk engineers. The data frame theory of sensemaking was used as the framework to carry out this study. Ten windstorm risk engineers were interviewed, and the data collected were analyzed following an inductive thematic approach. The themes emerged from the data explained the sensemaking process of risk engineers, the process of making sense of contradicting information, importance of their experience level, internal and external biases influencing the inspection process, difficulty developing mental models, and potential technology interventions. More recently human in the loop systems such as drones have been used to improve the efficiency of windstorm risk inspection. This study provides recommendations to guide the design of such systems to support the sensemaking process and situation awareness of windstorm visual risk inspection.

The second study investigated the effect of context-based visualization strategies to enhance the situation awareness of the windstorm risk engineers. More specifically, the study investigated how different types of information contribute towards the three levels of situation awareness. Following a between subjects study design 65 civil/construction engineering students completed this study. A checklist based and predictive display based decision aids were tested and found to be effective in supporting the situation awareness requirements as well as performance of windstorm risk engineers. However, the predictive display only helped with certain tasks like understanding the interaction among different components on the rooftop. For remaining tasks, checklist alone was sufficient. Moreover, the decision aids did not place any additional cognitive demand on the participants. This study helped us understand the advantages and disadvantages of the decision aids tested.

The final study evaluated the transfer of training effect of the checklist and predictive display based decision aids. After one week of the previous study, participants completed a follow-up study without any decision aids. The performance and situation awareness of participants in the checklist and predictive display group did not change significantly from first trial to second trial. However, the performance and situation awareness of participants in the control condition improved significantly in the second trial. They attributed this to their exposure to SAGAT questionnaire in the first study. They knew what issues to look for and what tasks need to be completed in the simulation. The confounding effect of SAGAT questionnaires needs to be studied in future research efforts.



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