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Universe of Threats – Natural Disaster Threat Contest

(open Dec. 1, 2023 – Feb. 7, 2024)

The Center for Advanced Preparedness and Threat Response Simulation (CAPTRS) is building a catalog of threats, called the “Universe of Threats,” which will be used to prepare decision makers for future threats. Our third essay contest to add to the Universe of Threats will focus on natural disaster threats.

We invite you to submit your story and a one page ground truth document (see examples below) describing a threat scenario related to natural disasters, including floods, wildfires, hurricanes or another natural disaster of your choosing. Judges will be looking for unique but plausible threat scenarios, as well as clearly defined and complex cascading impacts of the threat.

Submission Details

Your ground truth should include details and origin of the threat, other impacting factors, and considerations for the unfolding response which may not be explicitly stated in your essay. Your ground truth should provide stated facts and details of the threat, whereas your story should be a narrative building off of the information outlined in your ground truth. Please be specific as to what the threat is. For instance, a category 4 hurricane should be expanded upon to mention specific threatening aspects of the storm, or why where it is hitting is going to create bigger problems. The impact of the threat and what needs to be considered in addressing it is critically important. A doomsday scenario without any possible solutions is not what we are looking for. If you choose to focus on a threat related to climate change, please make sure you are thoroughly explaining the actual events taking place due to climate change, and the impacts of those events, versus focusing on the root cause of the threat. These situations will be used in threat preparedness exercises, so our focus is on how we can better prepare for threats.

Scenarios must be plausible and may explore interdependent social, economic, political, environmental or technological forces that shape the unfolding threat. We face a number of natural disaster threats every year. Please do not write about a scenario which has already happened.


We are looking for unique scenarios. The scenario may focus on evacuation and safety, or on unfolding and/or long-lasting impacts from the threat. You may optionally submit one of the following documents to support the plausibility of the scenario: a one-page description of background research, a one-page list of references, or a one-page letter of support from an expert in the field. 

CAPTRS will award $15,000 in prizes!

First place – $5,000
Second place – $2,500 (up to 2 winners)
Third place – $1,000 (up to 5 winners)

**All winning submissions will be published on the CAPTRS website.


Submission Timeline: Applications open December 1, 2023 at 12 a.m. and close February 7, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. You must create an account in Apply to submit your essay.


Contributions will be judged anonymously by a panel of CAPTRS team members and guest judges, composed of experts in relevant disciplinary fields. All decisions made by the panel will be final.  

Submissions will be evaluated holistically, with particular attending to the following dimensions: 

  • Overall creativity – we are looking for scenarios that challenge our preparedness paradigm
  • Plausibility and specificity of the threat
  • Complexity and plausibility of the cascading societal factors
  • Level of difficulty posed for current response capabilities
  • Consistency with the submitted ground truth characteristics
  • Quality of writing

Awards and Publishing:

Winning entries will be announced by the end of March, and will be published on the CAPTRS website. Additional prize money may be awarded at the judges’ discretion


  • You must be 18 years of age or older to participate in this contest. You may submit as an individual or a team. Teams can include up to 6 members and must identify a team lead. All team members must be at least 18 years of age or older. If a team is selected as a winner, the prize money will be awarded to the team lead to split amongst the group.
  • CAPTRS employees, contractors, founders or advisory board members and their immediate families are not eligible to participate.
  • CAPTRS may utilize writing contest entries to generate and develop content for serious simulation game scenarios or for any other purpose consistent with CAPTRS’ mission. By entering your written submission in this writing contest sponsored by CAPTRS, the author(s) consent(s) to CAPTRS’ use of the submission, in part or in its entirety, at the sole discretion of CAPTRS.
  • The essays are limited to a maximum of 2,500 words, and must be written in English.
  • The ground truth information will be entered into a separate section on the application. The ground truth is limited to a maximum of 1,000 words
  • The optional supporting documentation is limited to one page. This may be a list of references, description of background research, or a letter of support from an expert in a related field.
  • Submissions generated in whole or in part by artificial intelligence will be automatically disqualified from the contest.
  • You may submit your entry for publication in another forum, but you must inform us immediately if your submitted work is accepted for publication. If you submission is published elsewhere, you will not be disqualified.
  • By submitting your entry, you agree for your ground truth and essay to be used in the CAPTRS Universe of Threats.


An example ground truth and story are below. If you have any questions about these examples or the contest, contact Erin Huddleston.

Example Ground Truth

Example Story

Submit Your Entry