Case 5 – Crisis Communication: Casey Jones’ Caboose Restaurant


This is the original simulation created for online or hybrid delivery, and has been successfully delivered multiple times in online and in-person classes. Students are given this case as a capstone assignment and it provides an opportunity to apply the concepts they’ve learned about crisis communication. Learner feedback suggests that while they find the role play challenging, they also find it a lot of fun, sometimes thinking of it as a mystery to be solved.

This is an intense scenario, in which the crisis develops in real time over the course of the simulation. It usually runs for about forty-five minutes, but should end when participants lose energy. The level of difficulty can be modified depending on the rate at which messages are delivered, and can vary from group to group. The case requires team cohesion, application of crisis communication concepts, analytical and problem-solving skills, and ethical decision-making in an evolving crisis. Download the full facilitator’s copy of Case 5.

Notes to Facilitator

While four-to-six group members is optimal, up to eight per group can work, depending on class size, as well as facilitator support (e.g., TA or co-facilitator). Each group works cooperatively to discuss the evolving information and plan their crisis communication deliverables. Teams can be uniform, with all group members receiving all communication prompts simultaneously, or each member can be assigned a role. Suggested roles for group members include: communication liaison (i.e., the person receiving incoming messages for the team), advisers, notetakers and writers. It is advisable to allow participants the opportunity to timeout if they feel overwhelmed. It is also advisable to select alternates when using a communication liaison, in the event of absence.

If delivering this role play with a TA or other co-facilitator, it is advisable to establish a back channel for communication. This allows facilitators to check in with each other over the course of the role play and coordinate when the opening five prompts have been delivered, how many of the randomized prompts have been delivered, and when it is time to end the role play.

What are your learning objectives for this exercise or course? What prompts could you add to extend or expand the simulation in that direction? What additional resources or assignments might you add? 


Prior to the simulation, ensure participant contact information (e.g, emails, selected chat platform, or phone numbers for texting) is easily accessible; having digital information is easiest when delivering prompts for online or hybrid role play. If using one communication liaison per group, only those individuals need to be contacted; if delivering prompts to groups as a whole, contact information will be required for all group members, or it can be pasted into a shared chat function. Advance planning is helpful to avoid delaying the beginning of the role play. If online, you can copy and paste prompts using email or a chat function. If delivering the simulation in person, you could continue to use email or chat for hybrid delivery. Depending on class size and facilitator support, using cue cards or slips of paper to communicate may not be practical. Be aware of your organization’s PIPA position. Discuss privacy issues in advance and modify accordingly.


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Exploring Interpersonal Dynamics Through Role Play Copyright © by Catherine Jenkins, Kevin Hobbs, & Joe Norris is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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