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Collective resilience in emergencies and disasters: What can(‘t) be done to prepare the public John Drury Department of Psychology University of Sussex.

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Presentation on theme: "Collective resilience in emergencies and disasters: What can(‘t) be done to prepare the public John Drury Department of Psychology University of Sussex."— Presentation transcript:

1 Collective resilience in emergencies and disasters: What can(‘t) be done to prepare the public John Drury Department of Psychology University of Sussex

2 Collective resilience in emergencies and disasters Collective resilience in emergencies and disasters Acknowledgements Steve Reicher (St Andrews University) Chris Cocking (London Metropolitan University) Richard Williams (University of Glamorgan) The research referred to in this presentation was made possible by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council Ref. no: RES-000-23-0446

3 Models of resilience ‘The ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions’ Policy and practice (‘resilience’ embodied in institutions, organizational policies for emergency preparedness/planning)

4 Models of resilience Disaster research Resilience is the ability of organizations to recover from attack and function successfully without top-down direction (Dynes, 2003) Factors: Informal networks (Tierney, 2002) Provision of resources (Kendra & Wachtendorf, 2001). World Trade Center 2001: emergency services improvised forms of coordination, despite loss of command and control centre

5 Models of resilience Psychology and psychiatry Personal resilience: ‘a person’s capacity for adapting psychologically, emotionally and physically reasonably well and without lasting detriment to self, relationships or personal development in the face of adversity, threat or challenge’ (NATO guidelines, cited in Williams & Drury, 2009) Factors: Innate and acquired Developmental experiences Repertoires of knowledge Family, peer, school and employment relationships Life events Attachments

6 Models of resilience ‘Collective resilience’ Concept employed by a number of recent researchers (e.g., Almedon, 2005; Kahn, 2005) either descriptively: ‘Collective resilience refers to the coping processes that occur in reference to and dependent on a given social context’ (Hernández, 2002, p. 334). Or with reference essentially to pre-existing social resources (bonds etc.): ‘… collective resilience [is] understood as the bonds and networks that hold communities together, provides support and protection, and facilitates recovery in times of extreme stress, as well as resettlement. These social bonds are variously referred to as social networks, community facilities and activities, active citizenship, or social capital..... It refers to groups of traumatised people whose old communities have been destroyed and who are learning to survive in a new world, where community may be non- existent, new or emerging, or multiple.’ (Fielding & Anderson, 2008, p. 7; emphasis added) (Although also a hint here of ‘emergence’)

7 ‘Collective resilience’: A social psychological model Shared identity (psychological unity) → We trust and expect others to be supportive, practically and emotionally in turn, reduces anxiety and stress Shared definition of reality (legitimacy, possibility) In turn, allows co-ordination In turn, enhances agency/power (the ability to organize the world around us to minimize the risks of being exposed to further trauma) Allows us to feel collective ownership of the plans and goals we make together Encourages us to express solidarity and cohesion Makes us see each other’s plight as our own and hence give support sometimes at a cost to our own personal safety

8 ‘Collective resilience’ (Drury, Cocking, & Reicher, 2009a, b; Williams & Drury, 2009) Model derived from 20+ years of social identity research on group processes, organizational and health behaviour (e.g. Haslam, 2004; Haslam et al., 2009; Turner et al., 1987) Origins of shared identity and hence collective resilience: (i) existing group memberships – e.g. ‘communities’ (ii) emergent group memberships – ad hoc crowds Novel claims of this approach: The concept of resilience can be applied to unstructured, ad hoc collectives (crowds) not just organizations Hence doesn’t assume there needs to be existing bonds / networks etc. Being part of a psychological crowd can contribute to personal survival in an emergency (the crowd as an adaptive mechanism)

9 7 th July 2005 London bombings (Cocking, Drury, & Reicher, 2009b) Four bombs, 56 deaths, 700+ injuries. Emergency services didn’t reach all the survivors Immediately.

10 Data Contemporaneous newspaper accounts: 141 Personal (archive) accounts: 127 Primary data: interviews and written e-mail responses: 17 Total: 146(+) witnesses, 90 of whom were survivors Material coded and counted: ‘panic’, help versus selfishness, threat of death, affiliation, unity…

11 Non-adaptive panic or adaptive order? “It took about twenty twenty-five minutes before we got out … and some people were really itching to get off the train so more people the more agitated people were not being shaken up they felt they were, even though they wanted to get off at the same time so it was quite a calm calm evenly dispersed evacuation there wasn’t people running down the train screaming their heads [off]. It was very calm and obviously there was people crying [ ] but generally most sort of people were really calm in that situation, which I found amazing.” (LB 1)

12 Helping versus personal ‘selfishness’ (Helping: giving reassurance, sharing water, pulling people from the wreckage, supporting people up as they evacuated, make-shift bandages and tourniquets)

13 ‘I remember walking towards the stairs and at the top of the stairs there was a guy coming from the other direction. I remember him kind of gesturing; kind of politely that I should go in front- ‘you first’ that. And I was struck I thought, God even in a situation like this someone has kind of got manners, really.’ (LB 11)

14 “I didn’t see any uncooperative activity, I just saw some people who were so caught up in their own feelings that they were kind of more focused on themselves but I didn’t see anyone who was uncooperative. I didn’t see any bad behavior” (LB 4)

15 Accounting for help


17 Interview accounts: ‘unity’ ‘together’ ‘similarity’ ‘affinity’ ‘part of a group’ ‘everybody, didn’t matter what colour or nationality’ ‘you thought these people knew each other’ ‘teamness’[sic] ‘warmness’ ‘vague solidity’ ‘empathy’

18 Int: “can you say how much unity there was on a scale of one to ten?” LB 1: “I’d say it was very high I’d say it was seven or eight out of ten.” Int: “Ok and comparing to before the blast happened what do you think the unity was like before?” LB 1: “I’d say very low- three out of ten, I mean you don’t really think about unity in a normal train journey, it just doesn’t happen you just want to get from A to B, get a seat maybe” (LB 1)

19 Explaining shared identity (unity) in London bombings Survivors were mostly commuters ‘We-ness’ was emergent Almost all who referred to unity referred to ‘common fate’ – to shared danger Sounds like ‘Blitz spirit’? As has been noted - Disasters bring people together (Fritz, 1968; Clarke, 2002) The psych mechanism: ‘Common fate’ is a criterion for social identification (Turner et al., 1987)

20 Implications IF shared identity can arise from the emergency or disaster itself, then collective resilience is endogenous, in ‘human nature’ Disaster planning and policy needs to take this into account – or risk undermining it! This argument in line with that made by a number of sociologists and disaster psychiatrists (e.g., Dynes, Furedi, Wessely, Glass & Schoch-Spana)

21 Implications for disaster planning 1.Not protecting a psychologically ‘vulnerable’ public (by withholding information) but organizing adequate communication plans –Less anxiety, more efficacy and more empowerment the more information –The modern discrepancy between getting (surveillance) versus giving information technologies needs to be questioned –BUT! communication requires trust

22 Implications for disaster planning 2. Understanding the crowd as a resource not a (psycho-social) problem Example – London bombs: survivors acted as fourth emergency service Catering for the public desire to help, allowing the public to be involved in its own protection

23 Implications for disaster planning 3. Facilitating collective independence Information Practical, material resources are empowering ‘Emotional’ guidance (‘don’t panic’) and ‘treatment’ (expert post-trauma counselling) (i) presuppose a dependent, passive public (ii) reproduce a perceived relationship of inequality and alienation (iii) hence will encounter resentment, hostility and resistance

24 Summary and conclusions Resilience is a key concept Model of ‘collective resilience’ based on social psychological principles If correct then we need to understand the bases and consequences of resilience in human responses to disasters Emergency planning and preparedness needs to take account of these natural bases to facilitate (rather than undermine) resilience.

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