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DONT PANIC! Crowd behaviour in emergencies Dr Chris Cocking University of Sussex 6/9/2005.

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Presentation on theme: "DONT PANIC! Crowd behaviour in emergencies Dr Chris Cocking University of Sussex 6/9/2005."— Presentation transcript:

1 DONT PANIC! Crowd behaviour in emergencies Dr Chris Cocking University of Sussex 6/9/2005

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3 Outline of Presentation 1) Background and aims of research 1) Background and aims of research 2) Examples of how behaviour in emergencies support our theories 2) Examples of how behaviour in emergencies support our theories 3) How this may be useful in managing future crowd evacuations 3) How this may be useful in managing future crowd evacuations 4) Any questions/ points for discussion 4) Any questions/ points for discussion

4 Context of research Crowd behaviour theories have developed over time Crowd behaviour theories have developed over time 19 th Century- Le Bon irrationalist approach 19 th Century- Le Bon irrationalist approach 1960s - 70s more rationalist approach 1960s - 70s more rationalist approach From 1980s to present- crowd behaviour increasingly seen as governed by social norms- beyond rational or irrational as this is a matter of interpretation -The Social Identity Model From 1980s to present- crowd behaviour increasingly seen as governed by social norms- beyond rational or irrational as this is a matter of interpretation -The Social Identity Model

5 The Panic model Part of the irrationalist tradition in crowd psychology Part of the irrationalist tradition in crowd psychology Reproduces dominant image: Reproduces dominant image: a)Threat causes emotion to overwhelm reason a)Threat causes emotion to overwhelm reason b) Collective identity breaks down b) Collective identity breaks down c) Selfish behaviours- pushing trampling etc c) Selfish behaviours- pushing trampling etc d) Contagion-these behaviours spread easily to crowd as a whole d) Contagion-these behaviours spread easily to crowd as a whole

6 Scope of research project 3 year project funded by ESRC since April 2004 to see if existing psychological models of crowd behaviour can be applied to emergencies 3 year project funded by ESRC since April 2004 to see if existing psychological models of crowd behaviour can be applied to emergencies Taking a critical look at the panic model Taking a critical look at the panic model 3 different areas of research; interviews, room evacuations, and VR simulations 3 different areas of research; interviews, room evacuations, and VR simulations

7 Research into 7 th July Gathering data from Press reports and web- logs Gathering data from Press reports and web- logs Web- based questionnaire study for eye- witnesses of bombings; index.htm Web- based questionnaire study for eye- witnesses of bombings; index.htm index.htm index.htm Interview studies to come Interview studies to come Results so far support our theories Results so far support our theories

8 7 th July terrorist attacks Rough chronology of events on the tube Rough chronology of events on the tube 1) Blast followed by darkness and silence 1) Blast followed by darkness and silence 2) Screams of fear and distress- passengers try to find out whats going on and wait for info/guidance 2) Screams of fear and distress- passengers try to find out whats going on and wait for info/guidance 3) Smoke & soot clear- attempts to help/ comfort others, & escape- some delay because of fear that tracks are live 3) Smoke & soot clear- attempts to help/ comfort others, & escape- some delay because of fear that tracks are live 4) Passengers wait up to mins. for rescue, and walk in orderly fashion along tracks when directed 4) Passengers wait up to mins. for rescue, and walk in orderly fashion along tracks when directed

9 7 th July terrorist attacks Individual fear and distress, but no mass panic Individual fear and distress, but no mass panic Evacuations characterised by orderly, calm behaviour Evacuations characterised by orderly, calm behaviour Many reports of altruism, co-operation, and collective spirit of Londoners/ UK as a whole Many reports of altruism, co-operation, and collective spirit of Londoners/ UK as a whole

10 Why no Mass Panic? 1) British Bulldog spirit meant we were used to it or even expecting it ? 1) British Bulldog spirit meant we were used to it or even expecting it ? 2) Mass Panic is extremely rare anyway? Only when chance to behave co-operatively has gone 2) Mass Panic is extremely rare anyway? Only when chance to behave co-operatively has gone

11 The myth of Panic Many accounts of panic Many accounts of panic But what actually is panic, and what is logical flight behaviour? But what actually is panic, and what is logical flight behaviour? Need to look at what people actually do, and decide if it is indeed panic Need to look at what people actually do, and decide if it is indeed panic More than just semantics, as it could affect emergency evacuation planning More than just semantics, as it could affect emergency evacuation planning

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13 Panic? 1)There was no real panic - just an overwhelming sense to get out of the station quickly 1)There was no real panic - just an overwhelming sense to get out of the station quickly 2) almost straight away our packed carriage started to fill with smoke, and people panicked immediately. Thankfully there were some level- headed people on the carriage who managed to calm everyone down 2) almost straight away our packed carriage started to fill with smoke, and people panicked immediately. Thankfully there were some level- headed people on the carriage who managed to calm everyone down

14 Unity I felt there was a real sense of unity. We were all trying our best to find a way out of there and reassure each other. I felt there was a real sense of unity. We were all trying our best to find a way out of there and reassure each other. One of the things which struck me about this experience is that one minute you are standing around strangers and the next minute they become the closest and most important people in your life. That feeling was quite extraordinary One of the things which struck me about this experience is that one minute you are standing around strangers and the next minute they become the closest and most important people in your life. That feeling was quite extraordinary

15 Co-operative behaviour 1)Many people kept calm and tried to help one another to see if anyone was injured 1)Many people kept calm and tried to help one another to see if anyone was injured 2)I was very aware of people helping each other out and I was being helped myself 2)I was very aware of people helping each other out and I was being helped myself 3) Passengers with medical experience were found, I found a tool box and we smashed a window, allowing the medical guys to enter the other train 3) Passengers with medical experience were found, I found a tool box and we smashed a window, allowing the medical guys to enter the other train

16 Orderly evacuation? Everyone was pretty calm and no-one made a rush for the doors in a panicked fashion Everyone was pretty calm and no-one made a rush for the doors in a panicked fashion About 20 minutes later the message came through that those who could walk should move to the front of the train and disembark and walk down the track. [] after a short distance we were stopped and told that a person had been blown out of the train against the tunnel wall and could not be moved as he was critical About 20 minutes later the message came through that those who could walk should move to the front of the train and disembark and walk down the track. [] after a short distance we were stopped and told that a person had been blown out of the train against the tunnel wall and could not be moved as he was critical

17 Since July 7 th 21 st July attempted bombings 21 st July attempted bombings 22 nd July Stockwell shooting 22 nd July Stockwell shooting 3 rd August smoking bus evacuation 3 rd August smoking bus evacuation On each occasion more urgency and distress reported On each occasion more urgency and distress reported Some reports of pushing/ stampeding Some reports of pushing/ stampeding But is this mass panic? But is this mass panic?

18 Baghdad stampede 31/8/05- incompetence or conspiracy? Panic to flee suspected suicide bomber? Panic to flee suspected suicide bomber? Mismanagement of large crowd in confined area? Mismanagement of large crowd in confined area?

19 Hurricane Katrina, Sept 2005 Initial reports of mass looting, gang-rapes, and murders in Superdome, New Orleans Initial reports of mass looting, gang-rapes, and murders in Superdome, New Orleans But these reports were later seen to be wildly exaggerated- very little evidence to support them But these reports were later seen to be wildly exaggerated- very little evidence to support them WHY? WHY? Perhaps it fits with the current view of crowds once formal authority goes Perhaps it fits with the current view of crowds once formal authority goes

20 Possible applications of my work 1) More information rather than less 1) More information rather than less Very little evidence supports idea that people will panic if they know severity of the situation Very little evidence supports idea that people will panic if they know severity of the situation If information is given in clear ways that people can safely act upon to escape threat, they usually do If information is given in clear ways that people can safely act upon to escape threat, they usually do Consequently, deliberately withholding info could cause problems in any future emergencies, as people may not trust accuracy of messages Consequently, deliberately withholding info could cause problems in any future emergencies, as people may not trust accuracy of messages

21 Possible applications of my work 2) How this information is relayed and by whom affects whether it is believed and acted upon 2) How this information is relayed and by whom affects whether it is believed and acted upon Information needs to be clear and unambiguous, and come from believable source that crowd identifies with Information needs to be clear and unambiguous, and come from believable source that crowd identifies with This could depend on type of crowd; e.g. commuters, football fans This could depend on type of crowd; e.g. commuters, football fans

22 Possible applications of my work 3) Appealing to the crowds collective identity/ common humanity 3) Appealing to the crowds collective identity/ common humanity Having a common fate can encourage co- operative behaviour- were all in this together Sir Ian Blair-communities defeat terrorism Having out-groups can strengthen in-group identity, but is a double-edged sword

23 Summary 1) Crowds in emergencies behave in ways that are consistent with their social identities and governed by the social norms of the situation 1) Crowds in emergencies behave in ways that are consistent with their social identities and governed by the social norms of the situation 2) The panic model is largely a myth 2) The panic model is largely a myth 3)Evidence gathered from July 7 th attacks supports our theories 3)Evidence gathered from July 7 th attacks supports our theories


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