Crowd behaviour in CBRN incidents John Drury Department of Psychology Sussex University Acknowledgements: Chris Cocking (London Metropolitan University,

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  • Crowd behaviour in CBRN incidents John Drury Department of Psychology Sussex University Acknowledgements: Chris Cocking (London Metropolitan University, UK) Steve Reicher (University of St Andrews, UK) The research was made possible by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council Ref. no: RES-000-23-0446.
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  • Overview Early models of mass reactions to emergencies: crowd panic Practical implications and problems Explaining social behaviour in emergencies London bombs (7/7) study Theoretical and practical implications
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  • Early models of mass reactions to emergencies: crowd panic In the face of threat: Instinct overwhelms socialization Emotions outweigh reasoning Rumours and sentiments spread uncritically through contagion Reactions are disproportionate to the danger Competitive and selfish behaviours predominate Ineffective escape
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  • Practical implications of crowd panic: Emphasis on physical aspects of public space Communication less important
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  • Empirical problems for crowd panic Panic is actually rare (Brown, 1965; Johnson, 1988; Keating, 1982; Quarantelli, 1960). Lack of crowd panic (examples): atomic bombing of Japan during World War II (Janis, 1951) Kings Cross Underground fire of 1987 (Donald & Canter, 1990) 9/11 World Trade Center disaster (Blake, Galea, Westeng, & Dixon, 2004) The problem is often people not taking the emergency seriously rather than taking it too seriously!
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  • Explaining social behaviour in crowds in emergencies Order and co-operation are common. e.g. Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, 1977 Theories of social behaviour: Normative approaches norms, social roles guide behaviour Affiliation people seek the familiar, stay in given groups
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  • Explaining the extent of co-operation People also help strangers Self-categorization theory: shared fate creates sense of we-ness (shared identity) people care for and help others in the crowd in an emergency because they cognitively group them with self
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  • London bombs (7/7) study Secondary data: (i) Contemporaneous interviews with survivors and witnesses, from 141 different articles in 10 different national daily newspapers. (ii) 114 detailed personal accounts of survivors (web, London Assembly enquiry, books or retrospective newspaper features. Primary data 12 face-to-face interviews plus seven e-mail responses = data from at least 145 people, most of whom (90) were actually caught up in the explosions
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  • Our research questions: Was there crowd panic (i.e. predominance of personally selfish behaviours)? How common was help? How far was any help explicable in terms of shared identity?
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  • Was there crowd panic? There was talk of panic: 57 eye-witness accounts used the term panic. 20 eye-witness accounts explicitly denied that there was panic BUT 37 accounts referred to calm amongst those affected by the bombs 58 to an orderly evacuation.
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  • How common was help? In the personal accounts: 42 people reported helping others 29 reported being helped by others 50 reported witnessing others affected by the explosions helping others this Australian guy was handing his water to all of us to make sure we were all right I I was coughing quite heavily from smoke inhalation and so [ ] Id got a bit of a cold anyway which aggravated it [ ] and also I mean he was really helpful but when the initial blast happened I was sat next to an elderly lady a middle aged lady and I just said to her are you all right? (Edgware Road)
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  • Selfish, competitive behaviour was rare Personal accounts: only four cases of people's behaviour that could be described as personally selfish, and six cases where the speaker suggested that another victim behaved selfishly to them or to someone else.
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  • Explaining help: Affiliation? Most of the people affected were amongst strangers: nearly 60 people in the personal accounts reported being amongst people they didnt know (including 48 people who were actually on the trains or bus that exploded) only eight reported being with family or friends at the time of the explosion.
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  • Explaining help: Shared fate, shared identity There was a widespread fear of danger or death through secondary explosions or the tunnel collapsing. Secondary data: Occasional references to unity and shared fate, e.g. Blitz spirit BUT no references to dis-unity either Interview data: Nine out of twelve were explicit that there was a strong sense of unity in the crowd References to unity were not only typical but also spontaneous and elaborate/detailed: empathy, unity, together, similarity, affinity, part of a group, you thought these people knew each other, vague solidity, warmness, teamness, everybody, didnt matter what colour or nationality.
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  • Explaining help: Everyday norms? Is the unity and helping described different from social relations normally on the trains and just before the bomb? CC can you say how much unity there was on a scale of 1-10 LB1 Id say it was very high Id say it was 7 or 8 out of 10 CC ok and comparing to before the blast happened what do you think the unity was like before LB1 Id say very low- 3 out of 10 I mean you dont really think about unity in a normal train journey, it just doesnt happen you just want to get from A to B, get a seat maybe Therefore not simply everyday norms
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  • Theoretical conclusions CBRN versus other kinds of emergencies? to the extent that the attack puts people all in the same boat, the psychological effects will the same. Hyams, Murphy & Wessely (2002) Responding to chemical, biological or nuclear terrorism: The indirect and long-term health effects may present the greatest challenge. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 27, 273-291. Shared social identity is the psychological basis for the concept of resilience (collective self- help, resources and recovery in disasters)
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  • Practical implications If panic is wrong and crowd behaviour is social and meaningful More emphasis on communicating with the crowd and less on the crowd as a physical entity (exit widths) If there is a willingness to help among strangers The emergency services need to allow and cater for peoples willingness to help each other. Treat the public as an ally (Cf. Glass & Schoch-Spana (2002). Bioterrorism and the people: How to vaccinate a city against panic. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 34, 217- 223.)


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