Dynamist Blog

This Is Not a Drill

The WaPost's Shankar Vedantam has a fascinating, compact piece on the group dynamics of responding to emergencies. A sample:

Experts who study disasters are slowly coming to realize that rather than try to change human behavior to adapt to building codes and workplace rules, it may be necessary to adapt technology and rules to human behavior: In the narrow window between the siren of disaster and disaster itself, people always want to understand what is happening.

You can see this yourself the next time the fire alarm goes off at work, school or home. People will look at one another. They will ask each other: "Is it a drill? Shall we give it 30 seconds to see if it shuts off on its own? Can I just finish sending this e-mail?"

For all the disaster preparations put in place since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the behavior of people confronted with ambiguous new information remains one of the most serious challenges for disaster planners.

"Every man for himself" is not how people respond either. As a result, they tend to survive together or die together.

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