Helping Behavior in Large Scale Disasters: A Social Organizational Approach

Dynes, Russell R.
Quarantelli, E. L.
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Disaster Research Center
Disasters are a significant and persistent theme in the mass media in every society. Newspapers give them banner headlines. Radio presents on-the-spot reports. Television uses them to set the tone for the evening news. Movies use them as a basis for plots to feature well-known stars. The reasons for the media preoccupation are perhaps not as clear as the image they present. The image usually focuses on the suddenness of human need, followed by the struggle to mobilize assistance. There is a duality to the image –one part focuses on damage, loss, tragedy and destruction while the other part focuses on heroism, optimism, healing, recovery, altruism and rebuilding. Because of this duality, disasters can become a collective projective test, providing an ambiguous form into which members of the society project their own meanings. Some only see tragedy; others see altruism. Some only see loss; others see opportunity. Some only see the end of aspirations; others see the beginnings of hope and change. Some see the need to help; others see the helping which is needed.
altruistic behavior , voluntary behavior , behavior