Panic Behavior in Fire Situations: Findings and a Model from the English Language Research Literature

Quarantelli, E. L.
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Disaster Research Center
There is no need to document the fact that there is a substantial amount of popular and scientific interest in the behavior of human beings in relatively small scale emergencies ranging from fires in hotels, night clubs and high rise buildings to massive catastrophes such as the earthquake-fire situation of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and the 1923 Great Kwanto earthquake in Japan. There are, of course, many reasons for this interest, but a major one is undoubtedly the concern as well as the fascination with the idea that people in such extreme stress situations may “panic.” It seems to be also generally assumed that the panic behavior which may occur is basically maladaptive, i.e., adds to the loss of life and injuries which the physically destructive agent could have caused by itself. In short, panic is a focus of attention because it is thought to be a major potential human problem in most sudden extreme stress situations, including many fire emergencies.
fire emergencies , panic behavior , flight behavior