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Avoiding Panic and Keeping the Ports Open in a Chemical and Biological Threat Environment. A Literature Review

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Literature review

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The purpose of this study is to offer a literature review on the causes and prevention of panic designed to help develop a program that could reduce panic among seaport workers in a chemical and biological threat environment. As a starting point for such a program, this study examines the extant literature on the psychology of risk assessment, warnings, sociological studies of reactions to disasters both natural and man-made, studies of battlefield stress, reports on civilian reaction to air bombardment, as well as analyses of reactions to acts of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction WMD events. Rather than a complete literature review of the growing field of disaster studies, 1 the focus here is explicitly on what can be gleaned from this literature that is relevant to the particular problem of keeping the port workforce at work in a chemical and biological threat environment. The good news is that contrary to popular belief, panic during disasters is not the norm. Hysteria and the abandonment of social roles are fortunately rare and occur only in certain extreme and rather specific contexts. During the extreme stress of a flight emergency, flight attendants still assist passengers and direct appropriate behaviors. During the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, employees evacuating the Twin Towers did not engage in wild every man for himself behavior. Instead, reports indicate that the escape down the stairways was not only orderly, but also characterized by numerous incidents of altruism and even heroism. Even in the extreme case of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there is little evidence of mass panic on the part of Japanese civilians. Overall, instead of panic, people generally exhibit positive patterns of behaviors during disaster. The news, however, is not all good.

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  • Defense Systems

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