Thoughts from Cuckoo HQ
Dec 13

The People In The Apollo Were Not Lucky. They Just Didn't Panic.

Panic is one of those phrases that gets thrown around a lot and is quite often used when it shouldn't be. We all seem to assume that panic sets in when something terrible happens. In fact, evidence and research tell us that the opposite is likely true. People don't panic.

I've spent a lot of time training security staff over the years. As part of my training materials I used a fire that happened at the Station Nightclub in Rhode Island in 2003 as a case study. 100 people died in that fire.

One of the teaching points from the case study is that people tend not to panic in a fire. In fact, people tend not to panic in disastrous situations in general, despite what most people think.

Take a look at the picture below. Sorry it's small.

Take a look at the faces of the people in the crowd.

Do you see any panic in any of their faces?

There's a fire behind them that, ultimately, killed 100 people. Some of the people IN this photo may, tragically, have been killed in the fire.

Do any of them look panicked?

They were not panicking and the reason they were not panicking is that the fire was behind them and they could see their exit and were making progress towards it. While there was a threat to their lives, it was not so immediate that it resulted in panic.

In the Station Nightclub fire, panic will likely have set in when the crush at the door happened and people realised that although they could SEE safety not too far away, they could not get to it.

I've read a lot of accounts of the Apollo Theatre roof collapse since it happened. Many of them include comments from people who were in there at the time. Their comments made me think of the whole panic thing and how people truly behave in situations like that.

As a slight aside, I've had my own situations where things have gotten hairy and you might expect that people would panic. They didn't. They zoned in on what was happening and what they could do to improve things and acted accordingly. I have first-hand experience of how people don't seem to panic, at least not near as much as the general public seems to assume.

I came across a blog post by Dr. Chris Cocking which actually explores panic in relation to the Apollo Theatre incident. It's a short enough post but he would be more of an authority on this than I am, in fairness, and he has collated some of the evidence I came across in relation to the Apollo too. Have a read.

How do you think YOU would react in a situation like that?

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