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Tuesday, 12 March 2019 14:47

Emergency evacuations: how to deal with the issue of ‘bystander apathy’

It has been noted numerous times, in multiple studies, that building occupants often ignore or are slow to respond to standard fire alarm sounders: this is ‘bystander apathy’. This article looks at the issue and suggests some solutions.

Bystander apathy – a condition where people ignore an emergency when they believe someone else will take responsibility – is the social psychological phenomena that can affect the pre-movement phase of an escape, prolonging the time it takes before people react to an audible alarm. 

“There are multiple explanations as to why we have a natural tendency to dismiss alarms and any delay could prove critical or at worst, catastrophic,” says Steve Loughney of Siemens Building Technologies.  “People respond to others around them and a collective position often emerges during emergencies i.e. if one person moves, there is a likelihood that others will follow with the reverse also true.”

“Doubts about the validity of warning sirens might also stem from loss of confidence we have in standard fire alarm systems. Nuisance alarms or false alarms have lulled us into a situation where blaring sounds or klaxons are often casually dismissed as non-emergency or non-life threatening,” continues Mr. Loughney.

This lack of urgency was echoed in studies by the International Rescue Committee when it found that less than 25 percent of occupants interpreted the sound of the fire alarm as a potential indication of a real emergency during mid-rise residential evacuation trials.

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https://www.continuitycentral.com/index.php/news/resilience-news/3808-emergency-evacuations-how-to-deal-with-the-issue-of-bystander-apathy