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#220032 - 03/23/11 01:18 AM The Truth About Large-Scale Emergencies
MartinFocazio Offline


Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2148
Loc: Bucks County PA

I suggest that you read this article, excerpt below:


In her gorgeous book A Paradise Built In Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise In Disaster, Rebecca Solnit shows how this is how almost everybody responds to disaster, across continents and across contexts. When power grids are destroyed and city grids demolished, social grids light up.

This is so cross-cultural -- from Haiti to New Zealand -- that it is probably part of an evolved instinct inherent to our species, and it's not hard to see why. We now know that 60,000 years ago, the entire human race was reduced to a single tribe of 2000 human beings wandering the savannahs of Africa. That was it. That was us. If they -- our ancestors -- didn't have a strong impulse to look out for each other in a crisis, you wouldn't be reading this now.

Yet there are a few examples stubbornly fixed in the popular imagination of people reacting to a natural disaster by becoming primal and vicious. Remember the gangs "marauding" through New Orleans, raping and even cannibalizing people in the Super-Dome after Hurricane Katrina? It turns out they didn't exist. Years of journalistic investigations showed them to be racist fantasies. They didn't happen. Yes, there was some "looting" -- which consisted of starving people breaking into closed and abandoned shops for food. Of course human beings can behave atrociously - but the aftermath of a disaster seems to be the time when it is least likely.

This information is essential for knowing how to respond to disasters. There is a fear that the Japanese government is with-holding information about the dangers of the nuclear meltdown because they don't trust the people to react sensibly and calmly. There is no way of knowing, yet, whether this is true. But understanding this crucial history should guide the government to tell the truth and trust the people. As Solnit puts it: "If you imagine that the public is a danger, you endanger the public."

That last sentence - that really sums it up for me, and succinctly puts my perspective on emergency planning and my direct experiences with emergencies into a single, easy to digest thought.

#220034 - 03/23/11 01:58 AM Re: The Truth About Large-Scale Emergencies [Re: MartinFocazio]
Susan Offline

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
It makes perfect sense.

The supposed Mad Max/Rambo attitude of regular people is... unlikely. When people have a lot of problems to face just to survive, they're not going to put up with much in the way of outright idiocy, and I think most people know that.

Over 2500 years ago, a Greek slave named Aesop said, "United we stand, divided we fall". It was true then and it's been true all along.


#220041 - 03/23/11 02:26 AM Re: The Truth About Large-Scale Emergencies [Re: Susan]
Pete Offline

Registered: 02/20/09
Posts: 1361
It's certainly true that adults and parents who are connected with a community are going to do their best to defend it against rogue individuals. Speaking as one parent - we would see it as protecting our children. This is one good reason why individuals who want to "bug out through a devastated city" need to keep a low profile, and avoid contact with citizens a lot of the time. But anyone who is peaceful and cooperative is likely to be welcomed, and integrated into the support structure.

However, if the "Rambo's" form themselves into coordinated groups then things might not be so simple. Maybe in the event that a major American city becomes a "mega-disaster", then things might turn grim. There would have to be a failure of all the survival mechanisms that hold communities together. Then it's conceivable that a more intense struggle for existence could ensue. It would be a situation like what happened in Stalingrad in Russia during WW2. The German soldiers called it "rattenkrieg" (rat-war), and it is depicted in the movie "Enemy at the Gates". I can only imagine this scenario happening if things become apocalyptic.

Pete #2

#220052 - 03/23/11 05:55 AM Re: The Truth About Large-Scale Emergencies [Re: Pete]
Richlacal Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 02/11/10
Posts: 778
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Hey Pete,Tu Hablando Espanol?(Do you Speak spanish?)It will come in Handy,Should you need to Bug-Out of L.A. in any Direction,short of West!Think about it,Going East,You will have to get thru East L.A.,Going North,You will have to get thru San Fernando Valley,Going south,Santa Ana! Google:Street Gangs,of the above mentioned Cities/Area's,Check it out!

#220063 - 03/23/11 11:08 AM Re: The Truth About Large-Scale Emergencies [Re: MartinFocazio]
Montanero Offline

Registered: 10/14/08
Posts: 1467
Loc: North Carolina
In my former careers I have dealt with humanitarian disasters and wars; and I was always up close and personal with the people. I have done extensive training on interviewing skills and used those skills around the globe. I began a discussion a couple of years ago about how important communications skills are in survival situations, all survival situations. People can be your greatest threat or the best opportunity for survival. In December I attended a workshop on "the neurobiology of political violence" and met Dr. David Matsumoto. He has a web site with some training tools for reading facial expressions:
It is based on the groundbreaking work of Dr. Paul Ekman which proved that certain emotions and the accompanying facial expressions are universal to humans. If you are talking with someone, and their facial expressions display an emotion which is different from what they are telling you, you can use this. it is either a danger signal or a sign of deception. This can be very useful in survival situations of every kind. These tools are used by the Secret Service, most law enforcement agencies and many other organizations. I have found the skill handy in many situations. Dr. Matsumoto's tools are all web based and much more affordable than anything that was available before. I would highly recommend that you read Paul Ekman's books: "Telling Lies" or "Emotions Revealed" in order to understand how to use this skill properly.

#220073 - 03/23/11 02:17 PM Re: The Truth About Large-Scale Emergencies [Re: Montanero]
Pete Offline

Registered: 02/20/09
Posts: 1361
Richlacal. Ha! Ha!! Good point amigo. We will all need to depend on one another out here. I better brush up my Spanish. Seriously :-)

Pete #2

#220084 - 03/23/11 04:05 PM Re: The Truth About Large-Scale Emergencies [Re: MartinFocazio]
JBMat Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/03/09
Posts: 745
Loc: NC
I think the public in general is not a threat - until someone takes charge of them and makes them one. A mob is only as smart as the dumbest member (write that down, in ink). Convincing a mob is easy, convincing individuals is hard - there is something about being anynomous that emboldens some.

I see a family coming at me, I semi-doubt the first reaction from them will be to use violence. On the other hand, three young males - they are more apt to be a leader and two stooges, so I act differently to them than mom, dad and junior. Common sense.

Look at the group as a whole, determine who makes up the group, who the alpha is - is it a gang leader, or a preacher? Makes a world of difference sometimes (notice, sometimes).

I've been on humanitarian missions. Each group of refugees was treated somewhat differently, depending on makeup and circumstances. I was not quite as "nice" to able bodied people pushing to the front of lines as I was the sick/elderly.

Treat people with kindness, but don't let your kindness be miscontrued as weakness.

#220096 - 03/23/11 06:36 PM Re: The Truth About Large-Scale Emergencies [Re: JBMat]
acropolis5 Offline

Registered: 06/18/06
Posts: 351
Pete, with respect, I suggest that you read the the book "Enemy At The Gates". Rattenkrieg was the German shorthand for the vicious fighting in the room-to-room, sewer-to-sewer resistence of the people of Stalingrad fighting against German genocidal aggression. It did not at all describe the way in which the valiant city dwellers acted towards each other. And make no mistake, these citizens were united in defense of their homes, not PHRASECENSOREDPOSTERSHOULDKNOWBETTER..

#220109 - 03/23/11 10:02 PM Re: The Truth About Large-Scale Emergencies [Re: JBMat]
philip Offline

Registered: 09/19/05
Posts: 639
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area
Originally Posted By: JBMat

I see a family coming at me, I semi-doubt the first reaction from them will be to use violence. On the other hand, three young males - they are more apt to be a leader and two stooges, so I act differently to them than mom, dad and junior. Common sense.

Look at the group as a whole, determine who makes up the group ...


I'd say all that in two words: organized youth. If there are three young males skylarking, I wouldn't worry. If there were three young males acting in a coordinated fashion, I'd worry if their attention were directed at me.

#220130 - 03/24/11 02:48 AM Re: The Truth About Large-Scale Emergencies [Re: philip]
Pete Offline

Registered: 02/20/09
Posts: 1361
acroplis ... I haven't read the book - just seen the movie. But thanks for the reference ... if i get time I'll do that. i wasn't trying to imply that people on the same side were treating each other that way - just opposing enemies. So yes, in this case it was because of war.

I can't imagine things would ever break down into individual vs. individual. More likely, people will always affiliate into "tribal units" of some kind.

Pete #2

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