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People tend to consider a lot how to react or not bother at all what to do when an emergency occurs. Some pretend like nothing has happened, so they move on, preferring not to interfere in other people’s affairs. They act like it is none of their business. The New York Times published an article about a case of public negligence in times of crisis. “30 years after the slaying of the 28-year-old barmaid in Queens prompted painful soul-searching over whether her neighbors should have done more to help” (Sexton, 1995, p. 1). The newspaper presented evidences to prove that the public did very little in saving one’s life, especially in a crisis. There was a public outcry and debates regarding apathy and civic indifference to violence when Genovese was murdered. She died in the hands of a man who was baying for a woman’s blood in the cold night. The murderer assaulted and stabbed her 17 times after stalking her at the parking bay just a few meters from her apartment. The most amazing and shocking thing was that several neighbors heard her screams while others even witnessed what happened but no one came to her rescue. This led to general outcry and public embarrassment. This opened a debate about the role of public in managing crisis
Why people don’t help in a crisis
Above is an example of incidence that happened and victim was left to die while the public was witnessing the murder. Psychologists and sociologist have come up with different reasons and theories explaining why people have little or no interest in other people’s affairs in a crisis.
There are societies where people have been taught to respect other individual privacy. It is a law, and one can be sued for meddling into other people’s affair. This school of thought has made people mind their own business. People fear lending a hand to a person during emergencies because of fear of looking foolish.
The nature of a person involved in emergencies will determine how fast people respond to a situation. People tend to respond faster when something happens to juveniles as compared to the cases where adults are involved. Ladies get sympathy mostly from men, and they stand a better chance of being helped as compared to men. Men, on the other hand, are supposed to face difficult and manage it on. This idea has made men receive little help in the time of emergency living them stranded, when in need.
People react differently, when in a group. This affects the way people respond to emergencies. Generally, there is a slow reaction to an emergency when someone is in company. One tends to think that there is someone going to help. Another reason why the reaction is slow is because people wait for someone to lead.
Three processes are involved in passerby’s reaction when an emergency occurs. Noticing: A passerby first notices an incidence. After noticing the incidence, he has to interpret it. Interpretation involves analyzing the whole situation and coming up with possible solutions. This later leads to action. Action is the response given to a crisis. A person defines personal responsibility. This process can take long because it happens in a person’s mind. This will determine the time taken to respond to an emergency. Most people think that someone else may do it and wait for the others to interfere.
Childhood experience also affects actions of a grown-up. Lessons taught, when being young, affect actions taken by an adult. Children are taught not to stare and meddle into other people’s affair. A child grows with this notion in mind, and it influences his/her future actions which include response to emergencies and disasters.
A human mind perceives events differently. When an emergency occurs, people tend to look around and react in the same manner in which the crowd reacts. This is because people are used to react according to the surrounding. If the crowd panics, the individual also panics. When the crowd perceives the incidence as non-emergency, the individual also adjusts and perceives the crisis as non-emergency and will not involve in it.
Another explanation for slow action in time of a crisis is given by Levin (2008). The author claims, “Some people believe that their responsibilities are diffuse and diluted” (Levin 2008, p. 575). The quote affirms that some people are too busy with what is in their minds. This can be seen when somebody’s car breaks down in a busy town. People pass by and rarely stop to lend a hand.
The lonely crowd theory also explains why people help selectively. A person stranded in a lonely place like along a desert road is more likely to be assisted than a person in a crowded place. A motorist stuck on a secluded highway in the country side is more likely to be helped than motorist stuck on a busy highway in a town.
Lack of knowledge in dealing with injuries is another factor that hinders the involvement of people during a crisis. “Most emergencies are unprepared and people are not well equipped with knowledge and the necessary tools” (Darley, and Latané, 2008, p. 768). Passersby lack knowledge in administering first aid, and this prevents them from assisting. This explains why most deaths are caused by injuries and profuse bleeding.
People tend to fear helping because of the fear of responsibility. Some incidences involve police, ambulance and media. People are not willing to engage in all the processes of appearing in court as witnesses where court cases are involved. The media might be interested in publishing the scene, and many people may not want to be involved in media proceedings.
Most people are not rational when an emergency occurs. The decisions made by the helper might affect the victim. Majority of people involved in finding solutions to crisis usually act on emotions. These emotions in turn affect victims. Irrational thinking also occurs when a crowd is involved in helping the victim. People tend to give conflicting ideas and commands; this in turn takes time to reach a consensus, and in the process, the victim can succumb to death as the helpers look for ways of managing the situation.
Psychologists and sociologist have found out that people usually help after seeing emotional images. Images posted in the Internet, newspapers and television usually arouse response systems.
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Crisis management is an area that should be addressed. People lose life not because of the complications caused by the crisis but because of people’s ignorance. People should be more sensitive and considerate to respond when an emergency strikes. It only takes a little concern to save a person’s life
Darley, John M. and Bibb Latané. “Why People Don’t Help in a Crisis”. Millenium Reader. 5th edn. Eds. Stuart Hirschberg and Terry Hirschberg. USA: Longman, 2008. 767-772. Print.
Levin, Michael. “The Case for Torture”. Millenium Reader. 5th edn. Eds. Stuart Hirschberg and Terry Hirschberg. USA: Longman, 2008. 574-577. Print.
Sexton, Joe. “Reviving Kitty Genovese Case and Its Passions”. The New York Times. 1995: 1-2. nytimes.com. Web.