PANIC, FEAR, AND GROUP BEHAVIOR
“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it!”
Agent K (MIB)
One of the predictable and dangerous factors found in an urban survival scenario is the behavior of a dense population in “panic mode”. Imagine if you’re doing emergency management planning at the state level and you come to the conclusion that there is an emerging threat to human life in the next 24 hours. That threat is high in the urban area, low in the rural area, but will quadruple if everyone in the urban area attempts to “run for the hills” on the same day. Would you consider possibly planning a way to lower the risk in the urban area or would you tell the population that it sucks to be them and accept the resulting loss of life as “people are stupid”?
The best thing you can do as a person in any survival situation is to take your time if you have any, and think things through. “Undue haste is waste”. If a train is about to hit you-you should just move as haste is called for. If you hear a blizzard will be here in two days take the time to plan and prepare your survival strategy- don’t be the fastest, be the best prepared. In our current situation the best strategy is to allow a virus time to slowly move through our population at a speed that can be handled by our medical professionals without straining the system. At least not so much strain that they can’t do that and treat the normal flow of people that need care for other injuries and illnesses. This idea of “flattening the curve” is the most rational response for the world as mass quarantine strategies historically do not or have yet to work.
It helps to calm your mind to know what some of these words actually mean:
Panic: sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior.
Anxiety: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. This can be based on real or imagined danger.
Fear: an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of actual danger. This is often accompanied by an actual physiological response in addition to stress.
Although “fear is the mind killer” as it can lead to panic, it is also a handy physiological response to danger. Anxiety does little good on the other hand, and panic is a tool you would only use on your worst enemy. Sometimes in order to reduce fear or anxiety you need to slow your mind down and saturate it with oxygen. A great drill is to breathe in for 3 seconds hold for 3 seconds and out for 3 seconds. Every breath increase these times by one second until you are doing 7,7,7. There are variations on the count but it’s important you hold in to slow your heart rate, and exhale slowly and fully to insure you are flooding your lungs with fresh air. This is known to some military personnel as “combat breathing”. Combat can increase your anxiety from time to time.
Because people are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals it is best to stay out of crowds. Most crowds are safe and never make it to the emotional stage, but less so in a disaster scenario. If you are in a crowd here are some sociological “tells” that you should get out of the area, or at least move to the fringe of the masses:
Communication and assembly (fun)
Milling phase – getting confusing as communication is being broken in milling/moving without purpose phase- rumor starts to take the place of accuracy in the absence of clear complete communication (not as fun, and getting stressful).
Rumor and information seeking activity – people asking questions and spreading rumor loudly, This is good time to leave. (At least work your way to the outer edge of the crowd)
Increased emotional behavior: This is like a feedback loop of fear or anger-yelling, screaming, people getting louder and as they tighten into an angry or frightened collective. In this stage there is less individual awareness, the masses become dumber than the members it is composed of. This isn’t a rock concert type yelling and celebrating- you should feel anxiety here (and leave).
Catalyst- (a thrown bottle, an officer making an arrest, a person shouts fire (you should have left already)
Violent crowd behavior- (the crowd takes on behavior as a crowd, with little thought of individual repercussion or individual safety)
PANIC, FEAR, AND GROUP BEHAVIOR