Thursday, June 14, 2012

Panic — A Contagious Breakdown in Judgment

People sometimes behave in curious ways when events happen that are out of the ordinary, and by doing so they can turn a non-disaster into a disaster all by themselves.

An example — a moderate earthquake shook the buildings in Turkey recently, causing a small amount of damage to a couple of mosque minarets.

So, how did the local residents react to the quake? Gripped by fear that evolved into panic, some of them decided to jump off of buildings and out of windows, injuring themselves and causing a bit of a local emergency medical crisis.

No one else was injured by the quake, which illustrates how poor judgment and misguided reaction to a situation can cause problems that didn't need to exist.

Panic is an interesting reaction that can become almost like a contagious disease. If you yelled "fire" in a crowded theater, then got up out of your seat and raced for the exit, there's a good chance the rest of people in that room would react as if there were some danger, joining you in the race for the exit. Pandemonium would erupt, people would get injured, and you would end up in jail because it's illegal to create a panic. Then you would probably get sued by all those injured folks. A bad idea all around.

But back to Turkey. If bystanders feeling the quake watched someone jump off the building, some of them might think that was a rational survival strategy and follow like a bunch of lemmings.

The lesson for us is to learn to think for ourselves, analyze the situation, examine rational options, then decide on a proper course of action. Don't let the unhinged reactions of other people cause you to make poor judgments yourself.

In order to be able to make good judgments when unusual circumstances present themselves, learn as much as you can about how to survive a variety of situations. Think about what you would do if… (fill in the blank to describe the scenario).

Maintain situational awareness, so you don't get caught by surprise, and can act rationally. Study the lay of the land (so to speak) and look for alternate exits or escape routes, sources of supply, and potential tools or weapons you could use if necessary. That will give you a more solid psychological foundation, and help resist the urge to panic.

1 comment:

  1. I like to study a situation with a cup of coffee, or a beer, depending on the time of day.