The role of "zero-responders" during 7/7: implications for the emergency services

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Purpose: This research was conducted to explore the psychological processes involved in spontaneous co-operation by survivors of mass emergencies, and the possible implications this may have for emergency responders. Design/methodology/approach: A qualitative interview study was conducted with 12 survivors and witnesses of the July 7th 2005 London bombings. Data was subjected to thematic analysis. Findings: Spontaneous co-operation amongst survivors often emerged, and this was a function of a common identity that grew out of a sense of shared fate amongst those affected. Some social influence that encouraged co-operation also occurred, and this was dependent upon whether there was a sense of shared identity between source and target of influence. Research limitations/implications: Evidence was only collected from a sub-set of one incident (7/7), thus limiting possible generalisability of the findings. Further research into comparable situations would provide a better understanding of the processes underlying mutual co-operation and support amongst emergency survivors. Practical implications: Uninjured bystanders in emergencies can act as ‘zero-responders’, and so may become a useful resource which can be utilized by the emergency services in mass emergencies. Social implications: This study adds to a growing body of evidence that contradicts populist assumptions of crowd vulnerability to mass panic or inaction in mass emergencies, and supports a model of collective resilience instead. Originality/value: This is the first paper to explore in detail the social influence processes underlying spontaneous co-operation amongst survivors of emergencies, and will be of use to emergency responders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-93
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Emergency Services
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

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  • crowd behaviour
  • mass emergencies
  • social identity model of collective resilience
  • ‘zero-responders’


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