Don't Panic: The Psychology of Emergency Egress and Ingress

Don't Panic: The Psychology of Emergency Egress and Ingress

Don't Panic: The Psychology of Emergency Egress and Ingress

Don't Panic: The Psychology of Emergency Egress and Ingress


Why do people sometimes behave aggressively during emergency egress or ingress, knocking down and trampling on others, which disrupts flow and causes blockages, while other times people move in a smooth, coordinated manner? This book contains a comparative analysis of case histories of bad versus good emergency escape. Included are some of the most well-known cases in U.S. history, such as the Iroquois Theatre fire, the Cocoanut Grove fire, and the World Trade Center bombing. Drawing from investigative reports and authoritative sources, the authors present accounts of the circumstances surrounding each case and give 10 factors that are usually the cause for disastrous consequences. This book will be of interest to students and faculty in the fields of psychology, urban planning, and U.S. history.


In writing this book, we had several goals in mind. It might benefit the reader to know these goals before proceeding.

One goal was to describe in a single book what actually happened in some of the most widely cited cases of disastrous emergency egress and ingress. Since the alleged events in these cases have been used to buttress various theoretical positions, it is important to know what really occurred.

A second goal, and the major one, was to compare cases of good versus bad emergency escape in order to determine the differences between rapid, efficient escape and slow, inefficient escape. We decided to restrict the number of bad cases to five, because adding further cases would not have altered our conclusions. Although additional negative cases consistent with our conclusions might have made those conclusions seem more convincing to some readers, the additional cases might have seemed like guilding the lily to other readers. We likewise decided to limit the number of good cases to two; because the evacuation of the World Trade Center involved the emergency evacuation of three separate buildings, the number of structures evacuated well was actually four. It was much harder to find good cases than bad, because good cases usually do not receive headlines and usually are not the subject of investigative reports.

A third goal was to use our conclusions to derive practical recommendations for achieving good emergency egress and ingress. Hence, the book ends with a chapter on prescriptions for success.

Our fourth goal was to write a book that is informative and interesting to both non-academics and academics.

We hope that we have achieved all of these goals.

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