Survey finds the public trust its instincts in emergency

Published:  25 January, 2012

The UK public is more likely to trust its instincts than look to others for help in an emergency.

That’s the conclusion of research, conducted on behalf of Biamp Systems (a provider of networked media systems that power sophisticated audio/video installations), which found that in an emergency just 17 per cent would seek help from officials, and just eight per cent would follow other people away from the situation. The survey also found that in an emergency altruism came to the fore, with over half (53%) saying they would help others get to safety.

The survey results suggest that fires, floods and even emergency drills could become disorderly and even dangerous as people fail to stick to established escape drills or seek help.

Graeme Harrison, Vice President, International Sales at Biamp Systems, said “It’s great to see that people are prepared to help others get to safety in an emergency, but it is a cause for concern that so many would rather trust their instincts than heed official instructions. We also found that 16 per cent of people don’t know how they would react, and these unknowns need to be catered for. When it comes to emergency evacuations, clarity of communication is absolutely vital. Voice evacuation, where live instructions are given over loudspeakers providing clear instructions on how to exit the building, is invaluable in instances like these.”

When it comes to being warned about an emergency, 20 per cent of UK adults who either work or study felt that alarms at their place of work or study provoke more panic than discipline. Worryingly, just over one in ten (11%) agreed with the statement that they didn’t know what the alarms in their place of work or study sounded like, and a similar number of those surveyed (10%) were unaware of what the emergency escape drill was. In buildings that could hold thousands of people, this means several hundred who do not know what to do in potentially life-threatening situations.

Harrison continues, “In the evacuation of buildings such as hotels, conference centres or airports, where people may not be familiar with their surroundings, evacuations can easily become a danger themselves. In order to avoid this, building and facility managers need to be aware of how the general public will react. With a significant portion – 35 per cent – agreeing that instructions delivered by an audio voiceover system would make them feel calmer, communication is the key to a successful, accident-free, evacuation. Only by providing can orderly escape be achieved.”

The survey

The total sample size was 2098 adults, and fieldwork was undertaken between 13th - 16th January 2012.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

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