Research on the psychology of crowds has impacted on policy and practice
Chris Cocking’s research has contributed new in-depth insights into how shared social identities and collective resilience emerge during disasters. He evidences the increased co-operation among survivors and bystanders (zero-responders) as they identify with and help others in need, ultimately acting as support for official first responders. This has led to a set of practical recommendations for both emergency managers and members of the public to encourage and nurture greater crowd resilience in emergency planning and response, including calls for crowd management strategies to come from a public safety rather than a public order perspective. The twelve recommendations cover the three phases of emergency planning (preparedness phase, response phase and recovery phase) and include recommendations to ‘develop evidence-based, pre-tested communication strategies’, to ‘plan to work with, not against, group norms in emergencies’ to ‘prioritise informative and actionable risk and crisis communication’ and to ‘accommodate the public urge to help’.
His recommendations have been taken up in Cabinet Office papers and the Emergency Planning Society, where they have generated a major shift in organisational thinking, opening up a major opportunity for a change of approach to incident planning and response. Official first responders now increasingly consider the role of possible bystander and survivor involvement in mass casualty incidents. There was a specific mention in the 2018 Kerslake Report into the Manchester Arena bombing, which went on to state that they had seen evidence that supports Chris Cocking’s proposition and consider that members of the public undoubtedly acted as such a ‘force multiplier’ during the initial response in the Manchester Arena foyer. The Emergency Planning Society has moved from a traditional view that sees public involvement as problematic to an approach that now seeks to harness the positive resources of the publics and communities involved. Chris Cocking's research has influenced the preparations behind the 7,000+ public events held in the UK each year.