Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management

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Volume 19 Issue 4 (December 2011), Pages 183-234

Fight, Flight or Freeze: Assumed Reactions of the Public During a Crisis (pages 207-214)

This article reports on how professionals at municipal level responsible for crisis communication (N=152) in Sweden judge the probability of 10 different responses occurring among the public, among people within their own emergency organization and themselves in case of a crisis. The direct physical effects of the crisis were kept identical throughout the study, but the cause of the crisis varied over three scenarios: accidental, terrorist and unknown. The results show that there are differences between how the respondents judge the reactions of themselves, their peers and the public, and there are also differences in the three crisis presented. The respondents judged their own reactions to be more logical and rational, and less marked by fear, panic and irrationality compared with the other two groups in all three crises. Also, it was investigated what source of information the crisis communicators thought would be used most by the public. The perceived sources of information varied depending on the cause of the crisis. The merit of these assumptions and implications for crisis communication are discussed.

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