Saturday, June 04, 2005

Great WIRED article today on how disobedience during disasters saves lives: if you wait for official word and follow the rules, often, you're dead. From the article, citing the experience of 9-11:

After both buildings were burning, many calls to 911 resulted in advice to stay put and wait for rescue. Also, occupants of the towers had been trained to use the stairs, not the elevators, in case of evacuation.

Fortunately, this advice was mostly ignored. According to the engineers, use of elevators in the early phase of the evacuation, along with the decision to not stay put, saved roughly 2,500 lives. This disobedience had nothing to do with panic. The report documents how evacuees stopped to help the injured and assist the mobility-impaired, even to give emotional comfort. Not panic but what disaster experts call reasoned flight ruled the day.

In fact, the people inside the towers were better informed and far more knowledgeable than emergency operators far from the scene. While walking down the stairs, they answered their cell phones and glanced at their BlackBerries, learning from friends that there had been a terrorist attack and that the Pentagon had also been hit. News of what was happening passed by word of mouth, and fellow workers pressed hesitating colleagues to continue their exit.

This jives very closely with how I believe things function in the real world--microcommunication, unspoken cues and on-the-groud knowledge almost always trumps official sources, especially when things are going batshit all around you.

It's been a marvelous opening day--we ate and did notes at the Continental, one of my favorite restaurants, and now its time for a walk and a gradual build-up to the show. I'm so looking forward to this.
7:11 PM