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This chapter builds on previous chapters, on crowds (Chapter 15) and emergencies and disasters (Chapter 16), to show the relationship between the two. It describes a programme of research that has examined the extent to which shared social identity determines collective behaviour in emergencies and disasters.
We recognise that engagement and action by the public is necessary when communities and agencies in them plan for emergencies. The increased threat of major incidents, disasters and terrorist attacks means that professional responders will not always be in place in time or in sufficient number to help (Cole et al., 2011; see Chapter 16).
The social identity approach is relevant here because it explains the conditions under which crowds and groups of people can operate as psychological communities that support their members in times of danger and stress. This chapter also describes how social identity principles have been applied to understanding informal psychosocial support among some refugees of war.
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