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Public Panic Crisis Event. A Preventable Ecological Crisis. Prepared for Western Kentucky University, Crisis Intervention, November 4, 2006 Copyright 2006, A New Story Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved. Ecological / Ecosystemic Crisis. Ecosystemic Crisis Intervention.

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Public panic crisis event l.jpg

Public Panic Crisis Event

A Preventable Ecological Crisis

Prepared for

Western Kentucky University, Crisis Intervention, November 4, 2006

Copyright 2006, A New Story Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.



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Ecosystemic Crisis Intervention

  • Ecosystem: the environment in which we live (including community, family, infrastructure, and natural habitat).

  • Context: “Continuously accelerating events in dynamically changing cultures and environments.”

    -- James & Gilliland, 2005, p. 515


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Scale of Ecological Crises

  • Large-scale crises: Affects communities or regions

  • Megacrises: Affects entire countries

  • Problem: How to intervene when very large crises or megacrises affect neighborhoods, families, and individuals?

    -- James & Gilliland, 2005


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Emergency Response Agencies

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

    • Leads effort to prepare for “all hazards”

    • Manages federal response and recovery efforts following a national incident

    • Trains first responders

    • FEMA, 2006


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Emergency Response Agencies

  • American Red Cross

    • Focused on meeting people's immediate emergency disaster-caused needs.

      • Provides shelter, food, and health and mental health services

      • Primarily for affected individuals and families, to enable them to resume their normal daily activities independently.

    • Feeds emergency workers

    • Handles inquiries from concerned family members outside the disaster area

      American Red Cross, 2006


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Theory – Ecological Models

  • Primary focus of crisis literature has been aid and support

  • Experts in intervention have focused on practical issues such as managing postcrisis reactions

    • Myer & Moore, 2006

  • Need exists for systemic models to explain how it all works together– intervention strategies, community wide stressors, individuals affected and response agencies.

    • James & Gilliland, 2005



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Public Panic Crisis Event

  • Context: High Societal Tension

  • Definition: An ecological crisis generated by rumors or perceptions of an impending crisis that results in outbreaks of panic response (e.g. hoarding, violence, rioting).

  • Best intervention is preparation

    • A New Story Foundation, 2006


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Examples of Potential Crisis Events

  • South Korea

    • “‘None of my friends think North Korea will actually attack.’ Her mother, Song Yon Ju, 49, said she remembered the panic caused by military crises in previous decades, when she joined mad rushes to grocery stores to stock up on boxes of dried noodles.”

    • New York Times, 2006

  • Alabama

    • “Rumors erupted Wednesday that truckers would strike, sending many Tennessee Valley residents to the gas pump and causing a fuel shortage in the area.”

    • Decatur Daily News, 2005

  • Canada

    • “Canadian grocers are being urged to brace themselves for a flu pandemic, complete with public panic, absent employees and failing businesses.”

      • Toronto Star, 2006


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Integrating Preparation & Intervention

  • Being prepared in practical ways and staying informed can cushion from short term potential crisis events

  • Individuals can ensure their families are prepared and informed

  • Families can check the level to which schools, churches, and communities are prepared and informed


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Application – You and Your Family

  • Emergency Food Supply

    • “Having an emergency food supply means you won’t go hungry when transportation, weather, health, or other problems prevent you from getting your usual supply of groceries or meals.”

    • UMaine, 2006

    • “Even though it is unlikely that an emergency would cut off your food supply for two weeks, consider maintaining a supply that will last that long.”

    • FEMA, 2004


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Show of Hands

  • How many have such a kit prepared?


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Motivation – A Possible Scenario

  • General societal anxiety high due to

    • Highly charged Elections

    • Tension / Violence in the Middle East

    • Possibility of “avian flu” outbreak

  • A disruption of delivery to grocery stores and/or gas stations occurs somewhere in the country

  • Rumors spread triggering a panic response and appearance of shortages


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A Crisis Develops - Symptoms

  • Run on the banks to withdraw cash

  • Long lines at the gas station

  • Panic buying at the grocery stores

  • Media coverage of these events further feeds the panic

  • Local eruptions of violence/rioting


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Don’t Panic

  • These types of “shortages” are caused by rumors and the panic buying response

  • Extreme panic can not be maintained and such a crisis would be of short duration

  • Were such rumors actually true (e.g. the trucking industry will be down for months) no amount of stocking up would be sufficient


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During the Event

  • If staying home for several days is necessary to avoid angry/violent outbreaks

    • Use the time to catch up on reading, chores, spending time with family

    • Limit TV News viewing to several short periods per day

    • Limit outside phone calls to avoid further spreading of rumors


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Debrief and Let Go

  • After media reports assure that the crisis situation is no longer acute in your area

    • Sit everyone down and discuss the event

      • Was it fun? Exciting? Scary?

    • Drawing and art projects may help process feelings, especially for children

    • Resume normal routine as soon as possible

    • Work towards letting it go, and look toward future goals


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Be Prepared

  • Have an emergency supply kit with two weeks of food as recommended by FEMA and the Red Cross to give you and your family a cushion in times of crisis

  • Keep your gas tank above 1/3 full as recommended by FEMA and the Red Cross; above ½ full in times of high societal tension


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Benefits of Preparing Ahead

  • You can be a source of stability

  • You can relax when others may be panicking

  • You may be able to protect your family from physical exposure to a public panic crisis event


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Stay Informed

  • Keep abreast of local, regional, and world news

  • Read information from sources such as protectyourfamily.ky.gov on preparation for emergency situations and have a response plan

  • You may also find useful information about how current events may impact you at anewstory.org.


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