SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Research has shown that the behaviour of people in fires and other emergencies is characterized by internally rational, socially and cognitively structured action. It has not been possible to date to discover whether the victims of fires display similar patterns of behaviour to the survivors, or act in a fundamentally different way. Following the public inquiry into the 1987 King's Cross underground fire in London, data were made available which allowed this issue to be addressed. The data mainly consisted of statements and interviews with survivors and friends of the victims. Examination of this information allowed the likely actions and intentions of 24 of the 31 victims to be pieced together with a good degree of certainty. The results showed that those who died in the fire behaved in a way similar to the survivors. Generally, victims perpetuated actions that were consistent with the normal scripts for the use of the setting, and as shaped by their place-related roles and schemata. The study shows that virtually all of the victims attempted to leave the station either by the way they had entered, or by their originally intended route. Implications of the findings for the understanding, modelling and researching of behaviour under life-threatening conditions are discussed.