Behavioural, emotional, and cognitive responses in European disasters: results of survivor interviews



In the European multi-centre study BeSeCu (Behaviour, Security, Culture), interviews were conducted in seven countries to explore survivors’ emotional, behavioural, and cognitive responses during disasters. Interviews, either in groups or one-to-one, were convened according to type of event: collapse of a building; earthquake; fire; flood; and terror attack. The content analysis of interviews resulted in a theoretical framework, describing the course of the events, behavioural responses, and the emotional and cognitive processing of survivors. While the environmental cues and the ability to recognise what was happening varied in different disasters, survivors’ responses tended to be more universal across events, and most often were adaptive and non-selfish. Several peri-traumatic factors related to current levels of post-traumatic stress were identified, while memory quantity did not differ as a function of event type or post-traumatic stress. Time since the event had a minor effect on recall. Based on the findings, several suggestions for emergency training are made.