Crowd psychology research has enhanced crowd management practices for over 700 local emergency specialists, improved safety for 125,000 festival goers and changed stadium safety procedures in the UK and abroad.

Impacts

  • Dr John Drury’s pioneering research into crowd resilience directly contributed to national and international policy on emergency preparedness and response through its influence on Public Health England, the Civil Contingencies Secretariat, the Department of Health,  NATO, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and over 200 policymakers across UK government.
  • He has contributed to the Cabinet Office National Risk Assessment process and has shaped Local Resilience Forum responses to emergencies. Over 700 specialists from local authorities, the emergency services and utility providers have used his work in preparing for local emergencies.
  • More than 2,000 safety stewards employed at events ranging from the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia to the Glastonbury Festival have received training based on Dr Drury’s research.
  • Since 2010, he has delivered a module on crowd psychology at Bucks New University to more than 60 crowd safety managers.
  • Internationally, his research resulted in safer queuing practices for 125,000 festival goers at Denmark’s Roskilde Festival, and is included in Indian government crowd management guidance for local authorities and event organisers.

"Dr Drury's research has been crucial to ensure that the Government and local emergency responders are able to anticipate and plan for the behavioural impacts of emergencies." (Emily Clark, Civil Contingencies Secretariat, Cabinet Office)

About the research

People tend to view a crowd in a potential emergency situation as a chaotic mass of panic-stricken individuals who need to be herded and controlled. That’s not necessarily the case, says Dr John Drury, whose groundbreaking research over the past 25 years has shown that mass emergency behaviour is often orderly and co-operative. “The idea that crowds in emergencies are psychologically vulnerable and always in need of top-down management and control is a myth,” he points out.

Instead, his work with survivors of events such as the July 2005 London bombings shows that a sense of ‘common fate’ creates a shared sense of identity which unites people in crowds. This provides the basis of the cooperative and coordinated behaviour often observed in emergencies and disasters. Far from disorderly panic, crowds can display a collective resilience which emergency services, policymakers, stewards and security teams have previously failed to appreciate or capitalise on.

These insights have changed emergency procedures and crowd safety practices in the UK and beyond. In place of control, mistrust and coercion, Dr Drury’s research provides evidence for everyone from the emergency services to everyday event stewards that it is possible to facilitate a crowd’s capacity to self-regulate through better communication, building trust and boosting the crowd’s sense of shared social identity.