Behavior During Earthquakes: A Southern Italian Example

March 1990 (VOL. 8, NO. 1)

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This article concerns mass reaction to a violent earthquake in the eastern part of Naples Province, southern Italy.Patterns of perception and mass behavior are reconstructed from the testimonies of a group of local high school students and from the author\\'s personal experience of the event. This information shows that the perception, and therefore the reaction, of people differed according to age group, older people being by virtue of experience the first to realize that an earthquake was happening. Flight behavior was the prevalent first reaction to the tremors, and fear of being indoors rapidly developed. During the early stages of the emergency panic, defined as nonrational imperative behavior, was common and people were injured as a result. Family ties, however, remained an important influence upon behavior, although they did not impede flight.\r\nThe findings of this study generally confirm previous literature on mass reactions to earthquake events, except that anxiety, panic, and flight appear to have been more widespread, and preparedness less common, than in many other cases that sociologists have studied.