The Social Organization of Search and Rescue: Evidence From the Guadalajara Gasoline Explosion

March 1995 (VOL. 13, NO. 1)

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The Guadalajara gasoline explosion of 22 April, 1992, is examined to show the importance of social organization in search and rescue activities. Interviews were conducted with forty three victims that had been buried alive by the explosion and twenty two volunteers who had participated in the direct rescue phase. They reported on their own experiences during SAR and those of victims and rescuers near them. Most of the people that were rescued alive were rescued by these volunteers. Volunteers’ social identities in peer groups, extended families, the neighborhood, the Catholic Church structured their search and rescue activities. Chances of people surviving the blast were directly proportional to the presence among the searchers of a person or persons who cared for the victim and who knew the victim’s likely location. The behavior of the victims was marked by the continuation of preexisting motivational, normative, and value orientations. Victims acted cooperatively during entrapment. Most of the living victims were rescued during the first two hours of the explosion.