Faced with an ongoing or imminent danger, crisis managers must do their utmost to protect the exposed population and limit the extent of the disaster. More than during the pre- and post-disaster phases, time is of the essence. This temporal specificity of the disaster is essential compared to the risk. It requires a perfect coordination and a quick response in a context of uncertainty. It is important to intervene rapidly on the scene of the disaster while ensuring there are enough first responders. Crisis managers must also quickly alert the population at risk in order to favor the adoption of protective behaviors and limit inappropriate reactions, panic phenomena, and the spread of rumors.

In France, in the event of a danger affecting the population, the intervention of law enforcement and emergency services is relatively rapid, even though there may be differences depending on the territories (urban or rural). On the contrary, the triggering of the alert by institutional actors (the mayor or the prefect, depending on the extent of the disaster) must follow a strict procedure that imposes longer delays and may limit or even neutralize its effectiveness.

This article, published in the international online journal Sustainability by researchers including Edwige Dubos-Paillard, professor at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and member of the Géographie-cités laboratory, proposes a theoretical reflection on the effectiveness of these two types of intervention (relief and warning) with affected populations in the case of rapid kinetic or unpredictable events affecting people with a low risk culture.

Transfer diagram for the APC (alert, panic and control) model in which intervention of
rescuers and institutional information are included. The intrinsic transitions are represented in solid
lines, while the imitation ones are represented in dashed lines.
Fig. 1, Sustainability 2023, 15, 9474, p. 6

This reflection is based on the mathematical model “alert, panic, control” (APC) inspired by models used in epidemiology. It enables the modeling of behavior dynamics by distinguishing control and panic behaviors resulting from the difficulty or incapacity to regulate emotions. Several scenarios are proposed to identify the phases during which these two kinds of intervention have an optimal effect on the population by limiting panic phenomena.

Nathalie Verdière, Edwige Dubos-Paillard, Valentina Lanza, Damienne Provitolo, Rodolphe Charrier, et al.. Study of the Effect of Rescuers and the Use of a Massive Alarm in a Population in a Disaster Situation. Sustainability, 2023, 15 (12), pp.9474. ⟨10.3390/su15129474⟩. ⟨halshs-04168282


Sustainability is an international, cross-disciplinary, scholarly, peer-reviewed and open access journal of environmental, cultural, economic, and social sustainability of human beings. It provides an advanced forum for studies related to sustainability and sustainable development, and is published semimonthly online by MDPI.

By the same authors

Valentina Lanza, Damienne Provitolo, Nathalie Verdière, Cyrille Bertelle, Edwige Dubos-Paillard, et al.. Modeling and Analysis of the Impact of Risk Culture on Human Behavior during a Catastrophic Event. Sustainability, 2023, 15 (14), pp.11063. ⟨10.3390/su151411063⟩⟨halshs-04166620⟩