Wednesday 26 July 2017

Irish university's first-of-its-kind study to examine people’s behaviour during first 10 minutes of terrorist attacks

Maynooth University
Maynooth University
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

A team of Irish researchers will interview security forces, first responders and survivors of terrorists attacks to explore people’s movements and actions during incidents.

In a first-of-its-kind study that will examine people’s behaviour during the first 10 minutes of “marauding” terrorist attacks, like the Paris attack in November 2015, Maynooth University researchers will also assess information collected by international agencies.

Dr Mark Maguire, Head of Maynooth University’s Department of Anthropology, said the first 10 minutes of these attacks are central to this research.

“The role played by natural instinct in these circumstances has been greatly overstated in the past.

“Evidence points to learned behaviour and cultural factors playing a far more significant role in decision-making processes when people are placed in extreme stress.”

The researchers’ preliminary findings demonstrate that when the public is accustomed to being protected by the government, they are more likely to have a passive response to an attack.

However, in countries with a history of conflict and unrest, those under threat are more likely to take action against the attackers.

Attacks by terrorists using assault rifles and low-grade explosives to slaughter innocent people at cafés, stadiums, shopping malls and other public places have become one of the principal forms of terrorism across the globe.

Last November’s attack at the Bataclan theatre in Paris has been of particular interest to the researchers along with recent attacks in Norway and Kenya.

Once their work is concluded, the group of researchers aim to establish a bank of knowledge that first responders can draw upon to improve their services.

They will then organise a series of workshops that will bring representatives from relevant organisations together for role-playing exercises with a view towards developing a major international research project.

Team member Sadhbh McCarthy said such knowledge could be vital in dealing with threats.

“Having our first responders properly prepared for an attack, should it occur, represents the most cogent and mature strategy for protecting the lives of citizens.

“The trends of these attacks show that the perpetrators are typically domestic citizens and carry out these attacks for a multiplicity of reasons. This renders efforts by counter-intelligent agencies to root out potential terrorists both ineffective and highly damaging to civil liberties and the integrity of the state.”

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