Trapped staff calm, supportive - study
Christchurch Earthquake 2011
Workers trapped in three of Christchurch's tallest buildings after the February 2011 earthquake banded together, comforted each other and maintained their office leadership roles, a Canterbury University researcher has found.
Associate professor Charles Fleischmann has spent the past year researching the experiences of 80 people unable to escape the 17-storey Clarendon Tower, 19-storey Forsyth Barr building and the 26-storey Hotel Grand Chancellor after exits were blocked or stairwells collapsed.
Fleischmann, an engineer who specialised in building fire safety and human behaviour in building fires, said he had drawn parallels between the quakes and studies on those trapped by fire.
"[The study] is to see how the people reacted in that situation, and what we might learn from that in how they behave, what they might do, what sort of guidance we might give people who are stuck in those situations, and what are the things they should potentially be thinking about," he said.
Most were trapped for hours until rescued by crane, while a group at Forsyth Barr used ropes to escape.
Research showed that even when confronted with "horrific challenges", people came together to "comfort one another and work together toward a common goal", Fleischmann said. Survey comments about the behaviour of others were "universally positive".
"The response to the survey shows that the occupants were under a great deal of stress and anxiety about their situation, yet there were no reports of panic or inappropriate behaviour on the part of the occupants."
Fleischmann was surprised that in most cases "traditional" workplace roles were maintained.
"Managers or leaders in a company would stay in that role . . . and look after their employees in those situations. Where they would wait or one person could go down at a time, the manager would be the last to go," he said.
More trapped workers were being sought for the study, especially those in the Hotel Grand Chancellor. Fleischmann can be contacted on (03) 364 2987, ext 6399.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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