Research Topic

Active Bystanders: The Bystanders' Critical Role as Immediate Responders During Emergencies

About this Research Topic

Pro-social behavior is defined as behavior that is executed on voluntary grounds, directed to benefit the other, and without expectation for compensation. Such behavior includes providing help and assistance, information sharing and social and mental support. Past research has focused on the help provider's age, with differences between childhood, adolescence and adulthood, gender differences in pro-social motivations, and the relationship between the help-giver and the help-taker while differences were found between providing help and support among family members, friends, and strangers.

Social organization and cooperation is a solid subject within the emergency and crisis literature. "Togetherness" and sense of closeness emerge in a disaster scene among those who witnessed it, as victims or bystanders. Experiencing the emergency and the mental stress caused by it, leads to the creation of a sense of common ingroup identity among those bystanders, which strengthens the coping capacities of this "group's members".

Although the common and rational expectation is for the emergency authorities to respond immediately, in practice, those bystanders and victims themselves are the first to assist and aid those in need, actually helping in saving lives. Research has shown that the "bystander effect" according to which people will avoid reaching for help to those in need due to diffusion of responsibility, does not take place in mass casualty events. Bystanders' assistance occurs immediately and significantly. This help, whose roots are altruistic, in fact, bridges the gap in responding to the emergency caused by the inappropriate and delayed response of the official emergency authorities.

Help and assistance actions can be found in various forms: during the London Bus explosions (2005), help included rescue from explosion zone, comfort and calming, providing water, food, and shelter. During Hurricane Katrina (2005) hotels workers and guests provided help, which included food and provision distribution, sheltering, and evacuation to safe places and to hospitals. These informal emergency assistance mechanisms shed light on the importance of the immediate help provided by bystanders who witnessed the emergency situation.

The purpose of this Research Topic: is to examine and understand those informal assistance mechanisms, in order to enhance emergency response and save lives. In addition, this Research Topic will allow for better understanding of the opportunities and constraints, which the bystander faces. Such can be lack of knowledge, the presence of other bystanders and group dynamics, cooperation with emergency first responders upon their arrival, and the social and cultural characteristics of providing help by bystanders.

This Research Topic seeks papers that address analysis of past emergencies and the role of bystanders in them, as well as the analysis of the medical, social, cultural aspects of such help, which can lead to innovative insights on ways to increase bystanders' ability to effectively provide help during emergencies. This might also include technological developments of awareness and decision-making tools as well as technologies, which can be used.


Keywords: bystander, immediate responder, mass casualty incident, leadership, crowd, informal networks, emergency


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Pro-social behavior is defined as behavior that is executed on voluntary grounds, directed to benefit the other, and without expectation for compensation. Such behavior includes providing help and assistance, information sharing and social and mental support. Past research has focused on the help provider's age, with differences between childhood, adolescence and adulthood, gender differences in pro-social motivations, and the relationship between the help-giver and the help-taker while differences were found between providing help and support among family members, friends, and strangers.

Social organization and cooperation is a solid subject within the emergency and crisis literature. "Togetherness" and sense of closeness emerge in a disaster scene among those who witnessed it, as victims or bystanders. Experiencing the emergency and the mental stress caused by it, leads to the creation of a sense of common ingroup identity among those bystanders, which strengthens the coping capacities of this "group's members".

Although the common and rational expectation is for the emergency authorities to respond immediately, in practice, those bystanders and victims themselves are the first to assist and aid those in need, actually helping in saving lives. Research has shown that the "bystander effect" according to which people will avoid reaching for help to those in need due to diffusion of responsibility, does not take place in mass casualty events. Bystanders' assistance occurs immediately and significantly. This help, whose roots are altruistic, in fact, bridges the gap in responding to the emergency caused by the inappropriate and delayed response of the official emergency authorities.

Help and assistance actions can be found in various forms: during the London Bus explosions (2005), help included rescue from explosion zone, comfort and calming, providing water, food, and shelter. During Hurricane Katrina (2005) hotels workers and guests provided help, which included food and provision distribution, sheltering, and evacuation to safe places and to hospitals. These informal emergency assistance mechanisms shed light on the importance of the immediate help provided by bystanders who witnessed the emergency situation.

The purpose of this Research Topic: is to examine and understand those informal assistance mechanisms, in order to enhance emergency response and save lives. In addition, this Research Topic will allow for better understanding of the opportunities and constraints, which the bystander faces. Such can be lack of knowledge, the presence of other bystanders and group dynamics, cooperation with emergency first responders upon their arrival, and the social and cultural characteristics of providing help by bystanders.

This Research Topic seeks papers that address analysis of past emergencies and the role of bystanders in them, as well as the analysis of the medical, social, cultural aspects of such help, which can lead to innovative insights on ways to increase bystanders' ability to effectively provide help during emergencies. This might also include technological developments of awareness and decision-making tools as well as technologies, which can be used.


Keywords: bystander, immediate responder, mass casualty incident, leadership, crowd, informal networks, emergency


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

08 October 2018 Manuscript
30 April 2019 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

08 October 2018 Manuscript
30 April 2019 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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