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The role of “zero-responders” during 7/7: implications for the emergency services

Chris Cocking (School of Nursing & Midwifery, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 21 October 2013




The purpose of this paper is to explore the psychological processes involved in spontaneous co-operation by survivors of mass emergencies, and the possible implications this may have for emergency responders.


A qualitative interview study was conducted with 12 survivors and witnesses of the 7 July 2005 London bombings. Data were subjected to thematic analysis.


Spontaneous co-operation amongst survivors often emerged, and this was a function of a common identity that grew out of a sense of shared fate amongst those affected. Some social influence that encouraged co-operation also occurred, and this was dependent upon whether there was a sense of shared identity between source and target of influence.

Research limitations/implications

Evidence was only collected from a sub-set of one incident (7/7), thus limiting possible generalisability of the findings. Further research into comparable situations would provide a better understanding of the processes underlying mutual co-operation and support amongst emergency survivors.

Practical implications

Uninjured bystanders in emergencies can act as “zero-responders”, and so may become a useful resource which can be utilised by the emergency services in mass emergencies.


This is the first paper to explore in detail the social influence processes underlying spontaneous co-operation amongst survivors of emergencies, and will be of use to emergency responders.



The research described in the paper was made possible through funding from the Economic and Social Research Council to John Drury, Paul Langston, Steve Reicher, and Damian Schofield (RES-000-23-0446).


Cocking, C. (2013), "The role of “zero-responders” during 7/7: implications for the emergency services", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 79-93.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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