Emergency Evacuation: Discussion

Emergency Evacuation: Discussion


The aim of this exploratory pilot study was to shine a light on the resource of leadership during an emergency situation. For this reason we proposed some hypothesis that regard connections between some variables that we believe can play an important role during emergencies. We took into account transformational leadership, knowledge about the emergency plan, positive attitude toward emergency plan, self-confidence and the team emergency response. 

As predicted by hypothesis 1, higher levels of transformational leadership correspond to higher levels of self-confidence. The significant positive correlation we found supports our idea that transformational leaders will feel confident also during the emergency situation. 

Also hypothesis 2 has been confirmed. Indeed, the statistical analysis shows that leaders who have a deeper knowledge about the emergency plan report higher levels of self-confidence. This means that being familiar with the procedures to following in case of emergency allow leaders to feel more confident when the dangerous situation really takes place. 

In the same way, having a positive attitude toward the emergency plan is another key variable that positively affects the level of self-confidence. In fact, the correlation analysis has shown that the hypothesis 3 received statistical support: if a leader thinks that the emergency plan is understandable and safe, he/she will feel more sure about how to lead the situation.

The level of self-confidence, at the same time, affects the team emergency response. The correlation matrix, indeed, shows that there is a statistically significant positive correlation between the self-confidence and the team emergency response (hypothesis 4). This means that self-confident leaders have a positive effect on their team members during the emergency, leading them to perform the most appropriate actions.

Moreover, the correlation matrix shows two other relationships that haven’t been taken into account in the research questions chapter. The first one is that positive attitude toward the emergency plan and knowledge about it are strongly positively correlated. This finding is not surprising. Indeed, only if a leader knows the emergency plan he/she will develop a positive attitude toward it, or, on the contrary, only if a leader thinks that the emergency plan is important he/she will be motivated to read and memorize it. The second relationship that emerged from the correlation matrix is that knowledge about the emergency plan is directly and positively correlated to team emergency response. This means that leaders who have a good level of knowledge about how to behave in case of emergency have a positive effect on the emergency performance of their teams, probably suggesting them the right things to do in order to face the hazard.

The model we proposed, with transformational leadership, knowledge about the emergency plan and positive attitude toward it predicting the level of self confidence hasn’t received support from the statistics analysis (hypothesis 5). Indeed, differently to what we thought, knowledge is not a significant predictor. On the other hand, transformational leadership and positive attitude received statistical support. Surprisingly, this means that knowing what to do in case of emergency doesn’t have a predicting effect on the level of confidence in leading the same emergency. Coherently with what we supposed, instead, leaders who adopt a transformational style of leadership and, at the same time, have a positive attitude toward the emergency procedures will experience higher levels of self-confidence during the emergency.

Not even hypothesis 6 has received statistical support. Indeed, there is no statistical significance for the moderator effect of self-confidence in the relationship between transformational leadership and team emergency response.  This could be due to the small sample we used for this pilot study, or maybe truly there is not a significant effect between these variables. Nevertheless further researches are needed to give light to these topics, because there is a gap in the literature so far.

The descriptive analysis provided in this study depict a positive scenario of the emergency management in the organization considered.

Most of the immediate actions performed during the shock were pertinent with the ones suggested in the evacuation plan, like sheltering under the table. Also the team emergency response described by the leaders is positive: the most rated item regards the management of the situation as a team and the clarity of the leadership role. Less than the half of the participants reported that they needed to encourage someone which wasn’t calm and only a quarter of them had to convince someone to leave the building. These are both good indicators of the members performance. Team evacuation behavior can be also be considered positively: the items that received the higher rates regard the safely use of emergency exit in a reasonable time. Most of the leaders reported to have only a little bit of difficulties in leading the situation, and the mean of the self-confidence level was quite high (almost 70%). Results are really positive also taking into account leaders’ knowledge about the emergency plan (the mean of each itemis over 2.46 on a maximum of 3), and leaders’ attitude about it, which is quite positive (the mean of each item is over 3 on a maximum of 4). Moreover, asking about the effectiveness of a list of actions, the answers are pertinent with what the emergency plan recommends. Finally, drills are perceived quiet important or extremely important by eight out of ten leaders. 

All this descriptive data enrich our comprehension of the situation happened in the organization we considered as well as this study that aimed to give a description and clarify the leader’s perspective during an emergency evacuation. Nevertheless, there are some limitations that affect this research.

The first one regards the number of participants which is too small. For this reason it could be useful to repeat the study with a bigger number of respondents and retest the 5th and 6th hypothesis that haven’t be statistically supported. It could be also interesting to collect participants from different firms and companies instead that from the same organization.

Another weakness of this paper is that leaders’ knowledge about emergency plan is assessed through questions to the leaders so the measure couldn’t be objective. It would be better to assess their level of knowledge through another questionnaire. For example, it could be more objective to verify if the respondents really know the content of the emergency plan (for example “according to the evacuation plan, where is the nearest emergency exit from your office?”), instead of asking the level of the agreement on the item “I know the emergency plan in case of evacuation”.

Also other type of variables present the same problem of objectivity. Team emergency and team evacuation response are assessed through questions to the leaders, so the measure could not be completely reliable. Also in this case it would be better to use another specific questionnaire able to assess objectively the level of team emergency and evacuation response. As an alternative these variables can be also assessed through some specific drills. Another idea could be to distribute these two scales to a sample of teams’ members as well and then confront their answers to leaders’ ones.

Finally, another factor that has to be taken into account is that social desirability bias is it likely to affect our data. This is because our sample is composed of managers and leaders that can be motivated to answer in a way to ingratiate the company or the employer, faking the results. 

The present study is just an exploratory research, but it gives some interesting starting points that would be interested to be examined in depth. Further research is needed to clarify the questions raised in this report. For example, there are no studies analysis leadership in evacuation that take into consideration leadership styles. Also self-confidence is an aspect generally neglected in this field of study. Nevertheless, it is two factor are both involved during the evacuation process.

This study reaffirm, once again, the crucial importance of the psychological issues in evacuation management.  There are many questions that still have to be answered due to the complicated evacuation setting which involves individual, social and environmental factors. Nevertheless, continuing collecting data is of utmost importance to develop a comprehensive model of human behavior in evacuation. Psychological findings will be then added to engineering measures in the evacuation models that are really useful tools to predict time needed to exit buildings. Only with this synergy in efforts workers’ security in the workplaces would be pledged.