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Women and children first? Experts say that in most crises, it’s more like everyone for themselves

by Joshua Brown
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crisis response myths

The widely held belief in the principle of “women and children first” during crises may not reflect reality. This concept, often associated with maritime disasters and dramatized in films like the Titanic, is increasingly scrutinized. A notable example is the November deal between Israel and Hamas, where the release of women and children from captivity was prioritized, raising questions about the exclusion of elderly and injured men.

This approach has sparked debate, as exemplified by Sharone Lifshitz, whose elderly

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about crisis response myths

Is the “Women and Children First” Protocol a Myth?

Yes, the “Women and Children First” protocol is largely a myth. Studies and real-world scenarios suggest that in crises, people often prioritize self-preservation regardless of gender or age. The notion, while popularized by historical events and Hollywood, does not accurately reflect human behavior in emergencies.

How Does Society Impact Crisis Response?

Societal and cultural norms significantly influence crisis response. Factors like leadership, time constraints, and the specific situation dictate the behavior of individuals in a crisis. The concept of who is most vulnerable may vary, leading to different rescue priorities.

What Did the Study on Maritime Disasters Reveal?

A study on 18 maritime disasters over three centuries revealed that the Titanic was an exception in prioritizing women and children. Generally, in most shipwrecks, chaos prevails, and captains and crew have a higher survival rate. Women often have a survival disadvantage compared to men.

How Do Hostage Situations Differ from Other Crises?

In hostage situations, the dynamics change as external actors, such as political entities or militant groups, control the scenario. Decisions about who to release first can be influenced by various factors, including politics, international pressure, and the specific demands of the captors.

How Did the Israel-Hamas Prisoners-for-Hostages Deal Prioritize Victims?

In the Israel-Hamas prisoners-for-hostages deal, negotiators agreed to prioritize the release of mothers and children, reflecting a concern for keeping families together. However, this approach left behind many male hostages, sparking debate and criticism over the decision-making process.

More about crisis response myths

  • Crisis Management Strategies
  • Human Behavior in Emergencies
  • History of the “Women and Children First” Protocol
  • Societal Influences on Emergency Responses
  • Maritime Disaster Case Studies
  • Negotiation Dynamics in Hostage Situations
  • Israel-Hamas Conflict Analysis
  • Evacuation Protocols and Real-World Applications

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