Chat with the chief: Don’t stand by, step in

Many people may agree that being surrounded by others when emergency strikes is ideal, because there’s a higher probability that someone will help you. Unfortunately, thanks to the bystander effect, facing an emergency in a highly-populated area can do more harm than good.

I recently encountered an emergency situation that could have gone poorly had the bystander effect had a strong presence. I was in Louisville, Kentucky, with a few other Torch staff members attending a journalism conference. On the evening of Saturday, Oct. 27, our group was walking on the outskirts of downtown Louisville when a car, swerving drastically across the road, crashed into a small bus and flipped, getting about six feet of air before landing upside down on the driver’s side.

Right away, we knew we had to take action. Someone asked if we should call 911, and another member of our group said maybe we don’t have to. After all, we didn’t know the area well and had to search to find the nearest street names. We also didn’t know much about the situation. However, someone mentioned the bystander effect and that we couldn’t assume others would step in and take action. So, we intervened and called for an ambulance.

The bystander effect is defined as the unlikeliness of people to intervene in a situation when others are present, according to “Psychology Today.” When tragedy strikes in a populated area, many people will assume that someone else has already begun to help, but when everyone makes that assumption, no one actually ends up doing anything to aid those in danger.

The bystander effect is such a serious, common issue, as many people do not want to involve themselves in a situation they might not understand. This harms people who urgently need assistance and intervention, but fail to receive it because people want to mind their own business.

I’m positive we weren’t the only people to call for help that night, but I am so glad we did. We were in a less populated area, so there probably weren’t as many witnesses. Plus, the driver appeared to be under the influence and was likely unable to make the call himself. Sure, we could have let the bystander effect get the best of us, presumed that someone else had already reported the accident and gone about our lives. However, it is our moral obligation as human beings to make sure other human beings get the help they need.

When you see someone in trouble, step in and do something about it. You can’t assume they will be okay or someone else will help, because that’s how people are seriously injured or killed. If you witness a car accident, check to make sure the victims are okay. If you think someone is being followed, say something.

Don’t stand by. Step in. Intervene. It’s better for you to falsely believe someone is in danger than falsely assume someone is safe.