Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Kenneth Ambrose

Second Advisor

Lynda Ann Ewen

Third Advisor

Richard Garnett

Fourth Advisor

Leonard J. Deutsch


The residents of Buffalo Creek Hollow engaged in a variety of helping behaviors following a 1972 flood. In Everything In Its Path: Destruction of Community in the Buffalo Creek Flood Kai Erikson (1976) described these residents as being numbed and apathetic, doing nothing to help themselves or anyone else. They were stuck in the initial stages of Wallace’s “disaster syndrome” and could not help the people around them. Dynes (1974), Dynes and Quarantelli (1972), and Barton (1969), on the other hand, wrote that people in disasters tend to act in an altruistic manner, helping victims whenever they can. Dynes (1974) and Barton (1969) described characteristics of disasters and communities that encouraged such altruistic behaviors. On Buffalo Creek, the disaster impact was sudden and socially random, producing different “types” of victims. The communities along the creek had a high degree of social integration. Residents were able to identify with victims and feel sympathetic toward them. These factors encouraged the “expansion of the citizenship role” causing residents to feel an obligation to help victims and contribute to the good of the community. Examples of specific helping behaviors among Buffalo Creek residents following the flood were extricating trapped individuals, providing first aid to the injured, providing food and shelter, providing clothes to those without, gathering or covering bodies, and clearing debris from roads. Therefore, Erikson’s thesis was simplistic.



Helping behavior.

Disaster victims – Attitudes.

Floods – West Virginia – Buffalo Creek (Logan County).

Disasters – Psychological aspects.

Buffalo Creek (Logan County, W. Va.).