There have been several incidents at concerts and other events in recent years where people died because of unsafe crowd conditions and stampedes. The latest such scenario unfolded in Seoul, South Korea, where a Halloween gathering in a club district turned deadly, with at least 154 fatalities being reported.
This may leave some people thinking there’s little you can do to survive a stampede. Indeed, it’s a frightening situation to be in and circumstances may make it impossible to escape. But crowd-safety experts say there are several strategies that could help you avoid a potentially fatal outcome. Consider these five steps:
Have a plan before you need one
The key to staying safe in a crowd begins as soon as you arrive at the location, says Randy I. Atlas, a safety consultant based in Fort Lauderdale. Namely, he advises people to take note of where the nearest exits are. It’s a piece of common-sense advice that Atlas applies not just at big events, but even when entering almost any room.
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Go with the flow
If there’s a sudden panic and crowds begin to push in a certain direction, your instinct may be to fight back and push the opposite way. But that could be a big mistake, Atlas warns. If you go against the flow, you increase your chances of getting tripped and knocked down. Another risk, according to experts: If you fight the crowd, you will tire yourself out quickly in a situation where you need all the energy you can muster.
Angle your way out
As you move forward with the crowd, it’s best to move in a diagonal direction so you can potentially angle your way out of the situation, experts say. The goal, according to writer Patrick Hutchison, is to get to “the edge of the stampede where it’s less likely that you’ll end up stuck at a chokepoint, like a doorway.”
Find somewhere to shield yourself
Another potential way to handle the situation is to shield yourself and allow the crowd to move past you. Look for “a solid structure to stand behind such as a pillar or a wall,” says Bart Whitaker, a veteran venue and event-management professional. Other places to duck: behind a car or even a lamppost.
Give yourself some breathing room
In many stampede events, people die from asphyxiation — they are simply crushed to the point they can’t breathe. But a possible way to avoid this is to place your arms in front of you, almost in a boxer-like stance. That could give you some very valuable breathing room — literally. “It’s a simple pose, but surprisingly effective and possibly life-saving,” said Matt Gutman of ABC News in a 2019 report.