A human stampede is uncontrolled concerted running as an act of mass impulse among herd animals or a crowd of people in which the group collectively begins running, often in an attempt to escape a perceived threat.Wikipedia
What would you do if you found yourself caught up in a ‘human stampede’?
How do you think would you handle that same situation? Some time ago I found myself, my wife, and two children caught up in a stampede of people in Penn Station New York City. A scary situation that we managed by staying calm.
A variety of factors and situations may trigger a human stampede or a fatal crush of people. Something as innocent as a Black Friday sale has led to crowd crushes in places as simple as a department store.
Ever see a Walmart video of those things? Riot police firing water cannons or tear gas can cause a crowd to suddenly converge to a compressed point resulting in a human stampede.
What Is A Crowd Crush?
A crowd crush or human stampede can happen wherever crowds congregate. The crowd size can be large or small from huge sporting events, concerts, or riots, or smaller venues like nightclubs, churches, subways or worse—an escalator.
Panic is the primary problem, and many situations can panic a crowd: A fire, an active shooter, flooding, or any other event perceived as a threat. History records thousands of tragedies where people have suffocated, trampled or buried under bodies as a relentless flow of people move together with no escape.
Surviving The Human Stampede
When push comes to shove…..pun intended, it is wise to remain calm and have a mental plan in place in order to survive the moment.
Know Your Exits
Look around you and understand your exit points. They are usually clearly marked. Most people try to exit from where they entered. Look for alternatives and understand your options.
In some instances, a venue is a temporary structure for a sporting event or concert. At those times exits won’t always have clear markings or identification. Take the time to consider your options for an exit.
Keep Your Arms Up
The best defensive position is with your arms up and folded across your chest. This will give you the opportunity to push out slightly so you can breathe and to give you a way to wedge yourself through the crowd. If your arms are hanging down at your side you may never be able to get them up.
Go with the flow. Trying to go against the crush could cause you to fall. As you continue to advance with the direction of the crowd, begin to work at an angle towards an exit point you’ve identified.
The best time to make this diagonal move is based on crowd theory. Studies have shown that a crowd typically pushes and pulls and those lulls in the crush can allow you to make diagonal progress.
Avoid Choke Points Whenever Possible
Chokepoints are locations where a wide area narrows down to a doorway, hallway or other narrow passage. Avoid them and look for a hidden exit around a corner or through a hidden door. If you must, break a window.
You Must Remain Calm
Panic is contagious. Ask people to please move back or backup. Yelling only spreads the panic.
Try To Keep To Higher Ground
One of the greatest dangers is falling to the ground. When someone falls it creates a vacuum that is soon filled. Look for anything that can get you up and away from the crowd. If you drop your wallet or purse, leave it. If you do fall, assume a fetal position on your side and protect your head with your arms. Don’t lie on your back or stomach.
Don’t Lose Your Humanity
If someone falls, try to help them up. Remember, women and children first. The more people help each other, the more others will get the idea and help to resolve the problem rather than make it worse. If you apply these principles and remain calm you will most likely survive a crowd crush or human stampede.
I’ve been in one situation with my family where people ended up being crushed. The key was the diagonal movements after I picked up my youngest child.
Pointing elbows out but giving me a breathing space. I did not look around. One case I had my daughter put her hands (adult) on my shoulders and we moved as one.
We just pointed our selves in the direction of the furthest wall/ free space behind the crowd and assertively walked. I continually said “excuse me”. “I am going to throw up” also helps.
Crowds will part to get you behind them if they think they can get closer to going the way they choose. I don’t think I would put my arms up—better chance of getting squeezed.
It happens fast. The last time had about four parents with small children right on my heels. It was one scary moment. Very Scary.