Stampede is sudden, uncontrolled, frenzied panic rush of crowd in mass impulse to avoid a disastrous or threatening situation. Stampede generally occurs in large gatherings in religious places, large protests, public assembly, festivals or concerts or even in bottleneck exit. Few examples are like recent Elphinstone railway station stampede, 2016 stampede in Puttingal Devi temple Kerala where more than 100 people were killed, Ujjain mela in 2016 and many more.
Crowd can build up anywhere and there are no precautionary signs of threatening conditions beforehand to help people protect them. But a little bit of knowledge and precaution can help save oneself and near ones. Paul Wertheimer, crowd safety expert who had studied various stampedes and has delineated various crowd management strategies.
- Avoid large gatherings in the first place if you can. Like avoiding the peak rush, peak season, or even peak timings which can help a lot, not just from frenzy crowd but other anxieties as well.
- Use minimum resistance and shortest exit: The crowd does not increase proportionally in a little time but takes some time to build up. If feel stuck in the crowd, get out of there from minimum resistance and shortest exit as fast as possible.
- Do not panic and keep calm: If you feel people are pushing you from all four directions, then that means you are really stuck in the huge crowd. Basic Rule is not to panic and keep calm. Go with the crowd, don’t resist them. Even if you use your full strength you cannot go against a crowd. So use that crowd to your benefit. Crowd does not surge every second but instead in a wave form. After every surge there is a pause. Use that pause to move forward. It won’t be a straight line to your exit but a zig zag or diagonal one when moving forward in wave like or accordion style.
- Don’t trip and help others: It’s important to maintain your stance while moving forward and not to trip. And also helping others to avoid them stumbling because when in crowd we are part of crowd, and if one falls, others will invariably topple. So, extend a helping hand to others too.
- Use body language to communicate: While moving through dense crowd, the noise associated with it will not allow your scream to penetrate further. It is useful to use sign or body language to communicate and avoid shouting and screaming which will make you further nervous and panic you and others.
- Use a boxer stance when moving forward. A foot in front of another foot and hands in front of your chest and face to protect breathing space and not asphyxiate you. It will also maintain the centre of gravity of body closer to main axis and evade the fall.
Nobody can deny the power of crowd which can be aggressive sometimes. To act with an open mind and sharp eyes, also rely on the gut instinct on leaving that place beforehand the situation turns out of hand.
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