How to survive when a crowd stampedes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 November, 2011, 12:00am


You're thrilled about the Hong Kong debut of your favourite band. The tickets were bought months ago and the day has finally arrived. The venue seems less than ideal, but you're not fazed. This is what being a fan of indie rock is all about; standing up and rocking at shoddy venues.

You arrive at the venue and the place is packed. After snaking your way through hordes of people, you settle on a spot. Almost every inch is occupied and you can barely move. Yet with each passing moment, it is getting more crowded. All this even before the show has started.

What to do in a crush

Although laws require venues to abide by regulations, it's not uncommon for them to be filled beyond capacity. Overcrowding can easily turn into a disaster. If you're concerned about your safety, then leave. Tickets don't come cheap, but it's not worth risking your safety over money.

Once you leave the premises, file a complaint to the promoters. Voice your displeasure on public forums and social media platforms. It is likely that others feel the same way. This way, you can help ensure the organisers are held accountable for their poor planning.

Getting out safely

You should always make a mental note of exits whenever you enter a venue. That means knowing the nearest exit and quickest route to get there. The panic and chaos caused by hundreds of bodies pushing in one direction makes it difficult to think. So be prepared and know where to go. Often the door you come in through will not be the nearest exit.

If you are trapped in a stampede, you need to protect your chest and head. Keep your forearms out in front of you like a boxer - fists in front of your face, and forearms parallel to your chest - to ward off the impact. The force of bodies pushing against you can cause severe damage to your body. Zigzag your way to the exit; moving to areas where there are fewer people also helps. Walls can help you to maintain your balance and lead you to an exit.

Paul Wertheimer, head of Crowd Management Strategies, a concert safety consultancy, says if you are caught in a stampede, you should try to use the 'accordion move'.

He says: 'After you're pushed forward, like in a wave there's a lull. In that lull is your chance to move, and the way you move is on a diagonal, between pockets of people. There's always space between people. A couple of steps sideways, another wave surge, then another couple of steps in the next lull. You work your way out that way till you get to the [edge].'

Try and stay on your feet. If you fall, make every effort to get back up. Grabbing onto others is a good idea. If others reach out for help, pull them up. Try to keep your balance among the wave of bodies.

If you drop your wallet or other items, leave them. Your priority is to leave the area as soon as possible.

Once you're in a safe place, call 999. Don't assume that the police or crowd control officers have been alerted to the disaster.

Take the initiative: make the call.

Tips for survival

1 Be prepared. Make a mental note of exits.

2 Leave immediately if you're concerned the venue is packed beyond capacity.

3 Follow a zigzag movement.

4 Position your forearms in front of you like a boxer.

5 Try to stay on your feet. If you fall, try and get up as quickly as possible.

6 Leave any objects you drop.

7 After reaching a safe place, call 999. Don't assume others have already done so.