What to Do If You Ever Get Caught in a Growing Crowd Like Astroworld
Last week, during a performance by Travis Scott at the Astroworld festival in Houston, eight people were killed and hundreds were injured as a dense crowd rushed to the stage. Many attendees have uploaded disturbing, terrifying footage of concertgoers struggling to get help as Scott continues to perform. With tragedy comes the need to lay the blame on ourselves – from absurd satanic conspiracy theories to – more appropriately – the unpreparedness of event organizers. More than 20 lawsuits have now been filed in which organizers are accused of failing to take simple riot containment measures or properly staffing them.
Done right, being in a big company can be an uplifting experience. But what to do when the crowd begins to sense danger? How do you know when the crowd is too dense? Is there a way to protect yourself from the mass of bodies pushing you?
While the thought of being in a large crowd may seem helpless, there are tips on how to protect yourself as an individual in this situation. In 2019, we spoke with crowd expert Paul Wertheimer about how to survive the crush . In light of the recent tragedy, here are some additional tips on how to stay safe in large crowds.
Be aware and ready to leave at the first sign of danger.
Mehdi Mussaid , a research scientist in Berlin who studies crowd behavior, told NPR that “the most important piece of advice is to be aware of the danger if the crowd is too dense around you.” Mussaid’s advice for determining crowd density is to check if you feel like people are pressing on you with both shoulders and other parts of your body at the same time. If there is power from all sides, and you still have time to move, then you should “leave … this is an alarming signal.” Trust your instincts and take exit routes before it’s too late.
Don’t panic and conserve oxygen
Experts say the mass loss of life is due to the fact that people are so tightly packed in space that they are compressed and they cannot get oxygen. This usually does not happen because they are being trampled. Despite all the urge to panic, do not yell or yell, as you will be wasting oxygen.
Stand like a boxer
The CDC recommends a “boxing” approach in panic situations with large crowds: keep your arms close to your chest and stand firmly on your feet. Keep your arms a few inches from your chest to allow enough room for oxygen to flow.
Likewise, don’t risk sitting down or returning to the ground for your backpack – it’s not worth it.
Move with the crowd
Moussaid explains crowd dynamics in an interview with NPR :
In a crowd, it all boils down to a chain reaction. When you push your neighbors, they will push their own neighbors and this will eventually run into an obstacle. Then the push gets stronger – and it will come back to you … In the worst moments you have several push waves at once. This is what we call crowd turbulence. You don’t want to be where two waves intersect, because the pressure is coming from opposite sides, which is really dangerous.
If you feel a push, resist the urge to push. Even if it’s uncomfortable, the best thing you can do is go with the flow.
Avoid walls and solid objects
Walls and other solid obstacles prevent you from moving with the flow of the crowd and increase the risk of being crushed by waves of people. Avoid obstacles and again: try to go with the flow of the crowd, even if it is illogical.
Help your neighbors
If the crowd starts to feel insecure, take care of those around you. Human behavior is contagious in large crowds (like crowd mentality), so try to extend altruism to individualism.