Preventing Crowd Crush

Even though we typically feel comfortable attending big events, the fun and joy of gathering together can also bring many safety concerns. Large events or mass gatherings, such as concerts, sporting events and festivals, can trigger emergencies such as a crowd crush.

Any large event or mass gathering carries certain safety risks. Although rare, crowd crushes and other safety concerns can happen, as the recent crowd crush in South Korea illustrated.

Although such tragedies are uncommon, crowd crush does happen, and learning techniques to prevent crowd crush can reduce casualties, protect lives and minimize property damage. The most crucial thing in mass gatherings and large events is to ensure people’s safety, especially in dense crowds.

Whether it is a popular hometown road race, arts festival or concert, events like these require significant planning, especially as it relates to managing the crowd. One essential element of preventing crowd crush is crowd management.

What is crowd crush?

A crowd crush occurs when too many people press into a small and restrained area. When people get packed in too tightly, their lungs can start compressing, and the resulting pressure can hinder breathing. In a crowd crush, this lung compression results in many suffering life-threatening asphyxia.

Most people expect some level of pushing and shoving at an event, but unforeseen circumstances can cause a crowd surge that leads to a crowd crush. For example, in October 2022, upset from the team’s loss, disappointed fans at a soccer match at Kanjuruhan stadium Indonesia started a riot, leading to a crowd crush that killed 131.

Event organizers are usually held responsible for the casualties caused by crowd crush incidents. However, utilizing proper planning and crowd management can help prevent crowd crush and other potential dangers.

What is crowd management?

A crowd crush that killed eight people in Houston at a Travis Scott concert in November 2021 was primarily due to miscommunication around the size of the growing crowd and the overwhelmed event staff. The crowd crush could have been prevented with adequate crowd management.

Crowd management consists of a strategy and actionable plans to maximize people’s safety wherever a large group gathers in one place. This emergency planning could include anywhere people gather in large numbers, such as a concert, religious gathering or an airport.

Crowd management plans include many things such as:

  •   Risk assessment
  •   Examining traffic flow patterns
  •   Researching the event space
  •   Predicting weather patterns

Identifying risks such as inadequate directional signage

Planning for incidents such as crowd crushes can occur anytime leading up to the event, during the event and after.

For example, in October, Harry Styles fans in Chicago began camping out to get the best seats prior to his concert. But, as part of their crowd control plan, event management at the United Center created guidelines to reduce the number of gathering fans, including forbidding camping and giving numbered wristbands to line up for general admission tickets.

Most event management companies readily use crowd management professionals and techniques to ensure the safety of event attendees and to mitigate dangers like crowd crush.

Using crowd management to prevent crowd crush

Any large gathering will require some form of crowd management to ensure people have a pleasant experience, stay safe and avoid crowd crush. Many event managers enlist the help of crowd management professionals. Event organizers can mitigate crowd crush using these steps: 1) crowd detection, 2) crowd monitoring and 3) staff communication.

Crowd detection

The first step in preventing crowd crush is creating a strategic plan before the event. This plan should include an evaluation of how the previous year’s event went and to identify areas of weakness that could negatively impact peoples’ safety. Enlist the help of a crowd management professional, if necessary.

Outline the flow of attendees and traffic. If this is the inaugural event, investigate the event venue with the help of local officials. Then, create a written plan that includes clearly mapped exits and traffic flow. Don’t forget about traffic patterns. Marked entrances and exits help attendees, staff and emergency responders quickly navigate during an incident.

The plan also needs to include a measurement of the expected number of attendees and the amount of space. According to the study In-Depth Survey to Detect, Monitor and Manage Crowd, “the typical number of persons that occupy one square meter while walking is 2.14, whereas the figure increases to 3.75 persons per square meter when people are still. Likewise, the maximum density should be six persons per square meter.

In addition, an effective crowd management plan should include communicating and educating staff and security. Everyone working the event should have clear direction of where people will gather, traffic flow patterns and how any changes to the plan will be communicated. For example, notify the security and staff beforehand if you know which barriers can be removed during a crowd crush.

Additionally, teach security that force may not be necessary. Many event attendees gather with a shared interest, so if security pushes back on what they perceive as unwanted behavior, the crowd may resist together.

Additional considerations for a crowd management plan to prevent crowd crush include:

  • Designate a maximum capacity. Although it may be tempting to sell as many tickets as possible, attendees will have a better and safer time at the event if they are not too crowded. 
  • Assess the risks and understand the stakes of the event. A mass religious, political or sports gathering (where emotions run high) may be risk factors for crowd-crush control, as opposed to a less-controversial event such as an art fair or road race. 
  • Clearly mark exits and entrances, traffic flow and paths to make it easier for people to leave a crowded situation.
  • Identify what type of security and how much security staff is needed.
  • Outline a crowd-control strategy. For example, where could barriers open in an emergency that would improve people’s movement?

Crowd monitoring

After creating an event plan to avoid crowd crush, track the plan during the event. Once the event begins, test the communication methods so the relevant staff and security can quickly relay important information.

Also, monitor where people gather to anticipate a need for crowd control and quickly relay information about any group of people that is getting too large. A mass notification system can be helpful in these situations to quickly communicate growing concerns and changes in the original plan.  

More than likely, security will be stationed closest to the crowd and have the most updated information, creating the need for a robust communication tool. A mass notification system is one tool event planners and managers can use to communicate information fast and provide support in difficult situations.

How does a mass notification system help prevent crowd crush?

Mass notification tools help communicate important information to staff and security during an event. When crowd crush becomes a possibility, mass notification systems can alert event staff quickly via email, text, push notification or voicemail.

Additionally, some mass notification systems include other valuable tools for event managers in case of an emergency, including:

  • Hazard-messaging templates to help save time and secure accuracy during a crisis.
  • Reliably deploy critical alerts with one or two clicks. The software should be simple for every level of technical ability.
  • Database integration, contact management and synchronization between platforms. This ensures that contacts are reachable during critical events. Implement a strategy for updating contact information, so alerts reach all recipients when moments count.
  • Integration with emergency alerts from the National Weather Service, NOAA, IPAWS and others. During severe weather events, event staff in your network can receive up-to-date information, evacuation advisories and other essential information to help them stay safe during storms and other natural disasters.
  • Send essential notifications within a geographic boundary. The software should trigger a response when an enabled device enters or leaves the specified area. Target people within a specific region with a notification, alert or other software interactions.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, event organizers can be held responsible for an event emergency, including a crowd crush. Event planners and managers will benefit from analyzing the event’s situation and possible scenarios and developing a crowd management plan. Event managers should also provide a clear communication plan and train security and staff.

A mass notification system such as Regroup can help staff quickly and effectively communicate growing crowds, traffic congestion or violence during a large gathering or event. Book a free demo with Regroup to see how Regroup’s mass notification platform can help your event planners and managers prevent a crowd crush or event emergency.

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