Survival Tips Should You Find Yourself In The Middle Of A Crowd Crush

On October 29, 2022, over 150 people died, and scores more were injured, in a crowd surge during Halloween festivities in Seoul, South Korea's popular Itaewon district (via NBC News). Specifically, a crowd of an estimated 100,000 people was crowded into the bar-and-dining district, and somehow, an untold number were crowded into a narrow alleyway and trapped there, eventually dying of suffocation or injuries.

The Itaewon incident is just the latest in a lengthy — and growing — list of events in which people have lost their lives due to a crowd surge. These things happen at concerts (including the fatal The Who concert in Cincinnati in 1979), religious observances, and sporting events, among other situations that draw large crowds. As Al Jazeera explains, surges happen because people get packed into a confined space and keep pushing, causing people to fall and then not be able to get back up again. Victims' lungs are unable to expand, and they die of suffocation, if not from traumatic injuries (such as being trampled).

An Ounce Of Prevention ...

The first key to surviving a crowd-related incident is to prevent them from happening in the first place. One key way to get ahead of crowd-related mishaps is to provide plenty of easily-accessible exits and, most importantly, not block them. For example, if the entirety of a crowd at a modern football stadium — such as Pittsburgh's Acrisure Stadium — decided to leave in a hurry, they'd find multiple, easily-accessible exits and wide walkways from which to make their retreat. But in a soccer stadium built 100 years ago, not so much.

Another key preventative measure is having a police force that is good at managing crowds, and as CBS News reports, in this particular case, the New Orleans Police Department is Exhibit A. Hundreds of thousands of people converge upon the city for Mardi Gras (depicted above), but in over a century of hosting one of the world's biggest parties, they've managed to handle the huge crowds with surprising aplomb. Horse-mounted police can get a broader view of the crowds and exit lanes and can move the crowd here and there as need be before things get out of hand.

Surviving A Crowd Crush

But what can you do if you find yourself in a crowd, and the regular systems in place to prevent crushes and stampedes are overwhelmed, failing, or, worse, non-existent? As The Washington Post reports, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself should you get caught up in a crowd crush. The first is to recognize the danger signs and get out if you can. If a crowd is moving and then suddenly slows, that's a sign that danger is afoot, as are cries of distress. The newspaper notes that some people in Seoul likely saved their lives that night by reading the room, realizing that danger was afoot, and getting out while they still could.

Failing that, staying on your feet is a top priority: Once you're on the ground, all bets are off, and you could easily be crushed by panicked people stacked on top of you. Equally importantly, create a protective barrier by using your dominant hand to grab your other forearm; this way, your lungs won't be crushed, and you'll still be able to breathe. Don't shout: this wastes oxygen, which in a crowd-crush situation is going to be precious beyond measure. Don't try to pick anything up if you drop it, and if someone falls, try to help them up. If you can move, try to move diagonally so that you're escaping the crowd while moving neither with it nor against it.