After watching the news coverage of the horrific events at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Music Festival, the only conclusion I can come to as a parent is that I never, ever want either of my children to attend that kind of event. In case you somehow missed it, in a phenomenon called “crowd crush” or “crowd surge,” eight young people were killed and many more were injured, some severely, when the crowd pressed forward toward the stage.
The thought of one of my kids being smashed in a mass of bodies makes my chest constrict painfully. My every instinct screams NO.
But my kids may want to attend a large concert one day. Your kids may want to. You may not be able to stop them. So how can we help them stay safe?
The thing about the Travis Scott concert at Astroworld Music Festival is that, once the surge began, there was little those kids could have done to make themselves safer. They were tiny dots in an impossible mass of humans, flowing into one another like massive ocean waves. Once you’re trapped in a situation like that, there is little you can do.
Here is a visual of a crowd surge:
So the first advice to keep safe in a large crowd, then, is preemptive. Safety questions must be asked before even buying a ticket. Who is organizing the event? In what kind of venue will it be held? What is the seating like? What safety measures will be taken? What kind of security detail can you expect? How many EMTs will be present?
As a crowd control expert reported in The Conversation, “If it’s expected a particular show will attract a high-energy demographic, this needs to be prepared for in advance. Effective crowd control is preemptive, not reactive.”
In the case of Travis Scott’s concert at the Astroworld Music Festival, many reports from people who were in attendance indicate that the performer did nothing to draw attention to the tragedy happening in the crowd. One young woman climbed up on stage and screamed at workers that people were dying, and yet the music played on.
Travis Scott, a 29-year-old six-time Grammy Award-winning rapper who has a three-year-old daughter with Kylie Jenner and another child on the way, has already been arrested twice for instigating riots at his shows, according to an article in USA Today.
Meanwhile, people across the internet have been sharing videos showing how performers have controlled crowds when they realized someone in the audience was hurt.
It’s apparently quite common for performers to do this.
Aside from that, though, what can we tell our teens about how to protect themselves and others if they find themselves in a situation where it is apparent there is about to be a crowd crush?
1. Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
The number one tip offered by experts on crowd control is simply to be aware. Know where the exits are and how to get to them. Monitor the density of the crowd around you, and be alert to shifts in energy.
2. When Your Gut Says Get Out, Listen To It
If you start to feel too pressed in and the energy of the crowd feels off, get out quickly and calmly, before you’re unable to. There may come a point when you will be unable to escape. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re constantly bumping into the people around you, you need to move to a less congested area.
If you can’t move your hands easily, i.e., they’re trapped at your sides or between other people, you’re in a dangerous situation. It’s better to avoid ever getting to this point. Note also that your leaving increases not only your own safety, but also the safety of those in the space you evacuate.
3. Make Sure You Can Breathe
Believe it or not, the main cause of death in crowd surges is not being trampled to death — it’s asphyxiation. As in, people literally get crushed so hard that they’re unable to take a breath. If you find yourself in a too-crowded situation and unable to escape, cross your arms over your chest in front of you. This will both protect your rib cage and diaphragm as well as give you a bit of space for your chest to expand to take breaths. Even with your arms up, remain calm and take shallow breaths. Don’t waste precious oxygen on screaming if you can help it.
4. Stay On Your Feet
In a crowd crush situation, stay upright, whatever you do. It’s imperative to keep your feet under yourself, because if you fall, you could get trampled and badly injured or even killed. Part of staying on your feet means you may have to allow yourself to be carried along with the crowd. You will not be able to fight the flow. Save your energy, stay upright, and go with it until you can get out.
5. Watch Out For Walls Or Barriers
An article in The Conversation about how to survive a crowd crush notes that many of the first victims of a crowd surge are often pinned against hard barriers like walls, pillars, fences, or the stage at a concert venue. Avoid these areas.
6. Take Care Of One Another
Another tip from the article in The Conversation feels like it should be taken for granted. Our awareness should be for ourselves and for those around us. A crowd of people who care about one another are more likely to survive a crowd crush or avoid it altogether than a crowd full of people who are panicking and only out for themselves, according to research from Psychologist John Drury of the University of Sussex. So look out for one another. Help people who need it. It’s the human thing to do.
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