“When a huge crowd hits a tight choke point, a scary thing happens: The crowd starts moving like a fluid, each person forced forward by the people behind, regardless of whether there’s anywhere to move. This occurred last September when a group of more than a million pilgrims reached a narrow street intersection in Mecca. Trapped between the force of people behind them and the wall of people in front of them, some 2,200 died from compressive asphyxiation, the air literally crushed from their lungs. It’s a terrible fate but one you can avoid with these survival tips.
- Don’t fight the tide. Shock waves from the back of the crowd will push you forward—do not fight them. Stopping is the quickest way to fall, and falling is the quickest way to die. Instead, “wait for the surge to come, go with it, and move sideways. Keep moving with it and sideways, with it and sideways,” says Edwin Galea, a crowd behavior specialist at the University of Greenwich.
- If you do fall, make an air pocket ASAP. Try to fall in a rigid fetal position (arms over your face and chest) to attempt to make room for your lungs to breathe. One man survived the 2003 Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island by doing this and securing a small supply of fresh air through the blaze.
A panicked, rushing crowd is a scary thought, and I hope you never encounter one. If you do, remember these survival tips.
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