Crowd safety is important to understand before heading out to a large public event.  This weekend there will be many events and marches.  Before you head out to any of them, know a bit about crowd safety before you go. First some basic concepts about crowds:

  • Reaching critical crowd density is a main characteristic of crowd disaster and is approached when the floor space per (standing) person is reduced to about 1.5 square feet or less.
  • At 5 sq. ft. per person, the maximum capacity of a corridor or walkway is attained, (i.e. exiting a stadium or theatre); at approximately 3 sq. ft. per person, involuntary contact and brushing against others occurs.
    • This is a behavioral threshold generally avoided by the public, except in crowded elevators and buses.
    • Below 2 sq. ft. per person, potentially dangerous crowd forces and psychological pressures may to develop.

Anyone can be at risk in a crowd that is large enough to reach a dangerous density. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Pay attention, look around and be aware of your situational awareness at all times.
  • Keep your cool.
  • Say after me….my cell phone will not work.  Do not count on your cell phone to work. Too many people and with likely cellular overload or it could be shut down by the officials due to incidents going on at the event.
  • Keep an eye on the crowd.
    • If you notice an abnormal increase in the number of people pouring into your area/exiting your area, or if you notice a loner that doesn’t seem to belong in the area, this could be the first sign that something isn’t right.
    • If you see something that doesn’t seem right, it’s probably a good time to make your exit.
  • Have a meetup plan: Should something happen at the event, everyone in your group should have an evacuation plan and an area to head to when trouble starts.
    • Choose a meeting spot for your family, in case anyone gets separated from the group
    • Do not count on your cellphones for this purpose.
    • Have a contact outside the event that can be called to coordinate planning should something go wrong at the event.
  • Do not offer personal information to unsolicited requests.
  • Stay to the edges of the crowd if possible.
  • Write important information on your forearm in Sharpie. (Emergency contact, drug allergies, etc.) It will wash off eventually. In fact, bring a Sharpie with you to share with others for this purpose.
  • Stay hydrated and never pass up an opportunity to use a toilet.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather.
  • Wear the right shoes and don’t carry anything you can’t lose.
  • Carry water and a bandanna to cover your nose, mouth.
  • Pay attention to the energy of the crowd and calmly leave the vicinity if you have any doubts about anything.
  • Be aware of more than one option for getting home or out of the area in case roads are closed, transit is shut down and options are limited.

Enjoy yourself and be safe.