Mass casualties can result from a human stampede. A peaceful crowd can quickly turn into a senseless panicked heaving mass in which rational behavior by any single individual becomes nearly impossible. What’s worse is that the stampede can be triggered while there is no actual danger. Under certain situations, a crowd that has grown to a big and tight enough size and density reaches a critical state at which the slightest twitch is sufficient to send it into a stampede.
Panicked crowds move fast and release an incredible amount of energy, usually compared to the energy generated by a running train: once a crowd gets moving it is very hard to stop, and the flow of people could literally sweep you off your feet.
It is interesting to note that the force of only 6 or 7 people pushing in the same direction can generate up to 1000 lbs of force – enough to bend steel railings and topple brick walls. During a deadly stampede, people can even die standing up… people die when pressure is applied to their bodies in a front to back direction, causing them not to be able to breath. When pressure is applied to their side, they often survive, probably because their rib cages are protecting their ability to breath.
If you are in a crowd, a first and most important thing is to make yourself familiar with your surroundings and mentally notice alternate exits. No matter where you are, make sure you always know how to get out.
Make yourself aware of the type of ground you are standing on, and know that in a crowd of moving people wet or uneven ground can be slippery or hazardous, causing you to fall.
Be aware of the general atmosphere of the event, as panic situations can often be anticipated. When in danger, a few seconds can make all the difference, giving you the possibility of taking advantage of your escaping route. Always stay closer to the escape route.
If you find yourself in the middle of a moving crowd do not fight against the pressure, do not stand still or sit down, because you could easily get trampled.
Instead, move in the same direction of the crowd; take advantage of any space that may open up to move sideways to the crowd movement where the flow is weaker.
Keep your hands up by your chest, like a boxer – it gives you movement and protects your chest.
If you fall, get up quickly. If you can’t get up because you are injured, get someone to pull you back up. If you have kids, lift them up.
If you fall and cannot get up, keep moving by crawling in the same direction of the crowd, or if that is not possible, then cover your head with your arms and curl up into the fetal position (do not lay on your stomach or back, as this dangerously exposes your lungs).
The worst scenario is to be pushed by the crowd against an immovable object. Try to stay away from walls, fences or barricades, as the crowd pressure can build up rapidly.
After you’re pushed forward, like in a wave there’s a lull. In that lull is your chance to move, and the way you move is on a diagonal, between pockets of people. There’s always space between people. A couple of steps sideways, another wave surge, then another couple of steps in the next lull. You work your way out that way till you get to the periphery.