The Role of Barriers in Preventing Crowd Surges
As the COVID-19 pandemic wanes with more widespread vaccination, people are increasingly able to gather in large crowds for special events. Unfortunately, big events pose their own safety risks, such as a crowd surge.
On November 5, 2021, a crowd surge occurred during a concert at the Astroworld music festival in Houston, Texas. An estimated 50,000 spectators attended, many rushing the stage at the appearance of rapper and festival founder Travis Scott. In the press of bodies, hundreds of people suffered injuries, some of them serious. The latest update shows that 10 people have died as a result of injuries sustained in the crush of fans at the concert.
The tragedy was only the latest in a long history of crowd surges at large events that have resulted in injuries or fatalities. Other notable examples include a human crush that killed 100 people in an English soccer stadium in 1989. Crowd management, which is the practice of taking measures to facilitate the movement of large numbers of people within enclosed spaces, first entered the vocabulary after a fatal crowd surge incident in Cincinnati, Ohio, at a concert by The Who in 1979. The crowd rushed to the doors of the stadium, and 11 people were killed.
What Causes Crowd Surges?
The potential for a crowd surge exists any time a large number of people gather together in one place. While crowd density is a contributing factor, there is usually some sort of inciting event that acts as a catalyst to get large numbers of people moving in the same direction at the same time. Sometimes the crowd is trying to get away from an actual or perceived threat, such as a person with an unauthorized firearm or a severe thunderstorm. A crowd surge can also occur when a large group of people moves toward something en masse. This appears to be the cause behind the Astroworld disaster. People rushed to the stage in response to the rapper’s appearance. The main cause of death from a crowd surge is asphyxiation. Victims are squeezed so tightly that their lungs are not able to expand sufficiently to draw oxygen.
What Role Do Barriers Have To Play in Crowd Management?
Portable barriers can be configured in such a way that they separate the crowd into smaller, more manageable groups. They can also help to direct the crowd in a certain direction to allow for safer, more effective movement and to create clear paths for first responders to navigate during an emergency. Part of the problem at Astroworld appears to be that the crowd was too dense to allow the ambulance to reach injured spectators easily.
The configuration of the barriers is important. Effective designs can be a powerful crowd management tool, but a poorly thought-out configuration can lead to more injuries due to members of the crowd becoming trapped against the barriers. The barricades should be configured to allow a route of egress. It may be helpful to have barriers that can be raised or lowered as needed to allow for an emergency exit.
Delta Scientific products are intended primarily for vehicle control. Nevertheless, they may have a role to play in crowd management by helping to ensure that only legitimate attendees get into a particular event, keeping attendance numbers predictable.
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