What Crowd Surges Are and How To Prevent Them

Major events that draw large crowds can be fun, exciting, and memorable. Unfortunately, big events can also pose their own safety risks. Event planners and venues have a duty to protect attendees from external threats and from threats caused by the crowd itself. What are crowd surges? Find out more about these unfortunate incidents and ways to prevent them.

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.

Crowd rushing an occurrence that can occur at events with large people.

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 Is the Difference Between a Crowd Surge and a Stampede?

A large group of people moving in the same direction can pose many risks, particularly for individuals caught trying to move in another direction or individuals caught in the front of the crowd. Crowd surges are caused by a large group of people moving toward an object, usually a stage or entrance, with little room to move. The unfortunate result is dangerously compacting the crowd, often crushing individuals.

A stampede, however, involves a crowd moving quickly. This type of crowd even occurs when people have room to run or walk, usually away from a perceived danger or toward a goal. This event can be just as dangerous and can occur in similar situations. For example, a crowd rushing toward a stage or fleeing an event venue due to an unexpected threat.

How Can Crowd Surges Be Prevented?

Proper planning and crowd management can prevent crowd surges and stampedes. Event organizers and venues can use barriers to manage and separate crowds to reduce the risk of life-threatening surges. While security officers and crowd spotters can be helpful, barriers are essential for separating the crowd and reducing the risk of both surges and stampedes.

Review the following Delta Scientific barrier types to learn more about your options for crowd control. 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.

Delta Scientific high-security barriers can help prevent crowd surges.

Crowd Management Barriers

Barriers prevent the crowd from crushing too closely into a specific point. By putting defined barriers throughout the crowd, they effectively reduce the number of people in each crowd and essentially create several smaller crowds all gathered together to attend the same event, which can reduce the risk of crowd surges.

It may be helpful to have barriers that can be raised or lowered as needed to allow for an emergency exit. 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. 

Portable Barriers

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. Barriers could have divided the crowd to ease the difficulty of moving out of the way and allowing emergency personnel to reach the spectators in need.

Sliding Gates

Sliding gates are not only vehicle crash rated but also designed to prevent pedestrians from entering or exiting unwanted places. Once open, however, sliding gates allow the safe flow of vehicle and pedestrian traffic. These gates can be used to prevent crowd surges and can be retracted safely if a crowd is gathered at one or both sides of the gate.

This allows organizers to prevent crowds from forming in unwanted areas and they can also be used to divide crowds to reduce the size and risk of surges. Sliding gates aren’t suitable for portable, temporary situations but can be helpful additions to venues where crowds frequently gather.

How Can Delta Scientific Help Prevent Crowd Surges?

Don’t let crowd surges cause more injuries or deaths in your future events. Thanks to Delta Scientific, you can source high-security barriers to separate crowds and manage entrances and exits. Contact us today to learn more about our gates and bollards for both crowd and vehicle control.