Stampede and Crowd Management

A stampede occurred during a religious gathering in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district.

What is a Stampede?

  • A stampede is a “disruption of the orderly movement of crowds leading to injuries and fatalities,” often in response to a perceived danger, loss of physical space, or to attain something seen as gratifying.
  • 79% of all stampedes in India from 1954-2012 took place in religious mass gatherings (Source: TOI).

Triggers of Crowd Disasters

  • Structural Causes: Collapse of makeshift bridges, railings, temporary structures, narrow streets with few entry/exits, absence of emergency exits, etc.
  • Fire/Electricity: Fires at illegal and unauthorized structures, the non-availability of fire extinguishers in working conditions, and building and fire code violations.
  • Inefficient Crowd Control: More than anticipated crowds at stores/malls/political rallies/examinations/religious gatherings/public celebrations, closed/locked exits, and sudden entry door opening.
  • Crowd Behaviour: Unruly and irresponsible crowd behavior, such as forcing entrance/exit at a venue after the start/closing time, etc.
  • Lack of Coordination between Stakeholders: Coordination gaps between agencies (e.g., Police and District Magistrate; PWD, Fire Service, Forest officials, Revenue officials, medical officers, etc.)

Impact of Crowd Disasters

  • Loss of life and injuries
  • Damage to infrastructure and loss of property
  • Psychological trauma, anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders
  • Erodes public confidence and trust in authorities
  • Temporary or permanent closures of businesses, public facilities, or transportation networks impacting local economies and livelihoods

Why Do Stampedes Kill?

  • Most stampede casualties are caused by traumatic asphyxia—partial or complete cessation of respiration due to external compression of the thorax and/or upper abdomen.
  • Other possible reasons for stampede-related deaths include myocardial infarction (heart attack), direct crushing injury to internal organs, head injuries, and neck compression.

Crowd Management

  • Crowd management involves planning, organizing, and monitoring people’s gatherings to maintain a safe and secure environment.
  • It involves implementing strategies to handle large gatherings, events, or public spaces where crowd control is necessary.
  • Fruin, a renowned theorist in crowd behavior, suggested the FIST model:
    • F: Crowd Force
    • I: Information upon which the crowd acts
    • S: Physical Space involved, both in terms of individual density and larger-scale architectural features
    • T: Time – the duration of the incident
  • This model is useful for venue operators and event organizers when developing proactive strategies during event risk management planning.

NDMA Guidelines on Crowd Management

  • Understanding Visitors and Stakeholders: This is determined by the type of event (religious, youth festival, etc.), the season in which it is conducted, and the type and location of the venue.
  • Capacity Planning: Long-term perspectives for infrastructure development depending on popularity, periodicity of event, weather, terrain, local population, etc. Multiple routes (normal, express, emergency) should be encouraged with varying “route gradients” to easily move typically vulnerable groups.
  • Understanding Crowd Behaviour: Since individual behavior in a crowd is influenced by the behavior of others, it is essential to identify and separate miscreants as soon as possible. Understanding crowd behavior can lead to a community-based approach to crowd control instead of force-based control.
  • Crowd Control: Managing the demand-supply gap by controlling the crowd inflow, regulating the crowd at the venue, and controlling the outflow, if needed.
  • Risk Analysis and Preparedness: All event organizers/planners should conduct Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA), i.e., rating every possible hazard on the dimensions of severity, frequency of occurrence, and difficulty of detection on a scale of 1-10 to arrive at an overall Risk Priority Number (RPN).
  • Timely Information Exchange: Ensure timely information exchange between various stakeholders.
  • Safety and Security Measures: CCTV monitoring of the entire crowd sector-wise, ensuring emergency exits are not barricaded/blocked.

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