Remember the Boston Marathon Bombing?
Immediately after that event, and several times after that, I’ve been asked about how to manage risk in a large crowd environment WROL (without rule of law).
Well, one answer is simple:
Unless you are absolutely required to be in attendance, AVOID large crowded environments.
Of course when there are times when you have limited choice and must venture into that environment, then use good habits of “situational awareness” and adopt a “bias towards action.”
Large groups of people will always attract a certain amount of risk.
Never underestimate the volatility of people in large groups.
Any significant event, even a “perceived” event, can result in a stampede.
People are injured and die every year during Black Friday Sales events when they become victims of a frenzied mob.
I talked to my friend Kevin Reeve, about this alarming subject, and here is what he told me about surviving panicked mobs.
Civil Unrest: How To Survive A Panicked Mob In A W.R.O.L. Scenario!
A fire, an explosion, an active shooter can all create a mob mentality that takes on a life of its own.
The KEY to surviving any event in a crowded venue will depend almost entirely on your ability to control personal panic, to assess the situation, and to take immediate action. If you panic, you drastically increase your odds of injury or death.
Here are a few strategies that will decrease your risk…
1. Maintain Your Awareness
Keep your eyes up, off the smart phone, and scan your environment.
This is can be challenging due to the large volume of people. But try actively scanning.
Look for “out of baseline” behaviors.
People moving upstream, against the flow, for example, are out of baseline.
People moving faster or slower than the baseline, or whose gestures or furtiveness do not match the event, may also be a risk.
2. Identify Specific Threats Or Behaviors
Look for menacing behavior or people who by their looks cause you to feel uncomfortable — and trust your gut.
There may be a valid reason why they make you feel uncomfortable.
If you are in proximity, move away.
As always, look for “orphans:” bags or packages without owners.
Alert security if you see them, but do not stand next to them waiting for security to arrive.
3. Identify Exits
Whenever I enter a room, or area, one of the first things I do is scan for exits.
- Are there emergency exits?
- Are they alarmed?
- Are they locked?
- What about windows?
- Can they be opened?
- Is there a heavy object like a chair I can throw through the window?
Most people will bypass emergency exits in close proximity to them to go back to the entrance they came in through.
This behavior has led to many deaths in ballroom and concert fires.
People who are panicking seek the familiar.
Don’t fall into this trap!
4. Identify Cover
Cover refers to safety from fire.
A brick wall may stop bullets, but sheetrock walls will not.
Solid furniture may seem solid, but even a two inch thick oak table will not stop a 9mm round.
You must find something substantial if shooting starts.
The engine block and front axle of a car for example may provide enough cover for one person, but the car door, not so much.
Inside a building, there is generally not much cover, so it’s better to head for an exit.
5. Carry Essential Gear
Essential gear for an outside event includes a water bottle, a first aid kit that includes a tourniquet, a knife, a multitool, and sunglasses (that also provide eye protection).
For an indoor event, add a small pocket flashlight (a smartphone light will not penetrate smoke and haze.
NEVER go out without essential gear.
It’s all you will have on you in an emergency.
6. If It Goes Down, Get OUT
When everything starts happening, you need to leave, no matter what.
- Pick up and carry children.
- Have your family members, (spouse, others with you) grab a hold of your belt.
- Move assertively towards the PRE-SELECTED exit.
Move with the crowd “downstream” but also in a diagonal direction, until can reach a wall inside, or if outside, the edge of the crowd, where you can better control your movement.
Do not be afraid to damage or destroy the fixtures or the building itself to get out, such as breaking open windows or kicking open doors, or breaking locks.
Timidity will not be helpful; your primary concern must be your family.
Once they are safe, you can decide whether to render aid to others.
It is impossible to anticipate every event.
However, most events will precipitate the need to MOVE. MOVEMENT to SAFETY will generally always be your highest priority.
If the event is localized to your immediate vicinity, then safety generally lies elsewhere.
The most important trait here is a BIAS TOWARDS ACTION. Take action to improve your crowd situation.