In Korea 156 young people died when they got crushed in a narrow street. Sadly, there have been a few other serious incidents from concerts to football grounds where too many people in one place has led to multiple fatalities.
In addition, there have been tragedies at places like the Arianna Grande concert in Manchester and Bataclan, when terrorist attacks have killed many people.
These incidents are rare, but they can happen.
When going to a potentially crowded venue or event, attending a firework display or concert there are some things that you can do that could increase your chances of surviving if something goes wrong. You may even be able to spot early signs of a pending disaster, remove yourself and contact the emergency services to prevent another tragedy.
Know where the exits are:
On arriving at your destination, have a really good look round. Establish where all the exits are (and it is helpful to know the loos too!).
Make sure everyone is wearing suitable, comfortable shoes that cover the toes in case they get trodden on. Look at the weather forecast and wear layers with wet weather gear/hats/sun cream as necessary.
Avoid clothes and hairbands with children’s names on them as this can attract unwanted attention and lead children thinking a stranger knows them. For older children it may be better to avoid football shirts as again this can lead to unwanted attention from rival fans.
Avoid wearing flowing or loose clothing that could catch or get tangled in a crowd.
You may want to dress the children in slightly unusual or easily noticeable colours.
Take a photo of them on your phone before you leave so that you have a recent photo with you showing exactly what they are wearing. This digital photo can be swiftly circulated by police should you be separated from your child.
How to transport little ones:
This is very much a matter of personal choice; but remember that moving distances in crowds can be a scary experience if you are at leg level and little ones tire quickly. Buggies can be helpful and can allow the child to sleep when tired, but if there are a huge number of people, children are vulnerable in push chairs and could get trampled.
My favourite way to transport babies is in the baby sling.
If you have toddlers and put them on your shoulders, be very careful how you get them up there and take them down again as it is very easy to dislocate their elbows and shoulders – get another adult to help. Always make sure they are holding on firmly and you have stable footing as it would be a long distance to fall.
Have a plan should you be separated:
Teach children to identify a suitable person to ask if they should be separated – help them to identify police uniforms and security staff. If they can’t find anyone in a known uniform, they should go to another mother with their children and ask them to call you. Tell the children they shouldn’t wander off to find help but should stay where they were when they lost sight of you – you will then have a better idea as to where to find them and they are likely to still be close by.
Create a name band for your child and secure it round their wrist – this should just have mobile phone numbers, any medical problems and a back-up land line number where someone is available to answer. There are many kits available on the market ranging from ID bracelets to little magnifying necklaces that show all of your information. For a simpler version, you can print all of your information onto a small business card, laminate it and then attach it to your child’s jacket, belt loop, in a back pocket – tell the child where it is and what it is for. If your child gets separated from you, this will allow an adult to contact you immediately.
For older children, identify an obvious place where you should meet if you get separated or if there is no phone reception.
Ensure you have a functioning phone
Ensure everyone has their phones with them in a deep, zipped pocket. They should be fully charged and on outdoor mode plus vibrate (not mute). They should also ideally have a backup power pack and keep the phone on low power mode. Enable your Geotracking, so you can track each other if you become separated. Check that you are all have the same time and meet regularly to touch base, rather than allow them freedom for long periods at a time.
Write down, or learn key mobile telephone numbers, so that you can still make contact with each other even if someone has lost their phone.
Your phone is important both to keep in touch and as a torch.
Remind everyone that there may not be a signal as there could be overstretched demand, or it might be blocked by the police. If people cannot make calls or send texts or WhatsApp they shouldn’t panic. Ensure you do have an established backup plan where to meet if there is no reception.
More general safety advice:
Remind everyone to be careful and keep their possessions and money out of sight as pick pockets love crowds.
Also talk to them about avoiding unnecessary risks and avoiding injury in the struggle to see over the crowds. There is a huge temptation to climb things and perch precariously and this is incredibly dangerous. Be very careful not to stand next to potentially wobbly or unsafe structures.
Don’t congregate or arrange to meet at the exit or entrance, this can be a pinch point. Instead arrange to meet at a clearly visible structure a little way from these, but clearly visible from the exit/entrance.
Hold Hands – The simple act of holding hands with your children can make the difference between a happy family outing and a desperate search for a lost child. Starting the habit of holding hands at an early age can be really helpful in the years to come, not only in large crowds.
Keep your child within arm’s Reach – If your child feels too old for hand holding, then make sure that they are within an easy grab. Many parents consider their child safe as long as they can see them, but how many parents have looked away for a second only to look back and their child is nowhere to be found?
Take water and snacks with you as it is vitally important to stay hydrated. It helps keep your head clear and ready for emergencies.
It is sensible not to drink too much alcohol. This could inhibit your ability to make sensible, rational decisions.
Make enough time to queue for the loo before the main event! Take toilet roll or tissues and hand sanitizer with you.
Take a compact but sensible First Aid kit, so that you are prepared should you need it. Ensure you have taken a first aid course and have the skills to help yourself or others in an emergency.
Ensure you have the skills to help in an emergency:
Know how to care for someone if they are unconscious:
Book a First Aid course for street crime
If you get caught in dense crowds:
Try and zigzag through the crowd to the edge, or around the crowd. Don’t try and push to the front or back.
If you are stuck in the middle of the crowd, move with them and then start zigzagging to the sides as soon as you start seeing gaps to do so.
If the crowd is stationery, stand with your feet firmly planted.
Never bend down to pick up something you have dropped.
Stick out your elbows or hold your arms up in front of your chest in a boxer-like stance to give yourself more breathing space.
Keep back packs on as these could help protect you should you fall.
If you do fall, roll yourself up into the foetal position and protect your head. Get up as quickly as it is safe to do so.
If you feel yourself panicking – breathe deeply and slowly.
If a fire alarm goes off or you smell suspicious smoke, leave immediately:
If you suspect a fire stay close to a wall and follow that to a fire exit if you can. This can be helpful to avoid the bottleneck that can form in the centre of a crowd. Since smoke rises; stoop as low as possible and cover your nose and mouth with some material or a mask. Crawling in a crowd is not sensible.
Have a good time:
The above tactics can be helpful but judge every situation individually.
Follow guidance from officials.
Remember that untoward incidents are rare. Be alert and well-prepared, but enjoy your event without over-worrying.