Crowd crushes are deadly—here’s how to survive


5 people per square meter

In light of the Itaewon tragedy on Oct. 29 which resulted in the death of 156 people, it is crucial to know how to survive crowd crushes. If you ever find yourself stuck in a wave of people, don’t panic, and remember the following tips. 

The word “stampede” is often used to describe crowd crushes, but this is wrong terminology. In crowd crushes, people die not because they are stepped on by others, but because people fall on top of each other uncontrollably. A densely packed crowd usually has pressure pushing them forward from the very back, from people who do not understand the severity of the situation in the front. They also have pressure coming from each other. However, when one person in the crowd falls, the pressure within the crowd breaks, and more people start falling into the gap created. 

First, you must be aware when the crowd you are in is becoming dangerous. A density of five people per square meter—basically, when you are in contact with people on two or more sides of your body—is when it starts to get very dangerous. Understand this, but do not panic. Step as far as you can from walls or surrounding obstacles, and try to make as much space as you can for yourself. 

Then this is the most obvious, yet most fundamental advice: try to escape. Try to get out of the crowd as quickly as you can. A common misconception is that it is best to move straight out in the opposite direction, but that would make it extremely difficult to turn around and cut through the mass of people. The best way to escape is to move in a diagonal way. Move a step diagonally, then move a step forward. Repeat this until you can get out of the crowd. 

You might be in a situation where it is simply impossible to move at all. In this case, put your arms in front of your chest as if you are crossing them. This will serve as a barrier between your chest and other people, preventing your lungs from getting crushed. 

In these dangerous situations, prioritize yourself over your possessions. Even if you drop something, refrain from picking it up, as you might not be able to get back up. Do not take off your bag or place it on the floor, as it can cause people to trip and endanger themselves. 

The worst case scenario is falling. In a crowd crush, one person falling creates a domino effect in which everyone behind them starts falling too. This results in people stacked on top of each other, suffocating the people at the bottom. If you happen to fall, lie on your side and curl yourself up like a ball so that you can protect your organs and maintain room to breathe. 

The Itaewon tragedy shocked the whole world and will be remembered for decades. Using the tips found in this article, make sure to protect yourself if you find yourself in such dangerous situations. We must use the tragedy as a stepping stone to ensure that it never happens again.