Crowds are usually a nuisance that we have to deal with in our daily activities. There are really no ways to avoid a crowd unless you are a hermit and will never go to a major sporting event, concert or even to see a movie. There are a lot of people in the world, 7.2 billion is the current estimate (United Nations). With that number continuing to increase, it is a certainty that we will run into more crowds in the future.
Ordinarily, crowds cause little problems other than causing slight frustration and delays. However, some crowds can turn deadly. There are multiple examples in the past that show why proper crowd management is important. If the population of the earth is going to increase, then crowd management techniques need to be continually developed to prevent a tragedy that few are aware exists.
A crowd disaster is an event in which people are injured or killed due to forces that manifest themselves in crowded areas. The news media states that these people have been trampled is in the case of a Wal-Mart employee during a Black Friday Sale in 2008. (Fruin, 5) Their deaths however, may be more gruesome than being trampled by 1000 people. The victims are actually suffocated. A condition called compressive asphyxia (Seabrook, 192).
When the crowd forces become great enough people become compressed together so tightly that their chest cavity is not allowed to expand. Thus this person is unable to breath and suffocates in the middle of the crowd. Unlike falling to the ground and being “trampled to death,” victims of compressive asphyxia have been found both standing up in a crowd as well as underneath it. In this instance, a few members of the crowd inadvertently are standing on the victim making it impossible for them to breathe (Seabrook 193).
A crowd can turn deadly due to poor planning and crowd management activities. It starts with a mass of people who have congregated for some reason, be it a sale, concert, football game, etc. A dangerous crowd, when assembled, acts like a fluid and the danger becomes apparent when there is no place for it to go. (Helbing, 14) Imagine taking a 2 liter bottle of water and turning it upside down into a funnel. The water would exit at a higher pressure in the small funnel, then it would had you not restricted its exit.
The crowd works the same way. In an open area that has few ingress or egress routes, people begin to push towards the entrances or exits. The force of one person being pushed can create a domino effect that is compounded as more people end up getting pushed in either direction of the crowd. People may stumble and fall upon one another and those at the bottom of the pile may not be able to get up due to the sheer weight of bodies above them and are in grave danger (Helbing, 15)
There are multiple events that show the dangers of crowd turbulence as Helbing put it in his article Crowd disasters as systemic failures: analysis of the Love Parade disaster. Here about a million people gathered for...