Make for the exit! How to avoid crowd carnage

Whether you’re attending an outdoor gig, big sporting event or community gathering this summer, it’s important to stay safe.

Planned or unplanned, crowded events require vigilance and awareness of your own limits if you’re to avoid falling victim to crime, becoming ill or finding yourself in the middle of a fractious situation.

The following tips were originally prepared for the 2012 London Olympics, but serve just as well today for festivals, street gatherings, or the more unpalatable events such as mass evacuations and terrorist activity:

1. Assess and plan ahead

If the crowded situation is planned, or if it appears to be building, make sure you plan ahead by familiarising yourself with the wider surroundings, any routes that are involved and the range of exits or security points that are nearby.

It’s also important to identify alternative routes on different modes of transport, should you need to make a quick exit.

2. Prepare for big crowds

Regardless of whether you’re alone or in a group, you need to be prepared to deal with any challenge (big or small) you may encounter in a large gathering.

For instance, an injury or member of the group becoming separated needs to be planned for. Mini first aid kits, bottled water, printed maps (don’t rely solely on your smartphone) and torches should be on hand if needed.

3. Take sensible precautions

Try and set off early to planned events to give yourself plenty of time to get there, relax and have a great time. Equally, if you suspect leaving before the bell sounds is a good idea towards the end of the event – trust your instincts and beat the exit rush.

Beyond the items listed in the previous tip, make sure you only take the crucial stuff with you. Your smartphone, ID, minimal cash for emergencies and photos of anyone you’re with should be considered essential.

Save your phone’s battery life by switching on power saving (if available) and reducing the screen brightness. Only use it when you absolutely need to, and if you get separated, text a member of the group as soon as possible to let them know you’re safe.

4. Take time out and recover

Crowded events are exciting but can really test your stamina as a result. Try not to get carried away, avoid alcohol consumption and drink plenty of water.

If you feel tiredness creeping in or feel in any way uneasy – plan your exit.

What if you find yourself in a panic?

Crowds are often highly charged, and with emotions running high things can quickly get out of hand. It’s for this reason that feeling both elated and nervous while in a crowd is entirely normal.

However, some crowds will trigger emotions that quickly progress from apprehension to full-on panic. It’s therefore vital that you learn how to recognise the onset of panic and what to do if it strikes.

If you feel like you’re slowly losing control of your surroundings or feel overly anxious about the people with whom you’re sharing a crowded space, there are a few things you can do:

  • Breathe deeply. By breathing slowly from your stomach with long, drawn out breaths, you’ll get it under control and should start to feel calmer.
  • Shift focus to smaller details. It’s easy to work yourself into a frenzy by purely focusing on the potential dangers of a crowded area. Tell yourself it’ll pass and shift your focus to something smaller; a patch of grass, loose stone or anything else that you find comforting.
  • Get help. Be honest with your group if you’re feeling uneasy and ask for their help. If you’re on your own, reach out to someone nearby.

It’s entirely normal to feel anxious in big crowds, no matter the type of event. Use our tips above, and you’ll greatly reduce the chances of anything bad happening.

The key takeaway? If you feel in any way uneasy about a situation – plan your exit carefully and undertake it calmly. You don’t have to be anywhere you don’t want to be – remember that.

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