How Do You Stay Safe In A Crowd Surge? Here Is Exactly What You Should Do

This knowledge could save your life.

Content Warning

This article includes descriptions of graphic content that may disturb some readers.

Crowd surges occur when a large number of people try to move into a relatively small space all at once.

According to experts, the leading cause of death in a crowd surge is suffocation. Steve Allen, a consultant at Crowd Safety, explained, “When it goes wrong is when the crowd collapses and people behind them are going on top of the people in front of them who are already horizontal.” During a crowd surge, people are pressed together so tightly that breathing becomes impossible. In some cases, people can pass out and even die while standing up, their bodies being held in place by the packed crowd.

Mark Conroy, an emergency medicine physician, has also pointed out that because of the extreme crowds, “Getting help to the person [in need of medical assistance] can often be delayed.”

The Itaewon alley, where the crowd surge took place

According to experts like Steve Allen, here is what you should do if you ever find yourself in a crowd surge.

Be alert to crowd density.

While it is the “job and responsibility of the event organizers to mitigate [the risk of a crowd surge],” it is important to be aware of your surroundings and recognize any risks.

| @belugasong/Twitter

While in a crowd, it is important to assess the crowd density, defined as the number of people per square meter. You should be safe if you are in a crowd of under five people per square meter.

| @belugasong/Twitter

However, the crowd becomes dangerous if the crowd density increases to above six people per square meter.

| @belugasong/Twitter

It’s super useful to have a sense of that density, but it’s not intuitive. Here’s a tip: If you feel that people are touching you on both shoulders or on several places on your body at the same time, the density is probably around six or above. If you still have time and can move, get away. That’s an alarm signal.


Stay at the edges of a crowd.

Ultimately, if you are concerned about a crowd’s size, “It’s safer on the fringes.” Staying at the edge of a crowd allows you to get away more quickly. However, if you find yourself in the middle of a dangerous crowd, there are essential things to remember.

Keep your balance and remain standing.

It is essential to remain upright in a crowd surge, keeping your balance. If you fall down during a crowd surge, you become more susceptible to severe injuries and will have difficulty standing back up.

Move with the crowd, not against it.

You also should move with the crowd and avoid pushing others. While it will be uncomfortable to move with the crowd, pushing others will start a chain reaction that could have drastic consequences.

In the worst moments, you have multiple pushing waves at once. This is what we call crowd turbulence. You don’t want to be where two waves cross because the pressures come from opposite directions, and that’s really dangerous.


Keep your arms up at your chest.

While moving with the crowd, you should keep your arms to your chest and avoid screaming. This is essential to give your lungs enough space to function.

Put your arms out just in front of your chest and hold them there. In this position, you would have some space, just a little bit, to push for half a centimeter or just 1 centimeter — enough for you to keep breathing.


Avoid walls and other obstacles.

You also must avoid walls and solid objects because getting trapped against them can lead to serious injury. You will be safe if you keep moving with the flow of the “pushing waves,” but if you get trapped against a wall or object, there isn’t anywhere for you to go, and you will likely be crushed.

You also should not remove any sort of backpack during a crowd surge. While it may seem wise to set down a bag to make more space by removing a bulky object, objects on the ground become a tripping hazard (remember to always stay standing) and can injure yourself and many others.

Only help others if it is safe to do so.

Help others, but only if it is safe to do so. For instance, if someone is falling and it will not endanger your own balance to help them up, you can assist them. But if you are unstable, trying to pull someone else up could lead to both of you falling and getting seriously injured. Still, it is good to help others whenever safe to do so since it can start a positive chain.

Helping behaviors and altruistic behaviors are kind of contagious in crowds… If you try to help your neighbors, they’re going to help you, or they’re going to help their own neighbors.


Alert authorities.

If you are witnessing a crowd surge but not trapped in one, you should get away and alert authorities since they usually occur at loud events and may not immediately be noticed.

On October 29, a crowd surge in a narrow alley next to the Hamilton Hotel caused the death of 154 people and injured 132 in Itaewon, Korea. According to survivors and witnesses, the crowd surge at Itaewon was caused by “forceful pushing” at the top of an alley that is inclined at an angle.

How And Why Do Crowd Surges Happen? Here Is How A Crowd Surge Can Turn Fatal

You can read a helpful thread here.

Source: NPR and verywellhealth

Itaewon Halloween Emergency

Scroll to top