If you are going to be in a crowd (whether at a major sale, concert, sporting event, subway, or any other venue), the following tips can help make you safer in such environments.
A fan’s guide to safety in public assembly facilities
By Prof. Gil Fried, Chair, Management Department, University of New Haven
We all want to be safe and there are many safe places to go in life. However, we all know that many injuries occur in our own home, even though we know or think we know it is safe. The safety factor is magnified when we are in an unfamiliar environment and might get disoriented based on light (or lack thereof), noise, people, smoke, and/or drugs/alcohol. The tragic fire at The Station night club highlights this fact.
The following quick guide is designed to highlight some safety strategies that can make going to your next event safer for you and those around you. These strategies are based on actual cases or incidents that have been handled by the author or uncovered while doing research on several books.
Go in groups and try to wear distinctive clothing that help everyone stand out. Group members should identify where they should meet if they have to leave the facility in a rush.
Before arriving at the facility remember where you parked and if there are multiple vehicle exit ways in case there is a traffic related concern. Parking close to an exit might make your walk longer to the facility, but your exiting will take less time.
Check facility before hand to examine where it is located, physical shape, sloped floors, mushy environment (grass or mud) due to rain, etc.. All such conditions can cause harm. Never undertake any activity without knowing the risks. One case I handled involved a kid who was mud sliding at a concert and he did not know that at the bottom of the hill there was a drainage pipe he did not see. He was seriously injured when he slid head first into the pipe.
When you enter a facility locate all the nearby exits as the place where you entered might not be the closest or easiest exit.
If you are in a ball park examine where you are seated to determine if you are at risk of being hit by a foul ball. While the area behind home plate is usually screened, the most dangerous area is down the first and third base line. If you are seating in those areas pay close attention to the game to avoid serious injury from flying bats and balls.
If you are at a rock concert that has general admission (festival) seating, make sure you are not standing by the railing in front of the stage. A patron can be trapped with little room to move by the barriers and can likely face other patrons bumping into them when they are dancing. If you feel unsafe tell the security person at the railing that you want to be lifted out. Make sure you have plenty of fluids to drink or ask security for water as people are often dehydrated in the pit area. If you want to be near “the action” try staying by the sides rather than the middle (in front of the stage) to avoid being hit when mosh pits form or people start pushing forward to the stage area.
Consider special issues such as children or those with disabilities since it might take longer to get them out of a facility. Some facilities have special alcoves for disabled patrons to wait for evacuation. When you enter a facility make sure you ask an employee what strategies or issues you should know if there is an emergency.
Consider the time of the year as in winter we usually wear coats which gives us more weight and increases our size-which impacts our movement. It should be noted that an average stairway used to be 44 inches wide so that two people can walk up together. However, when we walk down we take more that 22 inches of space with our hip movement. This phenomenon was seen during 9/11 when it was hard for people to go down the stairs and people had to move to the side to allow firefighters to go up the stairs.
Know the facility’s rules such as any code of conduct so you know all the rules you need to follow to have a good time and to avoid being expelled from the facility. Also remember that the security personnel and ushers are trying to do a job and protect people. Thus, treat them with respect and listen to their instructions.
Always watch for crowded aisleways and report such conditions to an usher or security personnel. Similarly you should report any suspicious behavior, drunken fans that are bothering others, those using excessive vulgarity/swearing, and criminal activity. People go to public assembly facilities to have fun and you are one of the key links that can help make sure everyone is having fun.
Since your goal is fun, remember to keep your cool. Do not get stressed out by lines or delays. Do not push others or try to wiggle your way in. Just remember, is it worth the possible loss of life (yours or someone else’s) just so you get to your seat one minute earlier?
We cannot make a facility 100% safe. However, we can take steps to understand and appreciate our environment which will help us maintain our own sense of safety and allow us to quickly respond to hazards.