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  • Context (IE | IE): Stampede occurred during a religious gathering in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district.

What is a Stampede?

  • Stampede is disruption of the orderly movement of crowds leading to injuries & fatalities”, often “in response to a perceived danger, loss of physical space”, or “to attain something seen as gratifying”.
  • 79% of all stampedes in India from 1954-2012 took place in religious mass gatherings.

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Credits: TOI

Triggers of Crowd Disasters

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Credits: NDMA

  • Structural Causes: Collapse of makeshift bridges, railings, temporary structures, narrow streets with few entry/exits, absence of emergency exits, etc.
  • Fire/Electricity: Fires at illegal and unauthorised structures, the non-availability of fire extinguishers in working conditions, and Building and fire code violations.
  • Inefficient Crowd Control: More than the anticipated crowds at stores/malls/political rallies/ examinations/ religious gatherings/ public celebrations, closed/locked exits, and sudden entry door opening.
  • Crowd Behaviour: Unruly and irresponsible crowd behaviour, such as crowds forcing entrance/exit a venue after the start/closing time, etc.
  • Lack of Coordination between Stakeholders: Coordination gap between agencies (e.g., Police and District Magistrate; PWD, Fire Service, Forest officials, Revenue officials, medical officers etc.

Impact of Crowd Disasters

  • Loss of life and injuries
  • Damage to infrastructure and loss of property
  • Psychological trauma, anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders.
  • Erodes public confidence and trust in authorities
  • Temporary or permanent closures of businesses, public facilities, or transportation networks impacting local economies and livelihoods.

Why do stampedes kill?

  • Most stampede casualties are caused by traumatic asphyxia — there is partial or complete cessation of respiration due to external compression of the thorax and/or upper abdomen.
  • Other possible reasons for stampede-related deaths include myocardial infarction (heart attack caused by decreased or complete cessation of blood flow to a portion of the heart), direct crushing injury to internal organs, head injuries, and neck compression.

Crowd Management

  • Crowd management is the process of planning, organising, and monitoring people’s gatherings to maintain a safe and secure environment.
  • It involves planning, organising, and implementing strategies to handle large gatherings, events, or public spaces where crowd control is necessary.
  • Fruin, a renowned theorist in crowd behaviour, suggested the FIST model:
    • F: Crowd Force
    • I: Information upon which the crowd acts;
    • S: Physical Space involved, both in terms of individual density and larger-scale architectural features;
    • T: Time the duration of the incident.
  • This model is useful for venue operators and event organisers when developing proactive strategies during event risk management planning.

NDMA Guidelines on Crowd Management

  • Understanding Visitors and Stakeholders: This is determined by the type of event (religious, youth festival, etc.), the season in which it is conducted, and the type and location of the venue.
  • Capacity planning: Long-term Perspectives for infrastructure development depending on popularity, periodicity of event, weather, terrain, local population, etc.
    • Multiple routes (normal, express, emergency) should be encouraged with varying “route gradients” to easily move typically vulnerable groups.
  • Understanding Crowd Behaviour: Since individual behaviour in a crowd is influenced by the behaviour of others, it is essential to identify and separate miscreants as soon as possible.
    • Understanding crowd behaviour can lead to a community-based approach to crowd control instead of force-based control.
  • Crowd control: Managing the demand-supply gap by controlling the crowd inflow, regulating the crowd at the venue, and controlling the outflow, if needed.
  • Risk Analysis and Preparedness: All event organisers/planners conduct Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA), i.e. rating every possible hazard on the dimensions of severity, frequency of occurrence, and difficulty of detection on a scale of 1-10 to arrive at an overall Risk Priority Number (RPN).
  • Timely information exchange between various stakeholders.
  • Safety and security measures: CCTV monitoring of the entire crowd sector-wise, ensuring emergency exits are not barricaded/blocked.
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