Seoul Halloween Casualties and Understanding Personal Safety in Large Crowds

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On October 29th, at least 153 people died and 82 injured after being crushed in a crowd during Halloween festivities in Seoul, South Korea with the death toll continuing to rise. South Korean officials have stated that most victims were in their 20s, and two of the victims have been identified as American. The deaths occurred when a large crowd of around one-hundred thousand people gathered for Halloween parties in the area and began to move towards the narrow alleys off the main street. People became stuck in these curved, slanted alleys resulting in this catastrophe. Panic began to ensue, and large masses of people began running and trying to escape the area, creating even more chaos. [1]

While this tragedy occurred overseas, large parades and crowds are no stranger to Americans and Nevadans, especially during this time of year. Many in Nevada enjoy Nevada Day parades as well as large Halloween get togethers in downtown Reno and Las Vegas. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Christmas Day Parades, and Rose Bowl Parade are other high-capacity events that Americans tend to visit and enjoy during this time of year. Event safety in high-capacity venues such as the MGM Grand, T Mobile, Allegiant Stadium and other sports and concert venues is critical.

Stampedes and large crowds are not limited to concerts and sporting events, as there is also a phenomenon of shopping stampedes. These stampedes are especially common during Black Friday and the Holidays, which are just around the corner. Understanding personal safety and precautions to take in such crowded venues can decrease panic and help reduce risk of injury and even death.

Precautions to Take Before an Event

Before heading to a large, crowded event or venue, consider the following:

  1. Understand your surroundings: Be aware of possible emergency exists, medical resources, services, and other key locations in case of an emergency.
  2. Create a Plan: If you are heading out with a group of friends, ensure you establish a meet up spot in case you get separated. This decreases panic and the need to travel the opposite direction of the crowd. In addition, texting or calling can be useful, but do not depend on this entirely as phones can easily lose service, die, or get lost in such large events. If more people have a plan, the chance of a stampede is reduced
  3. Stay Alert and Sober: While drinking, as well as the use of other substances are common at large festivals or gatherings, they do increase your chance of losing awareness or making stupid decisions. It also makes it more difficult for you to react if something were to go wrong around you.
  4. Don’t Break the Law: This seems self-explanatory, but many of us can become excited and irrational when celebrating in large crowds. Many rules/laws surrounding venues were created with crowd safety in mind, and if many people begin breaking them, the chance of a stampede or disaster can increase. Acting safe and smart can keep yourself and the others around you safe.

Stampede Safety Tips

Being involved in a stampede can be scary and confusing, but the most important thing you can do is remain calm. Panicking can cloud your train of thought and cause you to act irrationally and put you more in harm’s way

Additionally, keep your arms at chest level to protect your rib cage from being crushed, and to ensure normal breathing. You want to always stay on your feet, and a good way to ensure balance is to maintain what experts call a “boxer’s stance” where the left foot is farther in front of the right foot and planted on the ground.

Travel in the same direction of the crowd and do not attempt to run in the opposite direction. Fighting the crowd wastes energy and increases you chance of falling and being trampled. Travel out of the crowd using the “accordion technique”. When a crush surge happens, there will be a lull after, and crush stampedes are usually waves where there are moments of calm. Make your moves during this moment of calm. Additionally, do not expect a straight path to the exit, and instead weave or zigzag your way to the periphery.  Avoid being near walls or barriers since it limits range of motion and increases your chance of being crushed. Being near walls and barriers can also make it harder to reach exits or peripheries of an event.

Most stampede deaths are a result of asphyxiation, which is when someone is deprived of oxygen, eventually causing them to fall unconscious. The chance of this can be decreased with breath control, as well as limiting screaming and talking. [2]

If you are at an organized event and have been injured due to a stampede or crowd rush, you have the right to seek compensation. Venues have a legal duty of care to provide a safe environment for their eventgoers, and it can be difficult if you are injured or loose a loved one in such a tragic event. A personal injury lawyer in Nevada can help you understand your rights and advise you if receiving compensation for your injury is justified.

[1] https://abcnews.go.com/International/59-dead-crowd-crush-halloween-festivities-seoul-officials/story?id=92344453

[2] https://decibelmanagement.com/crowd-dynamics-how-to-prevent-and-survive-a-human-stampede-or-crowd-crush

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