College students, major targets of crowd crush — How to survive

Rachel Yim, Science & Technology Reporter

There is one commonality between Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival in Nov. 2021, a football game in Indonesia and Halloween party in Seoul, South Korea last month: excitement turning into horror and tragedy with countless injuries and death.

A crowd crush refers to when a large group of people are packed into a confined area or space and pressed tightly together, which creates a domino effect if someone falls. For those who fall, it is harder to get up again amongst the huge crowd, leading to suffocation medically termed “asphyxiation” and eventual death. 

Cardiac arrest simply means the heart stopping,” Dr. George Williams, a critical care anesthesiologist with UTHealth Houston and LBJ Hospital, said. “In a situation like that, when the lungs are squeezed like they are in a crowd situation, oxygen levels drop very quickly, and because of that, the person loses consciousness, and their heart is not able to function like it should.”

Another commonality from these three tragedies is that a large portion of the victims included younger people, such as high schoolers and college students. Scott’s Astroworld festival in Houston, Texas left ten people dead, with the youngest of the victims being only nine years old.

The Seoul Halloween tragedy killed over 150 young people, mostly women, and the victims included 19 foreigners. The Indonesian football game led to 125 deaths and at least 320 injuries.

Due to the fact such crowd crushes occur at large gatherings including concert venues and sports stadiums where mainly young groups of people are involved, it is more important now than ever to be aware of how to protect our own bodies from such incidents that may happen or repeat in the future.

The following is a list of tips to stay safe at crowded events that physicians gathered:

  • Don’t panic, stay on your feet and use hand gestures to communicate
  • Don’t fight the crowd and keep moving with it at all times
  • Try keeping your arms up to your chest in a boxer stance, with feet apart
  • If you do fall, curl up into a ball with your arms over your head
  • If there’s a fire or smoke, crouch down low. That’s because smoke rises up and could cut off your oxygen supply in tight  crowds and make it harder to breathe.
  • As you enter, make a mental note of all the exits. If there’s a stampede, you may not be able to get to the one closest to you.
  • If some needs help and you are in a position to be able to provide help, do the followings:
  • For those not breathing, perform hands only CPR at 100 beats per minute
  • For those hurt, apply pressure directly to would until help arrives

Crowd surges are incredibly dangerous and unfortunately, relatively common. It is better to be prepared than to be thrusted into a situation like this blindly in order to prevent ourselves and others from further tragedies.