Q. While stampedes are termed as unusual occurrences, they are quite usual in our country. Discuss the reasons and measures which can be taken to avert such incidences.
Stampedes are man made crowd disaster. They generally occur when the accommodating capacity of a place is very less compare to the volume of the people. The tragedy of Elphinstone Road station (2017) in Mumbai is one of the examples of stampede occurring in India. A report by the Press Trust of India in 2011 said that over 1,000 people had lost their lives by being crushed underfoot during temple stampedes in the previous decade (79 percent of all stampedes in the country occur at places of worship) Stampedes are termed as unusual occurrences but they are quite usual in India.
Collapse of the temporary structure, steep stairs, narrow exists, old buildings, religious places such as temples with only one exit and entry point, illegal constructions, parking and hawkers etc., are the main causes.
Non-availability of fire extinguishers, safety kits or not taken care of safety measures.
Inability to control crowd
This includes more than expected crowd , poor queue monitoring, no alternate emergency exit route, lack of proper public address system to control the crowd etc.
Fake news of bomb or any other news which can create panic situation among people leading to stampedes to occur. Beside this wild rush force at entry and exit points plus sudden flow of people in reverse direction.
Security Issues and ill-planning
Understaffed security personnel, lack of CCTV cameras, lack of adequate scientific planning in making police arrangement to deal with crowd; Lack of adequate drills before actual deployment can be the reason.
Higher tolerance for crowds
The higher tolerance for crowded spaces in India allows for people to get closer, because they don’t feel uncomfortable until it is very packed. The tipping point between what people can manage and what they feel is dangerous is very fine.
Officials’ refusal to learn from previous crowd disasters
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) released a report in 2014 with guidelines for crowd management, and disaster prevention and containment. It even holds training exercises with administrative departments to be prepare them for large-scale events. Yet, stampedes at religious gatherings, or otherwise, continue to occur as before.
WHAT TRIGGERS A STAMPEDE
Stampedes or crowd crushes usually start in places that are crammed beyond capacity with people (10 people per sqm or more). Jeff Wise, a science writer, classifies stampedes into two categories— unidirectional and turbulent. Wise explains that a ‘positive change in force’, such as a blockade, that stops the crowd or a ‘negative change in force,’ such as the opening up of a gate, that suddenly releases the accumulated crowds, can cause a unidirectional stampede. A turbulent stampede, on the other hand, occurs either when two high-density crowds move towards each other or when a static crowd is stirred by panic.
Open spaces, entrances and exits is suitable for the mass gathering so that there is enough capacity and there are no bottlenecks or other compression points.
Good crowd management plan that should be followed which includes to study the nature, timing, occasion, volume of the crowd
To monitor the movement of the people.
In case of overcrowding of staircases or pathways to alert people.
Safety kits and safety measures to be adopted
Fire extinguishers, medical kits, ambulance should be kept ready. Organizers should ensure authorized use of electricity, fire safety extinguishers and other arrangements meeting safety guidelines.
Well Equipped Security personnel
Adequate drills of security personnel before deployment; giving them instructions on crowd management and plus for unexpected situations.
Giving instructions to crowd Public address system
Proper public address system in order to counter baseless rumours which are in most case one of the main reasons for stampedes to occur.
Crowd stewards, monitoring potential changes in crowd behavior, and having sufficient entry and exit points are all crucial to maintaining a safe event.
Foremost important thing overhaul of the structures. Based on a quick study of the number of commuters, their origin and destination and the shortfall in carrying capacity of stations, the entry/exit points, staircases and foot over bridges need to be reengineered to increase throughput. This includes widening areas, adding new corridors and/or effectively diverting pedestrian movements to achieve minimum crowding in one area.
Stampedes are man-made disasters which can be completely prevented with proactive planning and flawless execution. Little precaution and efforts can save lives of hundreds and can avoid such man-made disasters. Also, it would do more good to invest in preventive measures for a change and protect human life.