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Crowd Disasters

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Even a simple trip to a nearby mall or warehouse store on a Black Friday that attracts hundreds of shoppers can wind up causing serious or deadly injuries to those who attend. That situation unfolded for many at a Long Island Walmart on Thanksgiving Day in 2008. The New Yorker magazine published a riveting account of that event in an article entitled “Crush Point.”

That story clearly indicates how extensive planning and backup “worst-case” scenarios must always be carefully addressed in advance so that everyone who attends a potentially crowded event can still leave unharmed.

By the end of that day in 2008, a security guard died of “asphyxia” after being trampled by a massive crowd of shoppers – and others suffered severe injuries. The store wasn’t adequately prepared for the massive throngs of people who broke through various safety barriers while rushing inside for the big sale.

Now that random “shooters” and “terrorists” sometimes target large and small gatherings, all event planners must create comprehensive plans to ensure crowd safety. Likewise, local law enforcement officers must be adequately trained and prepared to protect the public.

Types of Public Gatherings Pose the Greatest Safety Threats

Any place where large throngs of people may gather can quickly turn deadly, especially if adequate crowd control issues haven’t been adequately anticipated. Some of the most common venues include sporting events, religious gatherings, music concerts (especially outdoors), political rallies, fairs and festivals, and shopping events. Sadly, these types of activities are often carefully monitored by outside agitators. The Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and the 2017 outdoor Las Vegas music festival shootings provide other clear examples of public crowds facing unexpected, deadly dangers.

Basic Steps To Take When Planning Major Events

The answer to this question will typically depend on the exact type of event being planned and how many people are likely to attend. However, OSHA (the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and California’s 2012 Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) materials provide valuable guidelines for many event planners.

  • Adequate security personnel must be hired. This means additional, fully trained security workers must be present before and during the event. Professional crowd management officials and even active police officers may also be required, mainly if threats have been carried out against similar venues during recent years;
  • A detailed staffing plan must be created, noting how many workers will be stationed in specific locations. It’s also wise to hire additional workers who might be added to certain areas if crowds become especially unruly. Advance crowd control training for all workers is crucial;
  • Local police agencies and fire departments should be contacted for their onsite input. These officials should be invited to the event site in advance, so they can tell planners if they comply with all safety requirements. Of course, all proper permits and licenses must be secured before each significant event;
  • Stores (or other venues) should designate at least one or two supervisors present throughout each significant event. They must be equipped with cell phones, so they can immediately contact law enforcement authorities (as well as medical personnel and the local fire department) if various emergencies develop;
  • Clear signs must be posted indicating entrances, exits, restrooms, and places to inquire about lost children;
  • Event officials must erect and secure appropriate barriers to control crowds. They must also keep backup fencing and other similar materials on hand to help move people along in an orderly manner, as needed;
  • Communication plans must be created so all employees can quickly contact others to request help or guidance. It may help to authorize the second tier of workers to contact emergency workers if first responders don’t start arriving at the scene quickly enough after violent events or other significant problems develop.
Law Enforcement Officers Face Challenges with Unruly Crowds
  • They must always try to fully respect and protect citizens’ First Amendment rights, including free speech and the right to assemble. In addition, law enforcement must be familiar with all other federal, state, and local laws that may govern their interactions with the public. All these topics must be carefully presented during appropriate training seminars to all officers before they’re deployed to potential problem areas;
  • All laws must be enforced in an equal and fair manner. No one group should be singled out for unfair treatment or have their personal safety or property rights ignored;
  • The safety of all law enforcement officers must remain a critical factor when all crowd control problems begin to surface;
  • The police, private security officers, and others must exercise their duties in a manner that helps minimize disruption of other local commerce and community events;

Even the largest crowds can be safely managed when all these event planning guidelines are followed.

The following video explains how overcrowding can be a disaster.

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer

Our legal team has worked to defend wrongfully harmed clients like you since 1982. If you’ve recently been seriously injured while trapped in a dangerous crowd caused by others’ negligence, call our law firm at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-6400 for free, friendly advice.

Once you’ve reviewed our firm’s past settlements and verdicts page, you’ll be convinced we have the full breadth of experience required to handle your personal injury or wrongful death claim. We hope you’ll also take a minute to read the reviews and ratings posted by past clients on sites like GoogleAvvo, and Yelp.

Editor’s Note: updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 7.10.23] eBs rey [cs 922]