On Nov. 5, 10 people died and hundreds more were injured during Travis Scott‘s headlining performance at the Astroworld Festival in Houston. The cause: A densely packed crowd surged toward the stage, causing a severe crush that is believed to have led to cases of deadly compressive asphyxia, which occurs when a person’s lungs can no longer expand and take in more air.
Astroworld wasn’t the first instance of this deadly phenomenon at a live music event. In 1979 at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum, 11 people were killed when restless fans waiting to enter a The Who concert surged towards the venue’s entrance. During a 1988 Guns N’ Roses concert held at Donington Park in the U.K., two fans were crushed to death just a few feet from the stage as the band performed. In 2000, nine people were killed during a Pearl Jam concert at Denmark’s Roskilde festival despite the band’s repeated calls for the crowd to step back.
While tragedies like these are preventable, they can often happen quickly and with little warning. In the wake of the Astroworld catastrophe, Billboard spoke with several crowd management experts who have emphasized a number of strategies concertgoers can employ when caught in a similar situation. Based on that reporting, and as full-capacity live events continue ramping up across the U.S. and around the world, we’ve compiled our own list of five survival tactics for anyone who finds themselves trapped in a potentially deadly crowd surge at a concert or festival.
- Protect your chest with your arms. If the crowd starts to get too packed, lift your forearms and hold them up against your chest, with fists clenched. Use your arms and fists to protect your chest from anything that could compress your ribs and lungs. Keep your eyes open. Try to locate the epicenter of the crowd, then look for areas where it’s thinning out. If you think you have a reasonable chance of escape, leave.
- Stay on your feet. If it’s too late to get out, focus on keeping your balance. If you fall, the weight of the crowd could pin you to the ground.
- Save your breath. Oxygen is what will keep you alive. The vast majority of deaths in stampedes are caused by asphyxiation. Avoid screaming, yelling or even talking unless necessary.
- Move with the crowd, not against it. Your natural reaction will be to push back, but resisting only wastes precious energy. Allow yourself to be carried with the crowd but focus on keeping your balance.
- Avoid physical barriers. The first casualties of a crush are often pinned against walls and barricades. When possible, move away from hard structures.