Stampede (Disaster Management)

Stampede (Disaster Management)

This article deals with ‘Stampede (Disaster Management).’ This is part of our series on ‘Disaster Management’, an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.

What is Stampede?

Stampede (Disaster Management)

A stampede refers to a collective and chaotic rush of movement where a large group runs together without coordination, typically driven by a shared instinct to flee from a perceived danger.

Major Stampede Disasters in India

Stampede disasters include 

  • Uphaar Cinema ’97
  • Sabrimala stampede ’99
  • Railway Station Allahabad ’13 
  • Elphinstone Bridge Mumbai ’17 

Causes of Stampede

Structural factors and poor crowd control measures lead to stampedes.

1. Structural Factors  

  • Insufficient exits, narrow passageways, and poorly designed venues can impede the flow of people during events or emergencies, increasing the risk of stampedes.

2. Poor Crowd Management

  • Underestimation of the audience 
  • Crowd Behaviour: The influx of people in a gathering that triggers a stampede occurs when individuals perceive a threat or a lack of personal space. This disruption frequently hampers the organized flow of the crowd, resulting in chaotic and hazardous movements driven by the instinct to protect oneself. As a consequence, injuries and even deaths can occur.  

3. Panic and Fear

  • Stampedes can be triggered by panic and fear within the crowd. Factors such as sudden loud noises, rumours of danger, or perceived threats can create a sense of panic, causing people to rush and trample over each other in an attempt to escape the perceived danger. 

4. Poor coordination between Stakeholders

  • Stampede can happen due to a lack of understanding of the range of duties entrusted, communication delays, coordination gaps between agencies etc. 

Note: Deaths from stampedes occur primarily from compressive asphyxiation. 

Side Topic: Crowd Management

Stampede is closely associated with the concept of Crowd Management.

Crowd management is a strategy employed to maintain public safety by effectively handling and controlling large gatherings, aiming to avoid incidents such as stampedes, conflicts, violent clashes, uprisings, or dispersing assemblies, protests, or demonstrations.

The dynamics of crowds consist of a blend of voluntary and involuntary influences. 

  • When the density of a crowd is properly regulated, individuals within it are primarily influenced by voluntary forces.
  • But when the crowd density exceeds a critical threshold, people’s movements are compelled by involuntary forces, which involve physical pressures exerted by pushing from behind, the sides, or other directions in tightly packed circumstances. During stampede, involuntary forces are dominant.

Dealing with Stampede Disasters

According to NDMA guidelines 

  • Risk Analysis and planning should be the first step. All event organizers should conduct a Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA)
  • Information management dissemination is crucial. The absence or poor information management in itself may be a source of crowding.  
  • Capacity Planning (Long term and Short term): It emphasizes the need to develop infrastructure based on popularity, periodicity of the event, weather, terrain and local population. 
  • Understanding Crowd Behaviour: The behaviour of an individual in a crowd is influenced by the behaviour of others. The unlawful actions of a few people can result in a larger number following them. 
  • Crowd control-The guiding principle for crowd control should be managing the demand-supply gap by controlling the crowd inflow, regulating the crowd at the venue and controlling the outflow if needed. 
  • Stakeholder approach-organizers/law enforcement agencies must encourage community stakeholders (NGOs, Business Associations, Schools/Colleges, neighbourhoods, societies. Mohall committees etc.) to take ownership in events to uphold unity of purpose, faster decision/response, better coordination etc.  
  • Training: Training crowd management personnel, providing instructions on normal and emergency crowd movement and conducting mock drills is essential to prevent crowd disasters.
  • Technology: Use of Technology like remote sensing, GIS etc., to improve the crowd experience and crowd control.

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