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How to Survive a Stampede

2015-11-14

In the spirit of my past posts on how to get off the subway tracks, I present this item on how to avoid being crushed in a stampede: prior to leaving a large event, make a mental map of all the exits and then head for the less-used ones.

An experiment by Caesar Saloma, a physics professor at the University of the Phillipines, with mice who are dumped into a pool of water and given exits to escape showed that on the initial trial, the mice jammed up into a few exits.  On subsequent trials, the mice learned to avoid crowded exits and use all available escape points to prevent jamming.  Experienced mice learn to queue up at an exit instead of all trying to leave at once, and this speeds up their escape as well.  The lesson from this experiment is that, since you don’t get multiple trials, you should memorize the exits ahead of time and use them when needed.

This assumes, of course, that you are not a mouse and unaccustomed to being dumped into a pool of water.

A side note: most deaths from crowds occur by asphyxiation from the pressure of one’s neighbors while standing up, rather than on being trampled.  A closely packed crowd can exert as much as a thousand pounds of force on a person trapped in the middle.  So avoid being crushed, and anticipate the possibilities when you enter into a crowd of people.

The New York Times article referenced can be found here.

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