What is Stampede? Why are humans prone to stampede?

Human Stampedes are sudden rush of a crowd of people usually resulting in many injuries and deaths. Most deaths during stampede occur due to suffocation and trampling.

Stampedes can occur in different situations such as religious congregations and processions; food / relief distribution; entertainment events; escalator / moving walkways / foot bridges; sports events; political rallies, riots; fires during events; natural disasters and so on.

Stampedes can be unidirectional or turbulent. The unidirectional stampedes generally occur when crowd reacts to a sudden trigger such as a barricade that stops crowd movement or a louse noise from behind that makes then crowd run in one direction. Turbulent stampede is more dangerous and happens when two crowds moving in opposite direction merge or a stationary crowd reacts to a panic.

Why humans prone to stampede?

Humans are prone to stampede because of mass psychology. Mass psychology plays a role in many different phenomena like human stampedes, financial bubbles, fashion trends or political movements.  Humans, like other animals, have certain instinctive reactions which have helped them to face the fight or flight situations and survive as a species.

Stampede is often triggered in response to some perceived danger and disrupts the orderly movement of crowds resulting in irrational movement for self protection. In most cases, the trigger is psychological- such as a rumor, louse noise or one person slipping / falling etc. The lack of physical space compounds the mob behavior and increases sense of threat.

Further, as per NDMA guidelines, the inappropriate or poorly manage crowd control procedures may also trigger stampede rather than preventing them. For instance, if police reacts to a group of unruly people in such a way that it chases them in direction opposite to incoming crowd, it may result into an stampede and hence a disaster.

Published: October 9, 2017 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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