Happy 150th Canada!
Today we will look at how to be a bit safer when attending large events and being in crowds. As we all head out for the festivities this weekend, we will find ourselves in large crowds. Most people don’t think about what can go wrong in such an environment and are focused on the strong Canadian beer and flood of Canadian Pride. But if something does turn the tide of the crowd, it can easily go from a fun time to a deadly mob. A fire, a terrorist attack, active shooter…all can turn the tide quickly. A stampede of people trying to get out of a night club, or a park that is fenced-in can result in injuries and death as the mob moves. The panic that a real or perceived event causes is enough for people to take leave of their faculties and just charge.
So, how do you give yourself the edge in situations like this?
- Maintain Situational Awareness: Keep your wits about you and observe your surroundings. Identify the baseline of the crowd. How does it move? What is the average behaviour? Is there anyone moving against the grain, or seems out of place? Is there someone that doesn’t seem to fit? Try to identify these things by putting your phone away and actively scanning your surroundings. That doesn’t mean you should be afraid, just aware and in-tune.
- Take Note of Changes: Look for and identify specific examples of “off” behaviour outside of the norm or baseline. Like the one person wearing wearing a Hawaiian shirt at a funeral. Also, try and get a “feel” for the mood of the crowd and react to its changes. If things suddenly go from fun and festive to uneasy and twitchy, get moving towards an pre-determined exit.
- Pre-Identify Exits and Escape Routes: As you arrive to a crowded area or event, take mental note of your evacuation options. If everyone is coming in through a particular gate or door, look for other options. Are there emergency and fire doors off to the side? Are there windows? Stairwells? Employee doors with “Authorized Personnel Only” signs? Maybe walk by some of those doors to ensure they aren’t chained or bolted and that they are viable options. Check for a window you might be able to break to get out. Most of the crowd will head back the way it came if it decides to stampede. Alternate exit options will give you a better chance of getting out faster and intact.
- Cover & Concealment: Look for spots that provide cover (ballistic protection from projectiles and shrapnel) and concealment (obscuring you from view). If something goes down (like an active assailant begins shooting or stabbing people) and the exit isn’t an option, your next best thing is taking cover to protect yourself.
- Get Moving!: If something begins or you feel it might, get moving. Get to the edges of the crowd or to a wall and make your way to one of the pre-scouted exits you had selected. Use the crowd momentum and relative direction to funnel you towards your target, moving forcefully in a diagonal path. You can’t fight the crowd, but you can use it to your advantage.
- Carry the Right Gear: Make sure you tailor your on-person equipment to be viable for the environment. A small knife and/or multi-tool, bandana, water bottle, lighter, metal-bodied pen and possibly lock picks. Dress appropriately and ensure you have the necessary tools to support your escape plan.
- MOVE! If it’s go-time, move. Don’t hesitate, just get moving. Act in a decisive manner and get to your objective.
Additional point to keep in mind:
- Stay to the edges of the room or crowd;
- Keep panic in check, and;
- If you want to ensure you minimize the risk, DON’T BE THERE! Watch the event on TV. You can’t be harmed if you’re not there.
Don’t forget..if you SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING! Let a police officer or security know if you see something wrong. They’re likely better equipped to deal with it than you are.
Till next time, have fun, stay vigilant and of course, stay crafty.
Happy Canada 150!