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Image for Science Says You Can Actually Die From Just Standing In A Big Festival CrowdPhoto: Brett Schewitz

Science Says You Can Actually Die From Just Standing In A Big Festival Crowd

Written by Indre McGlinn on May 4, 2016

Ever had that impending sense of panic as you start being carried by no will of your own into a throng of people trying to get the best spot by the main stage of really any festival?

Yeah, there’s a name for that, and it’s (the wonderfully daggy) High Density Crowd. And it can be deadly.

There’s nothing daggy about the science, which, according to Brain Stuff‘s Josh Clark, tells us that if you are in a High Density Crowd – which comprises six or more people in a square metre – a single person starts to lose their ability to move independently. At this point the crowd starts to act “like a fluid.”

Shit starts getting really dangerous when you can no longer move your arms from your sides and your torso starts getting so restricted that your lungs can no longer inhale and exhale, causing you to suffocate. This is known by the fun name Crowd Crush.

Another terrifying way in which we can expire in a festival crowd is by Progressive Crowd Collapse (are you taking notes of these acronyms?). This happens if a person in a dense crowd falls over, causing whoever is leaning on them to also fall over, and the ones leaning on them, literally crushing those at the bottom.

Sadly, these phenomena have happened at small and large scales at festivals already, the most recent famous case being the Love Parade disaster in Germany in 2010, in which (it is now known) 21 people died from suffocation.

The amazing scientists called “crowd researchers” are now using video feeds and Artificial Intelligence to predict High Density Crowds and stop things like this happening before situations turn deadly. They do this by surveying the crowd’s movements as they happen.

What can we do as we swelter and squish ourselves into these tiny spaces to see our fave bands, though?

Researchers say that, ideally, we should avoid super-dense crowds altogether. If we can’t do that, the main thing to know is that we should stop talking and instead listen to what is going on around us as we enter a crowd in case people are calling for help or telling us to move back. If we are in a crowd that is surging forward, we should follow the movement but try to move to the side as much as possible so that our bodies are less restricted by the forward motion.

This has been a festival PSA. Stay safe, y’all! Watch the Brain Stuff vid below.

Watch: How Crowds Can Kill You by Brain Stuff

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