Good weather is upon us and it is the time of the year when the vast majority of people become highly active. While some will go on vacation, there will be those who will end up being part of a crowded event such as a political gathering or a sporting event. Regardless the reasons behind the big commotion it is smart to learn how to stay safe in a big crowd.
Every year, thousands of people will flock to a destination at the same time and there are certain activities that cause a massive draw of interest. We are social beings and we end up being part of large crowds without thinking too much about it. If you are preparedness minded, you probably put a lot of effort into preparing your home for the worst or developing skills that will help you survive in any environment. However, it seems that many people do not think much about crowded events and this topic is hardly discussed when it comes to survival and preparedness. Paying attention to your surroundings and learning how to stay safe in a big crowd is just as important as stockpiling supplies or fortifying your home. In the world we live today, there are many threats affecting our ways of life and it would be foolish to think that being part of a big crowd is safe, even if the gathering takes place in your hometown.
Pay attention to the driving conditions if you want to stay safe in a big crowd
There are certain events that draw a large number of extra people to a city and the roadways become flooded with cars. You might be driving through your hometown or you may be driving a rental in a foreign town, regardless where you are, driving conditions become more dangerous than usual. Drivers get stressed by the congestion, people talk on their cellphones, vacationers try to figure out where they are going and all of this creates the perfect recipe for disaster. And when you add in the thousands of residents that can be just as distracted, accidents are bound to happen.
Recommended article: Prepping your car for an emergency escape
While the best way to stay safe in a big crowd would be to avoid the roads altogether, we know that this is not always possible and sometimes, we have to be part of the pack. If you have no other ways of getting around and you must drive in crowded regions, do so with extra caution and heightened awareness. Make sure there are no distractions that could divert your attention from the road and if you have the kids with you, make sure they are strapped in good and they have the means to stay busy and off your back. Your car should be equipped with a get home bag, one that should be out of sight (otherwise people may be tempted to break into your car and steal it). However, if you decide to use the public transportation, make sure you know where you are going and avoid being lost in bad neighborhoods. If you travel abroad and you want to blend in with the locals and travel the lesser known roads, make sure you have your travel bug out bag with you.
Suggested reading: How to build a travel bug out bag
There is always an increased risk of disaster for residents
Major events that bring a large number of people into one area pose a higher risk, especially since foreign or domestic terrorists are targeting these sorts of gatherings. Residents should be prepared for everything that could occur and you should learn how to stay safe in a crowd even though you are the type of person that doesn’t like these types of events. Most of the time, you don’t have to go to the crowd as it will come to you. Your town probably organizes events that can put residents in harm’s way.
You might be prepared for the scenarios you’ve anticipated, but any disaster, regardless its nature, would be much more chaotic with the overcrowded population. It is crucial to understand that your normal preparedness actions and strategies could be less effective when the streets are packed with people. If you want to stay safe in a crowd, here are some tips that you should practice in advance:
- Practice your family emergency procedures when local events (of a smaller scale) take place. This is a good practice for the bigger wave and it will help you learn from your mistakes.
- Plan for alternative escape routes and meeting places.
- Provide constant maintenance to your escape vehicle (car, motorcycle, bike, etc.) so it is reliable in case you need to flee. Your escape vehicle of choice should have a proper kit (get home bag or bug out bag) built for it.
- Check your supplies to see if anything needs to be changed or updated. Certain items can expire, while others we use and we forget to put them back from where we got them.
Recommended article: Ask yourself this about your emergency supplies
- Prepare your home and fortify it for a survival situation. You should at least have all the basics covered (water, food, energy and self-defense).
- Know your region before it all goes down. If you need to abandon your home, you need to know where you are going, what to do when you get there and how will you survive once you build up camp.
If a disaster takes place in a familiar area and you are forced to deal with a large number of people, you have better chances of making it on your own territory. Even more, in case things get ugly, you can team up with neighbors to keep the neighborhood safe. You should have the upper hand since the visitors don’t know the regions as well as you.
Strategies to stay safe within a crowd
Regardless if you are a resident or a tourist, when entering a crowded scenario (festival, sporting event, concert, etc.) there are certain precautions that will help keep you safe. I’m travel quite a lot and here are my suggestions when it comes to staying safe in crowded areas:
- You should be careful where you park your car and always go for well-lit, busy areas. If you are in an unfamiliar, bad neighborhood you could be ambushed when going for the car. If you notice something wrong with your car, call the local authorities and stay away from good Samaritans. This is actually something that I’ve experienced while visiting Italy. We were in Rome and we were driving a rental (nothing fancy). One afternoon, after getting back to the car from a shopping area, I tried unlocking the car using the key command and the alarm just went off. The key stopped working and I couldn’t stop the alarm, no matter what I’ve tried. After a few minutes, a few good Samaritans showed up asking in broken English what’s wrong. I was polite, but I didn’t interact too much with them and kept my distance. I called the rental service to figure out what’s going on. To my surprise, the lady from the rental company told me that there are certain bands of Bulgarian and Polish gypsies that jam your key frequency using an IR device and that I should call the police if the car doesn’t start after inserting the key into the ignition. I thanked the people for “trying to help” got into the car and closed the doors. To our luck the car started after inserting the key into the ignition and giving it a few twists.
- You should avoid being pinned in an area that would be difficult to escape from if a disaster occurs. People have a herd mentality and if something triggers their panic sensors, they will run towards the same direction, they will eventually create bottlenecks and trample people on their way to safety. I’ve written in a previous article what to do to survive riots and flash mobs and I recommend reading that article.
- Always stay with your group and if that is not possible, create a meeting place and agree on a strict schedule. In foreign countries, especially in areas where shopping is promoted aggressively, some members could get separated from the group and you will have a hard time finding them. I have experienced this twice in Dubai and Morocco with some close friends, even though I’ve told them that this can happen and that there are some aggressive sellers roaming around in those local markets.
- If you want to stay safe in a big crowd, you should always pay attention to the crowd and you should avoid sketchy looking people. I’ve seen my share of things and I’m able to easily spot pickpockets. Also, if you are on foreign land and you want to intervene, don’t do it as you won’t change anything. I’ve learned this the hard way in Istanbul when I’ve notified two police officers about two young boys that were stealing from tourists. I ended up losing the entire day at the police station and they didn’t take any action against the teenagers. Even more, the receptionist from the hotel called us “naïve” and they told us how the thieves work hand in hand with the local authorities. The market guards and police officers are bribed to look the other away.
- If you want to stay safe in a crowd, keep your important personal belongings, such as money and cell phone on your body and not in a separate bag. Always have a backup cash stash. When I travel, I wear a small ankle pouch in which I keep some spare money and a USB stick containing copies of my important documents. You should also wear clothing that doesn’t attract a lot of attention. Wearing designer clothes or clothing with messages that could be offensive for the locals is not a good idea.
- Always have your cell phone fully charge and bring a solar charger or an external battery with you. You never know when you might need to use it and you should make sure it has enough juice.
Recommended reading: 6 Electricity Generators for Your Bug Out Bag
- Be careful of strangers and don’t give up too much information. People will act friendly and they will try to get as much out of you as possible to decide if you are a good target for them. I’ve noticed this behavior a lot in South America. Jamaica is also known for their “friendly locals” who made a habit of courting foreign women.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol and always stay hydrated. I know quite a few people from the company I’ve used to work for that were (I think they still are) traveling to Thailand, searching for adventures. Almost all of them got drugged and robbed while interacting with the local female population.
- If you need to use an ATM, do that during the day when there are people around. Check first if the ATM looks ok and that there aren’t any foreign devices installed on it that can trap your card or record your actions.
- Stay on your feet if disaster strikes and be prepared to act. When commotion starts, most people will not resist the urge of checking it out and they will end up becoming a victim. Move to safety if chaos ensues, and don’t be a hero. Especially if you are in unfamiliar territory.
These are just my suggestions regarding how to stay safe in a big crowd and I can’t say for sure that it covers everything as situations differ from one location to another. There is always the randomness factor that you can’t predict and all you can do is to prepare for it.
Stay safe and God Bless!
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