As the world opens up after a year and a half of lockdowns and social distancing, there is a pent up demand for live concerts and festivals. Fans all around the world have been eagerly waiting for their next festival experience, just as artists have been waiting to sell out arenas once again. But this excitement needs to be tempered with caution and risk awareness. Concerts are unique settings that present serious risks and dangers, and many have turned out extremely deadly.
What Makes Concerts So Dangerous?
1. Ideal Target for Terrorist & Mass Murder Attacks
Concerts regularly draw crowds of 20-50 thousand people or more. This makes concerts an obvious target for terrorists or mass murderers, who aim to cause as much harm as possible before being stopped.
A 2017 Arianna Grande concert in the UK left 22 people dead and 59 injured after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb. (Attendance: 20,000.)
A 2017 Jason Aldean concert in Las Vegas left 58 people dead and over 500 injured after a sniper on the 32nd floor of a nearby casino began firing into the crowd. This is considered to be the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. (Attendance: 22,000.)
A 2012 Swedish House Mafia concert in Dublin left 1 person dead and 9 injured after a man stabbed 8 people in the back, unprovoked. (Attendance: 45,000.)
2. Crushing and Asphyxiation
The crushing force of thousands of people packed into the crowd can be extremely deadly. People can get crushed, trampled on, knocked out, and suffocate from a lack of oxygen; and in the middle of a raging crowd there's almost no way to escape.
At least 9 people died and over 300 are in the hospital after the devastating Travis Scott concert last week. The police department stated cardiac arrest as the cause of death of the 9 people who died. There were hundreds of injuries from people being physically crushed, trampled on, and suffocated. Attendees described the concert as a 'death trap', a 'fight for survival', a 'crowd without humanity', and a 'terrifying nightmare'. (Attendance: over 50,000).
9 people died at a Pearl Jam concert in 2000 in a similar fashion as the Scott concert. (Attendance: 50,000).
21 people died and 342 were injured in 2010 at a music festival in Germany after crowds rushed through a confined entry way and created a panic. (Attendance: 200,000)
John Fruin, author of The Causes and Prevention of Crowd Disasters (PDF) research paper, describes that:
"individual control is lost in the crush and one becomes an involuntary part of the mass."
"At occupancies of 7 persons per square meter the crowd becomes a fluid mass. Shock waves can be propagated through the mass sufficient to lift people off of their feet and propel them distances of 3 m or more. People may be literally lifted out of their shoes, and have clothing torn off. Intense crowd pressures, exacerbated by anxiety, make it difficult to breathe. The heat and thermal insulation of surrounding bodies cause some to be weakened and faint. Access to those who fall is impossible. Removal of those in distress can only be accomplished by lifting them up and passing them overhead to the exterior of the crowd. Steel guardrails capable of withstanding a thousand pounds of pressure are bent by the domino effect of the crowd force," Fruin writes.
3. Drugs & Alcohol
Hundreds of people have died from overdosing, taking drugs laced with deadly substances, or by being drugged without their knowing at concerts. It is almost impossible for criminals to get caught when they're shoulder to shoulder in the crowd, and unfortunately this can lead to other types of violence like assault. The American Addiction Centre surveyed over 970 concert enthusiasts, and found that 57% of attendees use drugs or alcohol at live music events. We should also consider how this drug use impairs driving, as well as our ability to defend ourselves if we are physically attacked on our way home.
The packed crowd in a confined space make concerts uniquely dangerous, and this needs to be considered by fans and parents. Aside from the risks of mass murders, physical crushing, and drugs and alcohol abuse, there have been at least two concert halls that burned down, taking dozens of precious lives. The most terrifying thing to me is that once you're in the middle the crowd, it is almost impossible to escape or for anyone to come to your rescue. You're rendered completely helpless in the event of a tragedy. Concerts can be dangerous places, and everyone should be prepared before attending one.
How To Improve Your Safety at a Concert
1. Don't Go
I know that sounds smart-alecky, but it's the only way you can guarantee you won't be left helpless in the middle of dangerous crowd. If you're not seriously into concerts, and it's something that you're doing because of your friends or on a whim, consider passing it up. No one ever thinks they'll be the one to end up in a crisis, but if you are, the concert will not have been worth it.
2. Choose Concerts With Smaller Audiences
Of all the concerts we cited above, each had an audience of at least 20,000. Try to opt for events with smaller audiences like 10,000 or less.
3. Enjoy At The Edges
Don't put yourself in the middle or front of the crowd. This is the worst possible place to be in the event of a panic. It might be hard to convince your friends, but try to stay closer to the exits, and avoid any location that seems boxed in.
4. Always Use The Buddy System
Always go with a friend, and promise to watch each others backs. Talk about how you should keep an eye on each other and stick together no matter what.
5. Make A Safety Plan
Make a plan in case of an emergency. An emergency could be anything from a fire, a live shooter, or a stampede. With your friend, discuss the following essentials:
Learn where the exits are, and which one will you take in a crisis
Pick a meeting spot incase you get separated
Always know how you're getting home
6. Do Not Take Drugs
Friends may try to peer pressure you, but concerts are dangerous places that require alertness. Drugs and alcohol severely impair ones judgement and ability to respond to danger or defend an attack. Never take drugs from strangers, and always watch your drinks so they can't be spiked. Trust me, you'll still have a ton of fun enjoying the show sober!
7. Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings
You are the person that is responsible for your safety. Especially at a concert, where it could be physically impossible for help to get to you. Keep an eye on the people around you, listen to what they're saying, and stay aware of signs of panic.
8. Trust Your Instincts / When In Doubt- Get Out!
If something doesn't feel right, listen to that feeling. The desire to literally fit in with the crowd can be overwhelming. You may not want to seem paranoid or inconvenience your friends, but it is imperative that you follow your own instincts and not those of anyone else. Dozens of people from the Astroworld concert that said "something just didn't feel right", or "I knew that this was going to be dangerous", and "there was a very creepy feeling about the entire concert". Multiple people reported later what their gut was trying to tell them: that something was wrong. Never ignore that feeling, it could quite literally save your life.
8. Be Prepared to Not Have Cell Service
Secluded locations and overwhelmed signals often lead to no cell coverage at concerts. Try to note the closest areas that do have coverage in case you need to call emergency.
Concerts are fun, and no one who goes out to enjoy their favorite band or artist should end up fighting for their lives. Unfortunately, the reality is that they are uniquely dangerous settings that we must be prepared for. We cannot rely on the venue, the artists, or the security guards to keep us safe because once chaos hits, there is little anyone can do to get you out. Please consider these precautions before going to your next concert- especially if there will be over 10,000 people in attendance.
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