When was the last time you attended an event that drew a crowd?
In 2022, as the COVID-19 pandemic shows signs of entering the endemic phase, people are returning to the events they know and love. Athletic games, music festivals, and parades are drawing huge crowds—and it’s imperative that people stay safe among the masses.
Now, research shows that it’s rare for major safety issues to derail large public events. We’re much more likely to say, get in a car accident, than we are to experience an injury or mass tragedy as a football spectator or live music fan. That said, accidents do happen—just look at the Astroworld stampede from 2021—and they draw a lot of media attention.
Perhaps what makes these incidents so devastating is that in many cases, with the proper security protocols, they could have been prevented—which brings us to this piece. Rather than focusing on shootings, fires, and structural failure at large public events, we figured we’d take action.
How so? Well, action starts with awareness. And to make sure the attendees of public events are aware of the risks they face, we’ve compiled a list of nine safety tips for crowded events. Here are some strategies to consider the next time you venture out to a huge crowd:
1. Be alert to your surroundings.
Sounds simple, right? It’s still worth the reminder, though. Be vigilant, take consistent stock of your surroundings, and report any suspicious activity you may see at the event. As the old adage goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
So if you see someone who makes you uneasy, do something about it—or simply leave the venue. If you see something that doesn’t sit right with you, don’t question your instincts. Follow them instead, because they’re telling you to be careful for a reason.
2. Limit your alcohol consumption.
In addition to drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your event, you’ll want to limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Alcohol can cloud your judgment and impair your motor reactions in the event of a safety issue—so be careful.
By all means, have fun. But don’t drink so much that you lose control. If this means committing to a two- or three-drink maximum before you arrive at the event, then so be it—plan ahead so that you’re all set if in the unlikely event something goes wrong.
3. Create an exit plan.
Inside or outside, you should evaluate exactly where the nearest exits are located. While knowing the way you entered the space is certainly ideal, it isn’t enough—because most people rely on the route they took to come in when an emergency comes up, and this can slow your exit.
To be extra-prepared, scope out all the exits as soon as you arrive at the venue. Pick up a map if you can find one. And keep several exits in mind just in case you need to make a snap decision in an emergency. You’ll be relieved you took the time to plan ahead.
4. Let others know where you are.
You don’t have to announce your location to the world, but you should share it with a trusted loved one or two. Just in case something happens, make sure your friends and family know where you are. Ideally, you should tell at least one person what time you plan to return home as well.
There’s no need to make this a huge deal—a quick call or text before the event will do. You’d expect the same thing from the people you love, right? So don’t overlook this vital step in the planning process. Share your location!
5. Charge your phone.
Speaking of phones—and of being prepared for an emergency in a large crowd—pack a phone charger. At the very least, arrive at the event with a full battery. If you end up needing help later on, or if you get lost, you’ll likely regret not taking the time to charge your phone.
So be prepared. Pack a charger. And ideally, keep your phone in a deep pocket or zippered space to avoid being pickpocketed. Music festivals in particular are rife with phone theft—so be reasonably aware of the people around you just in case.
6. But leave the nonessentials at home.
Pack your phone, but don’t take so much with you that you’ll struggle to get around in an emergency. If you do end up taking a purse, gym bag, or backpack with you to the event, be prepared to leave it behind under duress.
If there are items you need before or after the event, make a point of leaving them in the car (in the trunk or tucked away safely from wandering eyes in the back foot well). You want to be mobile if you end up leaving early, evacuating, or needing to find a different place to sit or stand.
7. Focus on your footwear.
Worst-case scenarios are unlikely, but your footwear doesn’t have to reflect that. Whether you’re at a concert, basketball game, or food festival, wear shoes that are unlikely to fall off or trip you. Opting for shoes you can easily run in is even better.
If the event is formal and you absolutely need to wear shoes that are tough to get around in, try to find a pair you can remove easily if needed. Walking around barefoot certainly isn’t ideal, but you want to be mobile if you have to evacuate.
8. Leave immediately in an emergency.
Do you smell smoke? Think you heard gunshots off in the distance? Could that be a fire alarm going off? Massive events feature loud sounds—but if there’s even a chance you hear something that could be alerting you to an emergency, don’t wait to take action.
Instead, move toward an exit as soon as you possibly can. Stay close to the wall if you’re inside, and follow it to the exit sign in order to avoid bottlenecks. This will be especially useful if there’s smoke and you’re dealing with poor visibility.
9. Know what to do if you get separated from your group.
Just in case you drop or lose your phone, come up with a backup plan. If you get separated from your friends and, despite your best efforts, you just can’t reach them, plan to meet somewhere at a specific time.
Bonus points if you’ve memorized the phone numbers of the people you’re with. That way, if you get separated, you can contact them relatively easily. Pretend you’re traveling back 20 years in the past—this is what people had to do when they got separated before we all got cell phones.
Which of the above tips did you find most useful? Did you learn anything new from this piece? By focusing on safety and prevention, you can join a crowd with ease—and know exactly what you need to do to stay safe at your next public event.
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