Updated: Tuesday, 24 Nov 2009, 1:18 PM EST
Published : Tuesday, 24 Nov 2009, 1:18 PM EST
After the death of a Walmart employee who was trampled to death in Valley Stream, N.Y., last year, the company is taking precautions to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Walmart Stores Inc. will keep most of its U.S. locations open overnight on Thanksgiving to ease the crowding that led to the trampling death, according to the latimes.com .
But why does it happen in the first place? And what can you do to spot a dangerous crowd situation?
The first step to avoiding crowd panic is to know potential triggers. According to ifpo.org , some of the more common causes are:
The mindset that causes people to act irrationally is the most dangerous part of the equation. When crowd panic sets in, people exhibit what is known as “herding behavior,” according to bbb.co. People tend to follow the person in front of them. Because of this, alternative exits are often ignored, sometimes with tragic consequences. Oftentimes, a person does not think rationally when part of a crowd. The presence of chaos creates selfishness. The decisions people make then are based solely on self-preservation.
Another effect of crowd panic is that people can lose their sense of identity. They tend to forget they are individuals and believe they are immune to consequences when participating in a crowd.
By studying the motion of crowds during the deadly Hajj pilgrimage of 2006 in Saudi Arabia, where more than 300 people were killed, researchers noticed that the crowds exhibited a "stop-and-go" movement. This is a warning sign that crowds are at a dangerous size for the space available. If unchecked, it can escalate to “turbulent” movement that causes tripping, falling and possibly trampling. In this case, the deaths occurred about 10 minutes after "turbulent motion" set in and more than 30 minutes after the onset of "stop-and-go" flow.
To prevent any deadly incidents this year, the National Retail Federation has also issued guidelines to stores . According to TheSunNews.com, they include placing stanchions or barriers inside and outside of the store to manage traffic flow, announcing the availability and locations of products over the store intercom, handing out vouchers for limited supplies of merchandise to the first customers in line, handing out a map of the store, spreading out sale items throughout the store and giving store managers authority to make decisions as events unfold.
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