Observations from the 2017 Turin Stampede

A crowd estimated in the 20,000 – 30,000 range gathered in San Carlo Square to watch a televised broadcast of the UEFA championship.  Hometown soccer club Juventus of Turin, Italy was playing Real Madrid in the final.  Late in the game, an unexpected panic ripped through the crowd.

Italian news agency ANSA is reporting injuries totaling 1,527.  Several fans were critically injured.  Remarkably, no fatalities have been announced… as of yet.

Video footage of the incident is readily available.  But there’s still some uncertainty over exactly what caused the spontaneous chaos.

Some claim it was firecrackers mistaken for an explosion.  Others maintain several individuals shouted concerns about a bomb.  Several metal barriers collapsed as well, smashing into the concrete.  The loud clapping noises could have been construed as a detonation.

To be frank, it was likely a combination of everything, coupled with heightened anxiety over the recent suicide bombing in Manchester, England (5-22-17) and the unanticipated bomb threat emergency evacuation of 80,000 at the Rock AM Ring music festival in Germany (6-2-17).  Europe is understandably jittery these days.  As is most of the planet.

A May 28, 2017 stampede at the National Stadium in the Honduras capital of Tegucigalpa left 5 people dead and dozens injured.  Was it the sale of counterfeit tickets?  An overly aggressive sold-out crowd?  A narrow entrance and corridor?  The investigation is ongoing.

A few days later on June 2, 2017, another stampede resulted in 70+ injuries as a gunman stormed a resort casino in Manila, Philippines and set off multiple fires.  The death toll was listed at 36.  Surprisingly, none of the victims were shot as the incident was the result of a botched robbery, not officially designated as terrorism.  News agencies claim scores of individuals died from suffocation.  But whether it was the result of smoke inhalation or a byproduct of the stampede has yet to be determined.  Perhaps it was a combination of both.

So here’s an all-encompassing takeaway from these incidents.

Stampedes are a global phenomenon.  They happen on all continents, even Antarctica (think beyond the human race).

It is exceptionally challenging to devise contingency plans or mitigation strategies when dealing with human stampedes.  Because OODA loops (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) are rendered inconsequential.  Also, elements of panic and fear are difficult to quantify.

The best solution lies within acknowledging the notion that every human stampede is unique.  Stampedes can occur when unexpected variables are introduced into the equation.  Thus, authorities need to be proactive, not reactive.

So here’s a simple, straightforward suggestion.

Government and private industry should advise fans in large, confined crowds (stadiums, ballparks, motor speedways, arenas, amphitheaters, etc.) that legitimate emergency evacuation orders would NEVER be delivered via their personal cell phones.

In the event of a real-world venue evacuation, incident command utilizes the public address system, and if available, the video monitors.  Because it’s imperative to reach the greatest number of fans with a clear, unified directive.  This isn’t up for debate.  This is how it’s done.  The protocol is very specific.

While I appreciate the notion that emergency evacuation protocol is a sensitive subject, the time has come to simply let fans know… that if the command order to evacuate is coming from your cell phone, it’s almost assuredly a hoax.

You’re probably asking “why is this so important?”  Well… it’s kinda important because someone would be trying to weaponize a stampede.  This isn’t 1977.  It’s 2017.  Cellular technology is here for the duration.

This leaves us with a binary decision.  Tell people the truth or leave them in the dark.  The AGSAF website (Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation) lays out the moral argument and justification for divulging the truth.

Worldwide governments and private industry deliberately conceal this generic public safety information because it’s in their best interest.  It is an existing paradox with a lose-lose proposition.  It’s a catch-22 mired in issues regarding plausible deniability and hypothetical litigation.  Simply put, it’s about money.

It’s my contention that fans have a fundamental right to a heightened level of situational awareness.  Suppressing common sense, factual public safety info (like ‘stop-drop-roll’ or ‘look both ways before you cross the street’) is in my opinion, ethically unacceptable.  Then again, this would hardly be the first time governments and private industry have demonstrated a lack of moral compass.