Pearl Jam Solution to the Artificially Generated Stampede

Pearl-JamFor the purpose of this article, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) provides a decent conceptual definition of “mitigation.”

Mitigation is the effort to reduce loss of life by lessening the impact of a disaster.  It involves analyzing risk, reducing risk and insuring against risk.  Effective mitigation requires that we all understand risk, address hard choices and invest in societal well-being.  Without mitigation actions, our collective safety is jeopardized.

Real-time mitigation is an incorrect strategy for combating an artificially generated stampede.  During a real-world stampede, OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loops are rendered meaningless because time is a nonexistent variable.  There’s no opportunity to assess the situation and mitigate the disaster.  Any attempt to control widespread panic would be unsuccessful because once a stampede commences, there’s no way to put the “panic genie” back in the “stadium bottle.”  It simply doesn’t work that way.

Human stampedes can develop instantly, consistent with “fight or flight” response mechanisms a/k/a herding instincts.  Since mitigation is not an option, any comprehensive solution would require a certain degree of speculative anticipation and foreknowledge.  Therefore, heightening awareness becomes absolutely critical.  Awareness is the only viable strategy for preventing an artificially generated stampede.

Regarding our country’s largest football stadiums, my research has led me to two inescapable conclusions:

  • the NCAA has identified the problem but is unwilling to publicly address the issue or offer any guidance
  • the NFL has been entirely disinterested and wholly unresponsive

Pertaining to this aspect of emergency evacuation protocol, both are unwilling to alter the status quo.

What desperately needs to happen is a broad awareness campaign.  You must start physically informing people that a legitimate evacuation order would never be delivered via everyone’s individual cell phones.  Whether it’s running a looped message over the public address system, outlining common sense information on the jumbotron or physically handing out literature, neither organization is willing to do what’s necessary — educate the public.  You need to tell them.

Since the stakes are immeasurably high, I devised some alternative methods to prevent artificially generated stampedes.  One was a political solution for the President of the United States.  Another idea was a premise based on the culture of Hollywood.  At its core, the artificially generated stampede is an incredibly generic concept.  It’s simply the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  The same principles that govern stadium safety apply to any locations with large, confined crowds, including arenas and outdoor amphitheaters.  With that in mind, I conceived of another solution involving the music industry.  I’ve termed it the Pearl Jam Solution.

On June 30, 2000, Pearl Jam played an outdoor festival in Roskilde, Denmark.  During the set, nine fans lost their lives in a human stampede near the front of the stage.  The concert was halted as emergency responders dealt with the severely injured and the lifeless bodies of those trampled to death and crush asphyxiated.

When band members speak of the Roskilde stampede, one truly senses the impact felt by such a grotesque calamity.  The following quotes were taken from the documentary “Pearl Jam Twenty.”

singer Eddie Vedder:  “I just didn’t want it to be true.

bassist Jeff Ament:  We’ve gained a “unique perspective on where we’re at and how fragile life is.

guitarist Stone Gossard:  “From that point on, we rethought everything.  I think we kind of quantify everything that’s happened to us as pre-Roskilde and after Roskilde.

Ten years later in a 2010 Berlin anniversary concert, Vedder reflected on the tragedy… “we learn things about ourselves and have an appreciation of life that we didn’t understand before.”  His comments outline the devastating emotional toll of human stampedes. “It’s not like we’re thinking about it anymore today, because it’s really something we’ve thought about everyday.

It’s conceivable that during the Roskilde grieving process (which they admit to be ongoing), band members held themselves personally accountable.  It was originally alleged by Danish police that Pearl Jam “whipped the crowd into a frenzy” and should be held “morally responsible.”  Pearl Jam later issued an official statement.

During a 2013 sold out Pearl Jam concert at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, a severe storm necessitated a weather delay.  Vedder made the initial evacuation announcement.  Although the venues differ considerably, the Roskilde tragedy was partially blamed on the muddy grounds resulting from earlier heavy rainfall.  Judging by his tone and tenor, I believe Vedder has retained a marked understanding of what can happen when you mix large crowds with inclement weather.

Pearl Jam would appear uniquely qualified to broach the subject of artificially generated stampedes for the following reasons:

  1. Their prior involvement with a deadly stampede
  2. The band carries with it an exclusive degree of respect and admiration
  3. Longevity and worldwide popularity (1990 to the present)
  4. Industry relevance and strength of touring — the band routinely plays on all continents
  5. A history of political activism — they’ve been notoriously outspoken on issues involving war, the environment, social justice and fundamental human rights

Rock bands have a distinct perspective on live events.  Once a concert starts, there are no more practice sessions, no more sound checks.  The same notion applies to human stampedes.  By its very definition, an artificially generated stampede, or worst case scenario dominipede, is a “live” event.  History would not offer a dress rehearsal.

Of course any U.S. citizen has a definitive First Amendment right to weigh in on this topic.  But very few will, largely because there’s no financial incentive and it involves morally delicate, hypothetical subject matter.  And aside from the AGSAF website, the issue just isn’t part of the public domain.

Let me remind you of something.  The moral dimension of the artificially generated stampede extends well beyond a single, isolated tragedy.  The looming prospect of a dominipede makes this the least known, most unpredictable national security threat faced by the United States of America.  And one more thing… there are no second chances with multiple, simultaneous human stampedes.  Humanity would not be afforded a do-over.

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