Tamil Nadu Stampede

tamil nadirOn February 7, 2016, four individuals drowned to death in a human stampede at the Tamil Nadu Temple in Tiruvannamalai, India.  The fatalities occurred when a surge of people tried to participate in a holy ritual in a large tank (rectangular pool of water).  Some might be inclined to think… Wow, only four?  Sounds like they got lucky this time.

Let me be blunt.  India has a widespread, universal crowd management problem.  And it isn’t disappearing anytime soon.  The relative frequency of tragedies is increasing, not decreasing.  Here’s some of the major incidents from the past decade.  I won’t even bother with the injury tallies.  Rest assured, those numbers are far greater.

2005, Mandiradevi Temple, Maharashtra – 291
2008, Naina Devi Temple, Himachal Pradesh – 146
2008, Chamunda Devi Temple, Jodhpur – 224
2010, Kumbh Mela, Haridwar, Uttarakhand – 7
2010, Makar Sankranti, Gangasagar Mela – 7
2010, Kripalu Maharaj Ashram, Kunda – 63
2011, Sabarimala Temple, Kerala – 102
2012, Satsang, Deoghar, Jharkhand – 12
2013, Kumbh Mela, Allahabad – 36
2013, Ratangarh Mata Temple, Pradesh – 115
2105, Godavari Maha Puskakaram, Andhra Pradesh – 27

These crises stem from a profound lack of accountability.  I guess the million dollar question is… can anything be done to halt this “systemic stampede progression” or is the nation of India just habitually doomed and condemned.  Is it a consequence of hyper-population?  Could there be isolated pockets of religious zealotry?  Is it about antiquated infrastructure?

Or is it about an unwillingness to confront crowd density issues and a failure to engage in disciplined planning?  I don’t know.  You tell me.

There’s a reason I chose to examine this “mini” stampede.  After all, it bears little resemblance to the past carnage involving massive throngs.  The crowd on hand was estimated at only 2,000.  It wasn’t about the magnitude.  It was all about the variables.  A fatal stampede does not require hundreds of thousands of people and an all-encompassing panic.  Sometimes it’s just about the conditions — entrance and egress, ramps and corridors, doors and gates, steps and escalators, bridges and viaducts, locks and barricades.

To the best of my knowledge, no stampede in the history of mankind has ever been successfully mitigated.  Why?  Because it’s simply inconsistent with the definition of the word “stampede.”  Nobody has ever anticipated one, gotten on the loud speaker and made a plea just in the nick of time — Please refrain from trampling each other.  Such behavior will not be tolerated.  Cease your panic.  Those engaged in acts of asphyxiation will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  It’s just not how things work.

The solution for preventing a human stampede revolves around contingency planning and strategizing.  That’s why certain occupations exist.  Software programmers who study crowd volatility, flow and movement.  People who script detailed plans for how to properly execute large-scale evacuations.  It’s why we have ushers, security personnel and the incident command structure as a whole.

Now there is an exception of course.  It’s the current crop of individuals who teach people about the science of crowd management and emergency evacuation protocol.  Think of them as physics instructors who don’t know basic algebra.  Because there’s one aspect of crowd control that nobody’s allowed to talk about.

It’s the fact that virtually everyone has an active cell phone capable of receiving real-time information.

Doesn’t it strike anybody as the least bit peculiar that NOBODY from government (Congress, FCC, DHS, etc.) and across a wide swath of private industry (NFL, NCAA, MLB, NHL, NBA, NASCAR, etc.) is permitted to concede such a generic security disconnect?  Hmmm, maybe there are reasons for the collective silence!  I won’t delve into excessive detail.  Let’s just say that a discussion about “killing innocent people without conventional weaponry” is not deemed appropriate for the daily news.  This is an inevitably predictable, asymmetric, generational warfare issue.  It’s about synthesizing an “artificially generated stampede.”  You don’t get to hear about this material on MSNBC, FOX or CNN.

Now if we lived in a world where people didn’t try to kill one another… well, I probably wouldn’t be worried about this kinda stuff.  But unfortunately, I’m a realist.  Just because so few are willing to admit the problem exists does NOT mean it will magically disappear.

There’s a lesson to be learned here.  Dr. Phil often talks about it on daytime television — you cannot change what you’re unwilling to acknowledge.

One of these days, society will be forced to cope with the issue of wireless hyper-connectivity and its correlative potential for fomenting a mass panic.  And it won’t be pretty.

So here’s the good news.  If you view the problem with a long-term event horizon, I can assure you that it will eventually be remedied.  But here’s the bad news.  I can also assure you, with the utmost certainty, that a lot of people will die and be injured BEFORE it’s addressed.  It’s not terribly complex.  It’s just the difference between being proactive or reactive.  Telling people the truth or deliberately concealing common sense, public safety information.

So what’s the best course of action?  Assuming you’ve read this article in its entirety, the solution should be painfully obvious.  You simply make a commitment to share the TRUTH.  I’ve seen the light… and it’s the AGSAF mission statement.

People have a fundamental right to know…

that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an emergency evacuation order and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device…

it’s almost certainly a malicious hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.