On Monday December 1, 2015, a sudden panic resulted in a human stampede and the death of one individual. Over thirty others were injured, four of them critically. The incident unfolded during an unanticipated terrorism drill at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya.
The college administration conducted the drill with the intention of testing emergency response preparedness and improving campus safety. Regrettably, officials in charge failed to thoroughly notify students and employees. So when live gunfire was heard, assuming their lives were in danger, many people panicked and actually jumped out of building windows, some from multiple floors off the ground. The result: a menagerie of broken bones and severe concussions.
Confusion over the terror alert rehearsal was further exacerbated by the presence of actors, portrayed as Al-Shabbab terrorists dressed in convincing attire. The Al-Shabbab splinter faction has a strong presence in neighboring Somalia and was responsible for a similarly-themed attack at Garissa University eight months earlier. 147 were killed and scores injured during the prolonged assault in Garissa, Kenya.
Strathmore University officials have issued a formal apology and a promise to compensate the victims. However, the predictable blame game between the university and the government is expected to continue.
Now your first inclination might be to think… well, 1 dead and 30 injured. That pales in comparison to other human stampedes. For example, just 3 months ago, the Hajj stampede resulted in 2,177 fatalities and an unknown number wounded (easily in excess of 10,000). The Hajj is an annual religious festival in Mecca, Saudi Arabia which draws roughly 3 million.
And you would be correct. It’s two completely different dynamics. The Strathmore stampede was the result of a sudden panic based on a lack of situational awareness. Terrified they might be executed at point blank range, many assumed their odds of survival would be better if they jumped. On the other hand, the Mecca stampede was based on crowd turbulence. Its fatalities resulted almost exclusively from crush asphyxiation and mass tramplings.
Considering the extensive discrepancy in the fatality count, one would naturally assume there’s less to be learned from the Strathmore Univeristy stampede. You’re likely thinking… something like that could NEVER happen in the United States. Our safety standards, our protocol, our level of emergency preparedness is vastly superior to that of locations in central Africa. I completely disagree. And here’s why…
Everything hinges on knowledge, situational awareness and accountability. Now what if I told you the U.S. government and private industry are incorrigibly negligent in this regard. Keep reading.
If an individual or terrorist group were planning to “weaponize” a human stampede, the most obvious target would be the National Football League. With 7-10 games overlapping the Sunday 1 o’clock slate, it doesn’t require top secret government clearance to arrive at this conclusion. It’s just common sense.
Now here’s the dilemma. The NFL runs its security apparatus with more secrecy and less accountability than the Secret Service and the mafia combined. Obviously, this is not a good omen.
Let’s examine the two major security “disconnects.”
The first disconnect is between the NFL and federal, state and city governments. It involves emergency evacuation protocol and the real-world determination of exactly when to initiate a stadium evacuation. Currently, the NFL has only demonstrated a willingness to evacuate for inclement weather (lightning strikes, tornadoes, etc.).
The NFL does NOT evacuate for bomb threat “conditions.” I won’t go into an elaborate explanation of the discrepancies between a bomb threat “condition” and a bomb threat “emergency.” That would be a separate article in and of itself. Suffice to say, a “condition” would be something comparable to a phoned-in threat or a menacing note left at the concession stand. Emergency bomb threat classification requires a much higher threshold of evidence.
Considering the greater frequency of bomb threats being delivered through alternative channels (social media, television and radio stations, police and fire departments, etc.), there exists a moral imperative for greater transparency. In the year 2015, information travels fast (particularly bad news like celebrity deaths, airplane crashes, active shooter alerts, political assassinations, etc.). Phony bomb threats fall into this category. And what do 99.9% of all bomb threats have in common? Newsflash: virtually all of them fall under the category of a malicious hoax.
With 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones in every NFL stadium capable of receiving real-time, false information, a decentralized saturation (VIRAL BLITZKRIEG) could escalate BEFORE incident command has the opportunity to weigh-in. To the contrary, there is only ONE public address system and ONE jumbotron. I’ve noticed that NFL announcers often focuses on “match-ups.” This match-up is neither fair nor realistic. Because you do not mitigate a human stampede. You prevent it.
The second security disconnect is absurdly generic, but nobody’s allowed to talk about it. It exists between the citizens of the United States AND their government as well as private industry. Doesn’t it strike anybody as the least bit peculiar… that NOBODY ever raises any concern whatsoever regarding the prospect of someone executing the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater?
I realize that creating an artificially generated stampede is an uncomfortable subject. But there’s a discernible inevitably in play. Even if the stampede itself does not occur, it’s reasonable to assume that once the cat’s out of the bag, it will be attempted and then repeated… until it is successful. Why? Brace yourself. Because it’s an inexpensive way to kill human beings. It’s called asymmetric warfare. On cable television, they call it terrorism.
The future of humanity has a long way to go. We, as a society, have two distinct options. We can confront this issue directly and choose to explicitly warn people in large, confined crowds (NFL and NCAA stadiums, Major League ballparks, NASCAR and Indy motor speedways, arenas, amphitheaters, etc.). Or we can dutifully continue on the current path and do nothing. There’s little room for middle ground.
I’m familiar with how society works. Innocent people must die before government and private industry summon the inertia to make change or engage in a philosophical shift. Trust me, I get it. But if the consequence of inaction could rival the fallout from 9/11, well… I just think it would be a good idea for someone, other than myself, to help get the word out.
People have a fundamental right to know…
that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an 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.
Since it’s an election year, I’ll leave you with a relevant quote.
“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” — George Washington
Forgive me, but here’s another inconvenient truth. Through a collective omission, the National Football League in tacit cooperation with the government, might just be leading the dumb and silent to the concourses and exits, like sheep to the slaughter.