Event Tragedies Can Happen

What happened in Germany at the annual “Love Parade” is an undeniable tragedy. 21 people lost their lives at an event that was supposed to bring joy and happiness and will now and forever more be remembered as a catastrophe.

A new report has just been released that is not only putting blame on the event producers but on the police and city as well. (Thanks to Joan Eisenstodt for sharing). I will not even begin to list the faults with the planning of this event, there are too many to fit in one post, in fact, there will be books written. Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves. If you are interested, you can pop over to Speigel International and read their article.

For event producers, this tragedy should have us all looking at our events and how well we are prepared and what steps we are taking to protect the health and well being of our attendees. Every event, no matter size or scope should have a plan. Event planners need to ask questions of ourselves and the venues, hotels and even transportation companies we use. The question starts with “What if” and goes from there.

You should know what the plan is should a bus get a flat tire on the way to your event, what the plan is should the hotel fire alarm go off and what the plan is should an attendee grab their chest and fall over at dinner. All too often, there is look of panic and chaos when things go wrong. Please, for your attendees sake, put together a disaster and emergency plan. I hope that you never have to use it, but if you do, you will be glad you created one and so will your attendees.

As an attendee, we also have responsibilities to ourselves (and others). Should you ever be entering a situation like the one in Germany (pictured above) and you are getting an uneasy feeling, there is probably a reason for that. Walk away, get away or seek some kind of safe haven if you can.

The smartest move is to avoid putting yourself into the chaos. There are reasons I stopped going to the Taste of Chicago on Fridays and Saturdays a long time ago. Umpteen thousand people crammed into a hot, confined space does not a good time make and can lead to tragedy if a perfect storm of conditions come to be.

Most tragic accidents like the one at the Love Parade happen on entering or leaving:

  • The Who concert in Cincinnati in 1979 – 11 Killed in a┬ástampede during general admission.
  • WalMart Stampede in New York in 2008 – 1 employee killed as holiday shoppers tried to enter the store.
  • E2 Nightclub Stampede in Chicago in 2003 – 21 people killed while trying to exit after pepper spray released in club

If I had to give one simple piece of advice if you are attending an event with a mass of people? Arrive early or late, enter
on your schedule, not the crowds. I go to the ballpark and arrive
early? I take a leisurely walk to my seats, I arrive late? I miss the
first inning. Both are better options than being swept in with the masses.

Exiting can be a little tricky, especially during an emergency. If your life is not in immediate danger, do not enter a fast-moving, charged crowd trying to get out. Move like you would in a rip current, perpendicular to the moving mass. If there is an immediate danger, look for another way out before you are forced into a crowd. Panic is what started the stampede and panic is what kills people.

Know where you are, know the exits and look for warning signs that things are going wrong. You get that “Danger Will Robinson” type of tingling feeling? Leave and be the first one out the door.

Missing an opening act, the first pitch or an encore is a small price to pay.

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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