crowd safety, safety tips, riot, riots, stampede, stampedes

How to Stay Safe at Concerts and Other Large Events

In light of the recent attacks on the public at concerts and sporting events, you MUST read this before your next arena outing!


The fact that you’re even here means you like to be prepared for the unexpected.
I’ve put together a list of 10 other calamities you’re likely to encounter while traveling the world, available to you for free, in my 
Travel Smarts Checklist.
Know the risks; learn the solutions.


There’s no getting around it: if you’re going to be a traveler or a tourist, you’re going to find yourself in large crowds.

Attending a soccer match in Barcelona, gathering to see the Pope at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, or visiting Chichen Itza during the spring equinox: while these are all must-do experiences, you are putting yourself in the midst a seething mass of humanity that—in a post-9/11 world—is not without its peril.

Now, because there is so much to see and do in this world, I am absolutely not suggesting you avoid places where big crowds are likely to gather. After all, it would be a shame to miss visiting, say, the beaches of Rio or at least one New Year’s Eve gathering on Times Square.

But what I am saying is, you need to be smart about it!

In this article, I’m going to look at four areas of risk that you may encounter in large crowd gatherings, ranging from the common-but-annoying to the less-common-but-devastating. You should be ready for all eventualities, of course, but you’ll want to pay special attention to those that are the most likely to occur.

COMMON: Pickpockets

crowd safety large crowd riots stampede

Don’t be a bonehead: zip up your pockets!

  • Only carry what you need to get you through the day. You can leave those extra credit cards and spare keys back at your hotel (well-hidden and secured, of course).
  • Keep everything in your pockets if possible.
  • If you must carry a bag, make it small and in a cross-body style that you can keep in front of you. If you can wear it under your jacket, even better.
  • Maintain awareness of who is around you and what they’re doing. If you see something suspicious, make eye contact with the perpetrator so that they know you’re aware of their activity. I’ve done this with great success in Rome on a few occasions, and they’ve quickly moved along.
  • If possible, keep visible empty space between you and your neighbors.

LESS-COMMON: Stampede/Mass-Evacuation

crowd safety stampede riot

A nightclub stampede in Vietnam; photo via AFP

Upon arrival at any large venue:

  • Find the most obvious exit areas. If you’re in a museum, use your guide map to spot the egress routes.
  • Agree on a meeting area outside the venue in case you are separated from your group.
  • Take pictures of everyone in the group with your phone so you know what they’re wearing (this is one of those details that slips people’s minds in times of crisis) in case you need to identify them to authorities for a lost-person report. Be sure that everyone has each other’s cell phone numbers, too.

In case of stampede or mass-evacuation:

  • You don’t want to be trampled, so treat the crowd like a riptide and move perpendicular to the direction of travel until you get to the edge of the crowd. If you’re with a group, you can try to hold onto each other’s arms while you do this to prevent separation. If there are kids with you, carry them if possible.
  • If the edge of the crowd is also a physical wall and you can’t escape, flatten yourself against the wall and begin slowly moving in the direction of the masses’ travel if it appears to be going toward an exit point. If not, you’re not going to be able to “swim upstream,” so weigh the risks of staying put until the crowd thins if you want to try to find a separate exit point.
  • If you do fall down and the crowd is surging over you, curl into a ball with your hands over your face to protect your face and internal organs. You’ll likely still get pummeled, but your vital bits should remain intact.


large crowd safety riot riots

A scene from the LA riots of 1992; photo via LA Times

  • If you have any inkling of civil unrest or planned protest, change your plans and avoid the area. The best defense in this situation is to simply not be there in the first place.
  • Should you find yourself caught in a sudden mass uprising, your number one priority is to get out of there. The second you feel uneasy (gut instinct is there for a reason!), begin your exit strategy. Use the perpendicular-movement technique I mentioned for stampedes to get to the edge of the crowd an escape to safety.
  • If you can’t escape the crowd, then at least escape injury. If possible, find a place to crouch and hide. If there’s nowhere to hide, then do what you can to shield yourself from injury. This can include curling into a ball, as mentioned in the stampede section above. Some authorities recommend lacing your hands behind your neck to protect your cervical spine from injury due to flying debris.

EVEN LESS-COMMON: Terrorist attack

terrorist attack large crowd safety

This is one bbq you don’t want to attend

  • Be vigilant. If you see someone suspicious (say, a man in a long coat on a hot summer day), steer very clear and notify an authority of your concerns.
  • Be smart. Avoid visiting areas that have been recent terrorist targets or are upcoming stated terrorist targets. The US State Department  (or your country’s equivalent) keeps current lists of such things. It’s also helpful to keep abreast of the news on this matter.
  • If a bomb goes off and you’re able to move under your own power, leave the area quickly, but don’t run (running can make you look like the perpetrator, leading to your arrest). Follow the recommendation in the stampede section above and get to the edge of the crowd.
  • If you are separated from your group, go to the pre-determined meet-up point.
  • As soon as possible, contact your family and friends to let them know you’re okay.

Of course no one likes to think about these things. But as one of my former NASA bosses used to say, denial is not a course of action! Get out there and enjoy this big beautiful world…but do it with your eyes wide open and your safety plans firmly in place.

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Have you experienced any scary situations in large crowds? How did you handle it? Share your experience via the Contact form so that others can learn from your experience.

Life is awesome, but it’s also unpredictable. Do what you can to stack the deck in your favor by KNOWING THE RISKS and LEARNING THE SOLUTIONS. I’ve detailed 10 of them in my free Travel Smarts Checklist.
You owe it to yourself to pick up a copy before your next trip.

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