I WAS recently shopping at a famous mall in Karachi when suddenly a crowd from the upper floor rushed towards the mall’s exit.
I got to know that a fire had erupted on the higher floors, and the sounding of the fire alarms had resulted in a chaotic situation.
People were doing their best to escape the fire even if nobody knew what had happened and what to do.
Some women even lost their children, albeit momentarily, in the rush, and others were so terrified that they went hysterical, screaming and sobbing. It was panic in full public view.
After we safely exited the building and the chaos subsided a little, we learned that the fire alarm sensors may have been activated by something minor on the floor that housed the mall’s food court.
The folks who were there when the incident occurred on the floor concerned had the option of handling it calmly rather than responding the way they did which actually endangered the lives of others more than the fire did.
These kinds of incidents frequently occur around us. There are several documented instances of crowd conduct contributing to undesirable outcomes.
In order to prevent safety hazards, all systems must have public safety protocols in place.
Large organisations must have the appropriate people and procedures in place to direct, communicate, and clear areas in such circumstances. Lack of clear directions causes enormous losses during times of mass panic.
There is a need for mass panic awareness programmes that may teach people how to react cautiously and carefully even when there is a ‘life or death’ situation.
Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2023