17 Nov 2022

Safety in numbers

Human factors thinking could have a vital role to play in understanding more about crowd behaviour and helping to prevent disasters. The recent tragedy in Seoul, South Korea, left at least 158 Halloween revellers dead and almost 200 injured in a crowd crush.

It’s led to calls for more understanding of how crowds work to help anticipate potential risks and danger points. Writing on The Conversation website, Martyn Amos, Professor of Computer and Information Sciences at Northumbria University, said: “As more people move into cities, we will have to think hard about how people move around and how they should be safely managed. Urban design and planning processes already embed insights from crowd science but, more broadly, societies also need a much more integrated approach to crowd management.

“We need to understand groups of people as complex, dynamical systems made up of human ‘parts’ interacting with one another and with their environment, and move beyond the tired narratives of ‘mob’, ‘stampede’ and ‘panic’ that unfortunately still dominate discussions of crowds. This will require further support for an inter-disciplinary approach that draws on physics, computer science, social psychology, sociology, criminology, policing and politics.”

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