Saturday, November 26, 2022

Backroad Therapy* – A bit about Bothwell and Beyond

*I stole this great title from a country song by Alexandra Kay  Not sure if I like the song yet, but perhaps it will grow on me. I do like listening to a bit of country music when I'm on the road.  


This post should probably have a Scotch Thistle but its the season of dog roses and hawthorn


I love Tasmania’s winding country roads with their hedgerows and lovely old towns and I've seen much too little of them these last three years. It’s taken over a year to get the van back due to a lack of parts and now we were set to have four days of good weather, something else we haven’t seen much of this year. It snowed again on Tuesday night – Snowvember, our public broadcaster called it, so the timing couldn’t have been better.


Bothwell has more than 50 heritage listed buildings. This is St. Luke's (1830), Australia's second oldest church

I call in briefly at Bothwell. Although the official population is around 499, it serves a much larger rural community of about 3,700. It’s one of Tasmania’s oldest towns and has just celebrated its 200th birthday. Thanks to its Scottish roots it has Australia’s oldest golf course (1830) and until recently (see below) a world -famous whisky distillery. Bothwell is full of sandstone buildings and charming cottages. There are also some interesting places to have afternoon tea and coffee, but today I just stop in at its Visitor’s Centre to make sure that the roads are open. You never know what to expect in Tasmania’s High Country. There can be  snow and ice at any time of year and after all the rain there might even be a bit of flooding in low lying sections. 


Approach to the Visitor's Centre. Everyone takes pictures of Bothwell's charming cottages and stately homes, but I'm in love with its beautiful old trees. Apologies for the dull pictures. These are from another trip when the weather wasn't as kind but I wasn't in such a hurry

Just inside the Visitor’s Centre there’s an enormous ball of wool. It was started by local resident Barbara Fowler (OAM), who unfortunately passed away recently at the age of 95. Her dream was to collect pieces of wool from every part of the world  -enough to stretch right around the world to connect people and places in a Thread of Friendship. I keep forgetting to bring some, but you can still add your bit. It’s also a reminder that Bothwell has or had a thriving Spinning and Weaving culture which had a festival every second year, though it seems to have gone into recess since the pandemic. It may also have had something to do with Barbara Fowler's passing. She was quite a mover and shaker.


You might still find a Tam -o -shanter or a beanie in your clan colours in Julie Honner's crowded Weaver's shop in the old school building along from the Visitor's Centre. It also sells a lot of other things including old patterns, knitting needles and bric a brac

The current Post Office was one in the 1830s and then became a wheelwright's premises.Today it also has excellent homemade cakes, gifts and freshly ground coffee. Note the whisky barrel rubbish bins. The town also has tartan street signs, both a legacy of Barbara Fowler's work.

This Post Office dates from the 1890's. It still has a hitching post outside

 A Scandal

After crossing the River Clyde, I pass the sign to Nant Homestead. They aren't farms around here but properties which get passed on from generation to generation. Nant dates from 1824 and still has a water -driven grist mill. Until recently it was also the site of one of Tasmania’s best known whisky distilleries. Unfortunately it is now also known as the site of one of Australia’s biggest financial scandals Apparently there was quite a bit of creative accounting and it’s alleged that advance sales of whisky far exceeded actual production. This meant that not a few investors got their fingers burnt as did the people of Bothwell. I thought it sounded like a great plot for a movie, but I hear that Netflix is already working on it. It’s a great setting. The song “Friends in Low Places” comes on as I pass by. It would make a great soundtrack. 



Don’t despair about missing out on a wee dram of the good stuff. I am told that although Nant hasn’t reopened to the public yet, production has resumed. In the meantime, there are at least 70 other places in Tasmania where you can try the liquid gold on Tasmania’s Whisky Trail. Brewing whisky has been a fine Tasmanian tradition since the earliest days of the colony, despite Governor Franklin's best efforts to stamp it out. 

Other country songs spring to mind as I climb up the series of hills out of Bothwell. I learned today that there is a pair of them here which are colloquially known as the Sabrinas for reasons that may become apparent as you drive past. A few black -faced sheep look up as I drive by as do a few of what are most likely the progeny of the Black Angus cattle which were marched overland from Hobart after arriving from Scotland in 1824. They are now the dominant breed in Tasmania and a mainstay of the local economy.  

This is still the home of the Mountain Cattlemen who take stock up to the high country in summer. I'm reminded of a friend who used work as a jackaroo in these parts. He said it was so cold in the mornings that his feet would stick to the floor of the caravan he was staying in. The only relief from the daily grind was being allowed into town on the occasional Saturday night. Since then I always think of Lee Kernigan’s “The Boys From the Bush.” when I’m driving through.


The signal fades as I reach the wild bush country. Before the Hydro Electric Commission came, this was the realm of the hunters and trappers. Remnants of their rough huts can still be found in them thar hills but most of these have either returned to nature or been replaced by up - market weekenders, especially around the lakes.

I search in vain for a song dedicated to them, but there doesn’t seem to be one. Nor is there one for the road workers, though there’s a memorial to them at the Steppes further up the A5. I won't see it this time as I'm turning off towards Waddamana. 



Saturday, November 19, 2022

Preventing and Surviving Crowd Surges

Spectators at a football match


Making Public Events Safer 

In the previous post we talked briefly about safety at concerts and festivals and how even performers can influence the way crowds behave. Good planning is essential. To run any kind of public event in Australia usually requires permission from local authorities and lodgement of detailed plans. For an idea of what is required the NSW Government’s starter guide, developed after a death at a Big Day Out festival in 2001 is a good place to begin. 

For a more detailed overview, see also the checklists provided by the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience for Crowded Places. It also has a comprehensive Safe and Healthy Crowds Handbook intended primarily for event managers, emergency personnel, professionals in the field and so on. This covers everything from crowds encountered  in shopping centres, stadiums, public streets and transport hubs, pubs and clubs, sporting and cultural events, political rallies, protests and religious gatherings. 


Football and Soccer Matches

Football and Soccer Matches are known to arouse passions and have been the site of several deadly crowd surges in many parts of the world.  A match in Lima in 1964 which resulted in 328 people losing their lives, remains the worst on record, but the one in Indonesia last month in which 153 people died is not far behind.

At least Indonesian authorities had the good sense to disallow spectators from the opposing team. In the UK it’s more common to have separation between fans  e.g. one side of the stadium or rows of empty seats between fans of different persuasion. Banning or limiting alcohol consumption at such events is another factor intended to keep things peaceful and orderly. Kenya has drawn up detailed plans specifically for football matches. Among its recommendations are screening fans upon entry for possession of contraband which would simultaneously eliminate potential weapons. Since this would cause delays, it suggests having several entry points, thereby  preventing crowds from building up and becoming impatient.

Staggering arrival  times is another option mentioned in the Australian Crowded Places Handbook, along with only allowing pre -booked entry, which would certainly give a better indication of numbers to expect. Another excellent point mentioned by both is having experienced crowd observers who can detect early signs of trouble and remove unruly elements. More training of security guards in crowd control is another. Having more exits would certainly have helped in the Indonesian football tragedy or the Love Parade Festival in Duisburg, Germany in 2001. 


Theatres and Nightclubs

We do learn from our mistakes. For example, after the 1903 fire in Chicago’s Iroquois Theatre which resulted in 602 deaths, there were changes to building codes and laws to ensure that there was emergency lighting in aisles and around exits 

A fire which broke out after a pyrotechnic display at the Station Night Club on Rhode Island (USA) in 2003 and contributed to the deaths of over one hundred people while trying to flee, also resulted in changes to National and International Fire Codes which meant hat all venues catering to more than 100 patrons would have to have automatic sprinkler systems and trained crowd managers.

Fireworks or similar were also responsible for the 2013 Kiss Night Club fire in Brazil which claimed the lives of 242 people and injured 500 others in the ensuing crowd crush. The high death toll was found to be due to an over -capacity crowd and a lack of signage and emergency exits. One of the consequences of the enquiry which followed was a general fire safety inspection of all clubs – 60% of which failed and much tighter  regulation. 


Better Planning but New Threats

As we can see from the above, almost every major incident has resulted in better planning,  better site design and crowd management and more legislation to keep people safe. Despite some injuries at a festival in 2017, there has been no loss of life at such events in Australia* since new guidelines were introduced in 2001. However, new threats continue to emerge – for example, there is increased emphasis now on how to prevent hostile acts such as cars being driven into crowds. Unforeseen events still happen too and mistakes are still made. An unexpected hailstorm at a football match in Nepal for example, caused a fatal crush which was made worse because exit gates were locked. 

*Before we congratulate ourselves too much, the Australian Crowded Places Handbook notes that an inspection of nightclubs in regional Australia found several of them in breach of fire regulations which included some having locked exit doors to prevent non -paying guests or those who had been evicted, from entering -a problem which they say could easily have been solved by having extra security at those doors. It also shows the importance of monitoring and enforcement.


Unplanned Events

There was no one in charge in Seoul on Halloween. People just came together spontaneously in the night club district. Although some people did ring police as things began to escalate, police did not immediately respond. In the case of the Indonesian football match, it seems that overreaction by police and their use of tear gas may have contributed to that disaster. Use of tear gas and locked gates were also implicated in the Accra Stadium Disaster in Ghana in 2001, with the loss of 124 lives. 

Even Black Friday Sales in the USA  are becoming more dangerous as they get bigger and bigger and determined bargain hunters converge on shopping centres and businesses, so what can you do, if you find yourself in a surging crowd?

Protecting yourself in a Crowd

While much responsibility for public events rests with organisers and civic authorities, individuals also need to take responsibility for their own safety. Try to avoid large crowds, especially uncontrolled ones. Go with a friend so that you can look out for each other. If you are at an organised event, listen and obey all instructions. Don’t push past barriers designed to limit overcrowding and keep people safe. Note where the exits are and immediately report any concerns to security.

At the first sign of any trouble, remove yourself quietly if possible so as not to cause alarm and then call security or police. If the crowd does start to surge, keep pace, but gradually move diagonally to the sides and if you can, pull yourself up and out of the way. Remember that more people die of suffocation than from crush injuries, so stay upright and get as high up as possible. Help others up if  they fall, especially women and children as they are more frequently among the victims.

Be aware of potential choke -points. The underpass at the Love Parade Concert and Seoul’s narrow alleyways which funnelled people down to an even narrower subway entrance are cases in point. Bridges are another. 

Fatal Bridges 

The Jamarat Bridge in Mina, Saudi Arabia which pilgrims must pass over during their obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca, has been the scene of several serious incidents. With up to 8 million people at such events, the much higher death toll is not surprising. After 363 people lost their lives there in 2006, the Kingdom doubled the size of the bridge to 8 lanes, enlisted 100,000 security guards and had 5,000 CTV cameras installed, yet the number of pilgrims also increased, resulting in a further 2400 deaths on the bridge in 2015.

The Al -Aimmah Bridge in Baghdad was also the scene of a major human crush event in 2005 which left 960 dead, after a rumour began about a suicide bomber. 

Similarly, 347 of the 4 million people attending a Water Festival In Cambodia in 2010, met their end on Phnom Penh’s Diamond Bridge, when crowds suddenly began pushing from both sides as police attempted to disperse them with water cannons. 

Avoid being trapped against hard barriers by an onrushing crowd too. If you fall, make yourself into a ball and try to protect your head with your arms. The video below has more, but be warned, it’s very graphic. Also, we no longer use the word “Stampede,” but rather crowd surge because the former implies that the victims are at fault, when such tragedies are more often the result of poorly designed venues or events beyond the control of the individual. 

See also Surviving a Moshpit  at a Concert and Surviving Black Friday Sales. Much the same applies to store openings, parades and demononstrations.

Keep Safe!

NEXT: I did finally finish that trip to the West Coast that I started last October, so hope to have cheerier content for you next time.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

How to stop Concerts from turning deadly - reprinted with kind permission from The Conversation


Astroworld tragedy: here’s how concert organisers can prevent big crowds turning deadly

Alison Hutton, University of Newcastle

A fatal crowd surge during a performance by US rapper Travis Scott on Friday night has become one of the deadliest live music incidents in recent years. Crowd crushes during the Houston show, which was part of the Astroworld Music Festival, led to eight deaths and dozens of injuries.

The incident is still being investigated, with criminal investigations also underway. How does such catastrophe emerge in a space where people are supposed to be enjoying themselves?

I have been working in the area of crowd safety for several years. My expertise focuses on ways of boosting safety at large events such as Schoolies, outdoor music festivals and sporting tournaments. Based on reports, it seems several factors — compounded by mismanagement — led to an environment that was not conducive to what we call “cooperative crowding”.

An unsettled start

In a successfully managed event, organisers will create an atmosphere in which people are relaxed and feel part of a collective. Reports of early pushing and shoving at Scott’s show are a bad sign.

Adding to this, several witnesses reported they were unable to persuade event organisers to take action once the disaster was unfolding. It may be the music was too loud, although such details won’t be known until investigations finish.

According to the New York Times and several other outlets, Scott’s show continued for 40 minutes after city officials reported on the “mass casualty event” — with the show finishing just half an hour earlier than planned.

It’s all about event control

Event managers will often turn the lights up, or play music with a slower tempo, to help tame a rowdy audience. Lighting conditions and music are both important psychosocial considerations.

In fact, there are several ways organisers and performers on stage can attempt to settle a crowd — even among audiences of high-intensity musical acts.

For instance, German heavy-metal band Rammstein can attract intense and sometimes aggressive crowds. When the band played the 2011 Big Day Out festival in Sydney, managers put on a pyrotechnic display and ambient music between sets to helps shift and control the crowd’s mood.

Rammstein played in Sydney in 2001 for the Big Day Out music festival.

It’s about knowing your audience and the environment they are likely to create. The genre will determine the demographic and the expectation of the crowd’s behaviour. If it’s expected a particular show will attract a high-energy demographic, this needs to be prepared for in advance. Effective crowd control is preemptive, not reactive.

At music festivals, the acts in the lineup can also have a direct influence on the audience’s behaviour. Festival-goers can be persuaded to participate in activities and behaviours at the performer(s) request, abandoning safety restrictions put in place by event management.

As such, performers can create a calming environment through their interaction with the audience and have a positive influence on the crowd.

What measures are in place?

Despite widespread coverage of the Astroworld incident, the reality is that deadly crowd surges are not common. Australia’s most recent crowd-related music festival fatality was during a Limp Bizkit performance, during the Big Day Out event in 2001.

On the whole, event managers put a lot of work into making sure crowds are looked after. Investment in crowd care can come through venue “chill-out spaces”, and granting different levels of access such as ground level versus stalls, or VIP seating. This is because events both in Australia and internationally are heavily legislated.

On-the-ground security guards matter a lot, as they help ensure the crowd is sufficiently spread out and safe. The layout and design of the venue is also crucial, and the space should be able to handle the expected number of attendees.

The 2010 Love Parade disaster in Germany is one example of a chaotic crowd surge in which there were several systemic issues. The events communications system went down and there was only only one entry and exit – a catastrophic situation that culminated in 21 deaths in a crush inside a tunnel.

Closer to home, in 2016 attendees at the Falls Festival had to rush from one stage to another, which resulted in about 80 people being injured, including 20 hospital admissions.

On the other hand, there are plenty of well-organised events that manage to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people, such as the Glastonbury festival.

What can I do in this situation?

As concerts and shows start to resume, you may wonder how you can stay safe in a volatile crowd. The reality is, there is not much someone can do if they find themselves stuck deep in a dense mosh pit which is out of control, and the risk in this scenario is great.

The best way to avoid danger is to stay on the fringes, well away from the most congested sections of the crowd. If you have concert plans, ask yourself: what kind of people might I expect? Will people be drinking? Will it be family-friendly? Common sense will go a long way.

If, despite your planning, you find yourself in a crowd situation where you don’t feel safe, you should immediately report to security if you can. If you’re near the stage, you might also be able to get the performer’s attention. The performer has lot of power and, as several incidents in the past have shown us, they can shut things down until the crowd starts to cooperate.

The Conversation

Alison Hutton, Professor, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

[Found the bit about bands being somewhat able to control mood and intensity of the crowd particularly interesting here, however there are other safety issues which must be addressed whenever big crowds are expected to gather. We'll talk a bit more about this next time, along with sharing some other tips for staying safe in a crowd].

Preventing Deadly Crowd Surges


  - Image by Owantana from Pixabay

I was very sorry to hear about the tragedy in Seoul last week. This comes less than a month after a similar crowd crush event at a football match in Indonesia and less than a year after the one at the Astroworld Festival in Houston. Our condolences to the families, friends and anyone else affected and best wishes for a speedy recovery to those who have been injured. Although investigations are still in progress, in all cases, they highlight the importance of preventing such situations arising in the first place. In Australia, public events are heavily regulated and there has been some excellent work done on this topic which should be more widely known. However, it will take me a little while to put together some of the various strands, so for now I will just leave you with some ways to prevent crowd surges at concerts brought to you with kind permission from The Conversation.

There are also more things which individuals could do to protect themselves if they find themselves in a similar situation, so there’ll be more on that in the post after that.


WARNING: The following posts may be upsetting particularly for those who have lost family or friends, or for those who have experienced an out of control crowd event. If that’s the case, please seek help from a professional counsellor, any of the help lines which may be available in your area such as Lifeline in Australia or the Samaritans in the UK,  or talk to a trusted person such as a teacher, a  doctor or spiritual advisor who may be able to offer support.



Thursday, November 03, 2022

World Tsunami Awareness Day, November 5, 2022

Tsunami warnings like this are or should be becoming much more common

As it happens, the 5th of November is World Tsunami Awareness Day.  Although Tsunamis are among the rarest of natural phenomena, they are also among the most deadly and destructive. While far more frequent in the Pacific they can also happen in other places such as Europe and the eastern seaboard of the USA. An analysis of 290 events between 1992 and 2016 showed that while 77% of them occurred around the margins of the Pacific Ocean, 9% occurred in both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and 5% along the Mediterranean.

Earthquakes from 1992 to 2016

Nor do you have to live on the coast to experience a tsunami. They can also occur in inland waterways and lakes. In 1963, around 2000 people were killed and several towns including Longarone in Northern Italy were completely obliterated by a tsunami which followed a landslide  on an upstream dam.

Norway has had no less than 10 tsunamis since 1888, the largest of which occurred in 1998. These are usually the result of earth movements, particularly rockfalls above fjords, but generally there is little loss of life due to excellent seismic and geological monitoring which followed one of the most deadly tsunamis in 1936. 

Why we have a World Tsunami Day

The aims of World Tsunami Awareness Day are to alert people to the risk and to make vulnerable communities safer. Here's what the UN says,

"A common theme that has emerged time and again is the importance of education, including evacuation drills, for ensuring that communities act decisively and without panic when the tsunami warnings reach them. For local tsunamis, it is even more important that every person knows the tsunami's natural warning signs and immediately self-evacuates since the waves could attack in minutes.” 



 If you live in an affected region, UNESCO’s Tsunami Ready Programme has excellent step by step guides to help prevent loss of life and property. Its three key points are:

  1. Risk Reduction 
  2. Better Preparedness
  3. Building Back Better in recovery, rehabilitation and construction. 
For more detail, see the broader UN Sendai Disaster Risk Reduction Framework here

Reducing the Risk

 A major factor in risk reduction has been the establishment of worldwide early warning systems. Below is a video about how they work. For more information and in other languages such as French and Spanish, click here



Establishment of evacuation centres

I noticed while looking for a map that many places from New South Wales in Australia to Portland, Oregon in the USA and especially in New Zealand, have already established tsunami evacuation zones. This is just as well as we had our first official alert only last year, though the impact was less than anticipated. With almost the entire coastline of the Americas at risk here's a long list for the US and its territories.

How Tsunamis happen

Tsunamis are usually triggered by underwater earthquakes or earth movements with the energy created forcing the water outwards and upwards. As the wave reaches shallower water around shorelines it is forced to rise higher. The first wave of a tsunami is not necessarily the largest and may be followed by many more. The resulting flooding and strong waves and currents can last for many hours. The force of a tsunami may mean that large rocks, boats, even houses are carried far inland causing much damage and injury. Click here to find out more.  

This video shows how waves are pushed up in shallower waters around coastlines

 - by RĂ©gis Lachaume, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Natural warning signs of a Tsunami

By the time you hear a warning signal or see a giant wave, it may be too late seek higher ground, so let’s take a brief look at how to recognise other signs and what you should do. Countries which are subject to frequent tsunamis usually know what to do, so this is more or less for the rest of us who may be far from home. While the dramatic retreat of water from the beach is one of the most obvious signs, there are also more subtle ones, such as falling water levels in wells. You might also feel the shudder of an earthquake or hear a loud roaring noise. Read more here

In all cases don’t wait for confirmation but run and go as high as you can. Upper floors in tall, sturdy sturdy buildings may work if there isn't time to go anywhere else. If nothing serious happens, consider that at least you know the drill and won’t be caught flatfooted if it does. If you are a visitor, do as the locals do. Don’t try to take anything with you. Belongings can be replaced. Human lives can't.


 I was planning to write about other less well known natural disasters, but in the light of two recent tragedies perhaps we should talk about Crowd Surges next.