On this day in history, September 19th, 1902, a stampede at the Shiloh Baptist Church resulted in the deaths of 120 people.  The church was clearly over occupant load capacity with thousands packed in to hear Booker T Washington speak, but I wonder about the available exits.  Did the occupants rush the entrance door because that was the one they were familiar with?  Were other exits marked and operable?

This tragedy was caused by a crowd panicking over what they heard as a shout of “Fire!” (which actually appears to have been a shout of “Fight!”).  Would today’s crowds act in a different manner?  I’ve seen footage of recent fires where the building occupants didn’t take the threat seriously and didn’t exit immediately, yet there have also been events in recent years where panic caused building occupants to push for the exit, resulting in trampling and death.

The moral of the story…look for the exits when you’re in an unfamiliar building, and make sure they’re clear and available for use.  If they’re not, bring the problem to someone’s attention!

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