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What If?

What If?

During large crowds such as Vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan, many different types of emergencies can occur.  But are we prepared to deal with emergencies during such events?

By Dupinder Kaur Saran

Vaisakhi, in Sikhism is a time of celebration through religious festivals. It marks the major events in the history of Sikhism, such as the birth of Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1699, as well as other events in the Punjab region, such as the Spring Harvest Festival. Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi through annual parades, which are known as Nagar Kirtan, and through other events.

During the Nagar Kirtan, prayers are recited from Guru Granth Sahib which is done through means of using a float at the front of the long line up of other floats, travelling through the mapped area for the parade.  Vaisakhi is a fun time for many who attend these festivals,especially those whoparticipate in the activities, which consist of prayers, kirtan, youth performing gatka, or other religious performances.  During the Nagar Kirtan, many serve langar (free vegetarian food) to the public, which was started by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, to uphold the principle of equality among all people, regardless of religion, caste, colour, age, gender or social status.Other events on the side may consist of some dance performances (bhangra, giddha), or singers who come to perform at that time of the year.

During Vaisakhi, one of the world’s largest Nagar Kirtan takes place in Surrey BC, Canada.  With crowds growing every year, and last year estimating a close to 500, 000 people.  Local individuals attend this Nagar Kirtan, but so do individuals from far and wide, travelling across the world during mid-April to make it to this Nagar Kirtan.  It has become popular over the years, with growing crowds.With all the activities, enjoyment, and entertainment, also comes the concern of public safety.

Through out the years, there have been times when during the Nagar Kirtan, emergencies have occurred, first aid may be required or even some cases where individuals may need to be transported to the local hospital.  The problem though…. how to get to the individual who requires the medical first aid, or emergency assistance.  Last year, another incident of similar nature which took place between tents which were placed along the road side, when an individual started to choke on some food, and in turn it led to a serious medical emergency.  The only good thing about that incident was that the emergency took place near the Nurse On the Go tent, where nurses were available to assist the individual until further medical assistance, such as paramedics were able to get to the area.  The unfortunate thing, it took about 45 min for paramedics who were just around the corner to attend to this individual, as that’s how long it took them to maneuver through the crowd.  In that time, anything can happen to an individual with family members and friends standing around attempting to help deal with the horrific incident.

During large crowds such as this, many different types of emergencies can occur.  Children tend to get lost in the crowd sometimes, in which case nearby stages start to announce a missing child or a child who has turned up to the stage and is looking for family.  Seniors, children and adults,who may have various health problems can face certain conditions such as dehydration, low blood sugar, high or low blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, choking or other serious conditions.  Individuals can develop injuries if they trip, fall in such large crowds or due to the concrete.  There are many scenarios which can occur.  So far, in the previous crowds some incidents have occurred over the years, and the outcome of these incidents is unknown to me.  However, going forward the concern is as crowds tend to get larger, what is the City planning on doing for emergency preparedness for such events.

If we compare this crowd to the December Santa Clause Parade which occurs in the City of Vancouver where a crowd of maybe 300 000 or more individuals come out, the safety concern needs to be addressed.  Prior to the Vancouver Santa Clause parade, some helpful tips of what to bring to the parade, what to avoid, what streets are busiest and where it may best suitable for Children is mentioned in the newspaper or other means ahead of time.  These tips can go a long way. As well as the City of Vancouver may have an emergency preparedness plan during the parade if something was to occur, as well as the parade is quite structured.

There is growing concern during Surrey Nagar Kirtan. We need more helpful tips to be provided to the public ahead of time, plus more structured approach than apart from the line-up of the floats as the crowd tends to get larger every year. Last year alone there were about 20 floats, plus the large crowd.

Two emergencies took place that I’m aware of, and there could be more, which I do not know of.  It is a serious issue to investigate. What will happen if there is a public safety emergency to occur, as sometimes we’ve seen occur through the world through other means.  This is very concerning. It takes paramedics or emergency first aid crews so much time to make it through the crowds to get to one individual, what would happen if more crews needed to get through and have access to multiple individuals.

Emergency preparedness should be the utmost priority with such large crowds. Plans should be in place on how to deal with such emergencies if they were to occur.  Even at the smaller scale as mentioned. There needs to be methods implemented so that emergency situations where individuals require first aid, or emergency can get it immediately.  Even if that means setting up emergency stations through out the parade at certain areas, marked on the map.  Something to really consider.  In the past it has only been a thought that has come to my mind, but after dealing with an emergency first hand last year, the discussion with the City shouldtake place prior to this year’s annual Nagar Kirtan. At least for possible future plans on how to deal with such.

Dupinder Kaur Saran is a registered nurse and

CEO of Nurse on the Go Home and Health Care services




Planning ahead

Some general tips on things to keep in mind before you participate in a large event

  • Knowing Where does it start?
  • What are various activities
  • What should I wear/bring to the event?
  •  What happens if I forget something at the parade?
  • Preparing family members especially kids and seniors if they get lost

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