ORLANDO, Fla. – Panic caused a crush of people to run from Lake Eola during Monday’s Fourth of July fireworks display.
Orlando police believe the scare was caused by someone setting off fireworks amid the display on the lake.
“It is unfortunate, the day and age that we live in,” said News 6′s Trooper Steve Montiero. “But, it is real and it is happening, so we need to prepare for it.”
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Ultimately, 12 people were hurt in the stampede. Montiero said there are steps that families and individuals can take in advance of any event to help them mitigate any potential danger they might face.
“(From) a law enforcement perspective, we go into these things with a plan,” he said. “So should families.”
Montiero encourages everyone to sit down with their families ahead of any event.
“Set up a rally point,” he said. “Make sure everyone has (everyone else’s) phone number, a phone and I would encourage setting up a group text message from the people you are with.”
Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon echoed that sentiment during a news conference Tuesday.
“We live in a world today where we all have to have a plan,” Rolon said. “If we’re going to be there with family, if we’re going to be there with friends, if we’re going to be there with or attend a large event with a large group, we should talk about, ‘Hey, if we get separated, where should we meet. If we get separated, who will you call?’”
Montiero also suggested sitting near law enforcement during the event.
He also said it is important to remain calm if something does happen that could impact the safety of you or your family.
“Pause — from that trooper mentality, we have to stop for a second and assess because if you are the adult there with your children, your children are going to base their reaction off of how you react,” Montiero said.
Montiero said everyone should take two seconds to observe what happens.
Montiero said people should try to answer two questions before reacting — “What is actually happening?” and “Where are we going to go?”
“If you take a second to pause and look around to see what you know, maybe you don’t have to run,” he said.
Montiero also recommended taking your cues from how law enforcement is reacting.
“Are they reacting in a stressful way? Look at them to base your reaction (off what officers are doing). If they’re taking off and towards the sound that you’re running from, maybe we have a problem, but if they’re saying ‘Hey guys, chill out for a second’ maybe those minor injuries wouldn’t have happened.” he said.
Montiero acknowledges that it is difficult to not panic in a stressful situation, but adds that preparation and communication with your family are the keys to staying safe.
“Practicing it, talking about it with your children, with your family members and preparing for these events — you can’t let fear control us, but you can prepare for it,” he said.