What to do in life-or-death situations following incident at Ky. State Fair

A former secret service agent and security expert said there are things people can do to get out of a critical situation unscathed.
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 11:59 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As the incident at the Kentucky State Fair continues to spark conversation, WAVE News asked a former secret service agent and security expert what bystanders should do in the event of a situation like the one at the fair.

“In this situation, it just happens,” Greg Gitschier said. “Bam, bam, bam, alright, and everybody starts running or screaming. In this unfortunate situation at the fairgrounds, when people are already panicking, that’s out of your control. So now you’ve got to think about, ‘OK, now how do I get out of this mess?’”

Gitschier has decades of law enforcement experience. Since retirement, he’s become a paid consultant, teaching people how to think critically during what he calls “critical incidents.”

He said there are things people can do to get out of a critical situation unscathed.

“Don’t fight against that crowd,” he said. “You’re not going to win, OK? So go with that flow. But I always teach them to get their hands up almost like a boxer, because that keeps some distance between you and the people around you, OK? Then I would suggest you kind of work yourself on a diagonal with the crowd towards the edge of the crowd. Once you’re on that edge of that crowd, then think about, ‘Is there any other doors, or is there a back door or is there an alley that I can go down?’”

If an exit is not nearby, Gitschier suggested finding good cover, like a light pole or a generator.

He also told WAVE News there are things people should not do in these situations.

“Avoid choke points,” Gitschier said. “So if that whole crowd is trying to go through one little exit from, in this case the State Fair, that’s a heck of a choke point that everyone’s converging in.”

Ultimately, Gitschier said these tactics will help buy time for law enforcement to arrive and eliminate the threat.

“Soon as that trouble sign goes up, the cavalry is coming,” Gitschier said. “I mean, they’re coming in force. The help is coming, you just have to survive until they get there. That’s why seconds count.”

Monday night, in light of Saturday’s incident, the State Fair strengthened some of its Minor Attendance Policy.

Updates will include:

  • Each adult can chaperone a maximum of minors at a time. Groups larger than six individuals under the age of 18 will require an additional chaperone for every six minors.
  • Mandatory I.D. checks will be conducted at the entrance gates before entering the Fairgrounds. Anyone who attempts to violate the policy is subject to be charged with criminal trespassing.
  • Chaperones are required to remain at the Fair if they are bringing minors. Any adult who drops off minors (even if their own admission fees are paid), are in direct violation of the policy.
  • Any and all misbehaving minors will be taken to the Lost Children Center to be reunited with their parent, guardian or chaperone. Failure to comply will result in immediate dismissal from the property.