Crowd management at events is becoming more and more of an issue nowadays. Whether it be over crowding, pushing and shoving or violence. Why is it becoming increasingly harder to control?
Why do crowds need to be managed in the first place? Well large amounts of people increase the odds of a dangerous occurring happening. It is more likely that individuals will get away as the blame can be put onto others if there are a lack of security or cameras about. Actions become slower and more complicated when a large amount of people are around which aggravates and agitates people. Big crowds raise the possibility of the number of victims affected (Marsden, 1998).
It is unfortunate to hear when situations turn out of control and people start to get hurt. Sadly, this is a regular occurrence. One example of this is the well known Hillsborough disaster which resulted in the death of 96 fans and left hundreds more injured. This was due to overcrowding on the stalls of the grounds, nearly double the capacity. This caused a barrier to collapse which was causing people to fall on top of each other. Supporters continued to climb perimeter fences to escape, while others were dragged to safety by fans in the upper tiers.
One event that I have attended which I felt had really poor crowd management was in 2009 at the Birmingham Christmas light switch-on where around 60 people were injured in a crowd surge during a performance by the group JLS.
The event was not ticketed and it was down to a first come first serve basis. more than 20,000 came to see the performances on the day and by the time JLS came on, it was reported that 27,000 people showed up as people surged the barriers resulting in a crowd surge and the people at the front being trapped under barriers, which then the event organizes decided to cancel the rest of the show. It was absolute chaos. This would have been easily avoidable if the event was ticketed and there was better security and barriers at the entrance.
Its hard to tell exactly what causes these bad things to happen at events as each situation is different. However there are some common Factors to blame, for example; poor crowd control implicated, duplicating tickets when the venue doesn’t have a good way to check tickets, which results in the venue being overcrowding. Corrupt ticket sellers which creates fake tickets that are able to be scanned which also results in the overcrowding of the venue. Vehicles getting in the way blocking pathways, entrances or exits. Poor measures over admission, letting more people in than capacity. People jumping the venue fence/wall, again resulting in over capacity.
What is the best way to manage the crowds at events then? When things do get out of hand and the police start to use tear gas when crowds get worse can lead to an even angrier crowd. Some describe it as ‘a textbook example of what not to do’. What else can be done?
At large scale events, organizers are challenged with cost-effectively managing crowd flow, tracking the location of individuals at an event, and ensuring their safety and comfort. There is now a live crowd analytic software, which can not only spot problems in the crowd but also claims to be able to predict where overcrowding is likely to happen. It works by a live data feed that comes into a large operations room where they are analysed by military personnel, the police and other crowd managers. This software provides accurate and real-time data on crowd numbers, densities, distributions and flows.
As well as this technology available, there are other methods that event organisers can implement pre, during and post event. Although it is hard to predict when something might happen, by looking at other events and learning from their mistakes, they can be as prepared as possible in case something happens. Before hand, making sure all tickets are real ones and only sell the capacity amount is vital to prevent over crowding. Make sure walls around the venue can’t be jumped over to also prevent this overcrowding happening. During the event, having many security around and in the crowds will make it less likely for people to do bad things and that they are easily available incase something does happen. After the event has finished, making sure all exits are unblocked and there is an easily accessible route available for people to leave the venue safely. Also warning and educating people about what can happen when things become out of hand and what they can do to better the situation will also help.