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Crowd Manager

by msecadm4921

One-stage concerts may have got as big as they can get, but multi-stage events are bringing new security problems, a leading leisure industry figure told Professional Security at the SITO 2000 conference.

Mick Upton, Director of ShowSec International, when asked about likely trends in securing events, told Professional Security that ShowSec had handled the Oasis rock concert at Knebworth, with 125,000 people. Pop festivals with several events inside the perimeter could be even larger – bringing the problem of crowd migration between, say, a rock music stage and a dance tent, that draw differently-reacting people. ‘Doing a crowd management plan for a festival is very difficult,’ he said. Earlier he warned against believing UK leisure security is better than that on the Continent. The nine deaths at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark this summer could have happened in this country: ‘We haven’t got it right – that’s why we are talking with SITO how we can put courses together to explain to the security companies what their responsibilities are and how we can explain to the local authorities how they should look at a company.’ That is, door supervisors may be able to do leisure security and crowd control work, but event planners and team leaders must be experienced in specific events. Yet some police do not listen to event security teams. Mick began by listing the three causes of modern event security:<br>
l rock and roll from the mid-1950s – ‘they [concert-goers] wanted to dance, in some cases get on the stage – there was a need then for security teams to control stage invasions’;
l the Hillsborough stadium disaster of 1989 that showed a need for better training and stewarding, that partly replaced police;
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l techo and rave culture.
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Whereas in the early 1960s only a couple of firms were registered specifically to provide leisure security, today there are more than 100, besides manned guarding firms with a special events division to take on casual events. Such a rapid growth in demand and supply of leisure security, plus a lack of security industry regulation allowing here-today-and-gone-tomorrow firms to operate, have harmed the leisure sector’s image. Also, clients and local authorities confuse leisure security with door supervision, and mix up crowd management, crowd control and security. Some councils are so confused, they insist on leisure event security staff being licenced door men, although their training does not relate to, say, outdoor events. For such inappropriately trained people to deal with volatile crowds is dangerous, Mick argued. He gave two examples of how leisure events demand a quite specific plan – 1) if a football ground hosts a concert, whereby a stage and 20,000 people use the pitch; and 2) if a concert promoter builds an arena in a field. Mick screened a video of leisure security in the ‘bad old days’ when security staff at a Rolling Stones concert traded blows with the front row and stage invaders grabbed musicians. Such chaos and a 1974 David Cassidy concert at the former White City Stadium in London, where a girl was crushed to death. Mick worked out a way of analysing risk. That analysis takes in ingress, egress, circulation, space for toilets and caterers, how many gates and barriers are needed, overall topography – often overlooked – and what effect the artist or event will have on the crowd’s psychology. To measure density of crowd it is not enough to divide the space between an agreed capacity crowd, because of localised high densities (at the front, for example). Mick went through types of fencing, warning that wire-frame fencing set in concrete can collapse like dominoes under pressure; nor are basic barriers designed to take pressure, though they are good at creating lanes to entry points. The heaviest barriers and demountable front of stage barriers are designed to take pressure – and the latter give security staff a view beyond the front few rows. Mick pointed out that the Roskilde Festival deaths happened partly because the security team could not see what was going wrong. A risk assessment, required for UK event security under the Health and Safety Act, must allow for response in a crisis: ‘In the kind of event where there is a crowd collapse or surge, you have an absolute maximum of three minute to do something about it.’ It’s nigh impossible, because of the crowd’s enormous kinetic energy. He gave some statistics: one person per square metre is OK for walking. At one person per 0.5 square metres, there may be minor damage to bodies. At 0.3, there may be broken limbs; at 0.15, you’re dead. He pointed out that managers of live broadcasts in public spaces must beware because there is no limit to the number of people who attend for free. Some 650 spectators an hour can enter a venue through turnstiles – Mick prefers to assume 600, because problem-free entry is rare. At a county show, say, up to 1,200 customers an hour can enter free-flowing, and only handing over a ticket. At a rave with stringent checks for drugs, only 250 or 300 an hour may pass through one gate, maybe meaning many entry lanes and gates are required. Here topography comes in – what if a lane is waterlogged through poor drainage’ Mick pointed out that the Glastonbury pop festival, though in summer, often becomes muddy simply because it is in a low-lying valley.
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Other speakers at the 2000 SITO event included: Paul Mouzer on the business case for disability equality; Detective Supt Jon Shatford of the Met’s Flying Squad, on the armed robber and threats to industry; Chief Inspector Julian Ziemann of Staffordshire Police, on the Human Rights Act; Jonathan Grey, MD of Nova Risk Management, on vetting;and Steve Hancock, Group Money Laundering Officer for Prudential plc, on e-commerce and spotting criminals to prevent the proceeds of crime entering the financial system.

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