The art of crowd management

The art of crowd management

In almost every form of tourism and travel there is a need for crowd management control. Anyone who has watched the huge crowds at New York’s Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration or has been to a packed beach is aware of the importance of crowd management. Not all crowd control management need be for festivities. For example, there is religious crowd management such as at St. Peter’s Square in Rome, during the Hajj in Mecca or along the Ganges River in India. There is also political crowd management such as at a political parade, convention or rally.

Not all crowd management touches upon such mega events as New Year’s Eve in New York, or the Hajj in Mecca. There are other forms of crowd management, which although on a lesser scale, also need to be managed. From waiting in lines at airports and theme parks to being at stadiums and sporting events there is a need to manage queues and the events within the stadium.

In reality not all crowds are the same. Crowds tend to form in multiple types of tourism. For example, concerts and outdoor events may draw crowds. University events and parties also draw crowds, but the crowd’s make-up is very different.

Scholars who study crowds break them down by multiple types. For example, crowds may be either homogeneous, such as religious or political crowds, or heterogeneous, such as crowds on a busy street. Crowds can be pre-planned or they may form spontaneously, they can be contained or frightened and then rapidly turn into a riot or mob.

Some crowds tend to be friendly and willing to work with authorities while others thrive on not doing what is requested of them. Crowds may have an agendum, for example seeking to overturn a political order or exist only for the purpose of having fun, such as at a sport’s team’s victory celebration. Depending on the depth of the crowd watching a parade, we may consider parades to be elongated crowds.

No matter what types of crowds your part of the tourism world attracts, knowing how to manage crowds is essential. Good crowd management can result in the event becoming an attraction in its own right. Poor crowd management may turn into a riot resulting in not only loss of property but even life. This negative crowd control may result in additional problems and negative publicity.

To help you consider the right type of crowd management for your tourism entity, Tourism Tidbits presents the following suggestions.

Risk management analyses are essential. Never plan an event where there will be a crowd forming (either indoors or outdoors) without a full assessment of the situation. This means that you need to know if liquor will be present, the numbers and types of people you expect to be there, and an in-depth risk management analysis. Is the crowd forming during the daylight hours or nighttime? If the event is a nighttime event, will there be proper lighting?

Remember if you cannot control the crowd, you ought to cancel the event. All life has risks, but some events simply cannot be made safe. If you cannot assure the safety of the participants then you are better off cancelling the event.

Be medically prepared. The more liquor there is the higher the chance of inebriation. The denser the crowd the more likely there is that a medical emergency will occur. Can your medical teams push through a crowd to save a life? How well protected is the medical team? Do you have enough ambulances and doctors (and nurses) on call? Is there a medical evacuation plan and will this plan work under all conditions?

Understand what is “crowd crush”. The higher the density of a crowd the greater is the potential for problems. When people are packed together then they tend to feel that norms seek to apply and trouble can begin. When the population goes beyond 7 people per square meter, the potential for problems increase exponentially.

There is a greater potential that problems will arise when people are moving toward something they want. This movement is called “crazes”. During a craze a person is as likely to die on his or her feet than being trampled to death. During crowd crushes normative forms of behavior disappear. One way to lessen this problem is to have “escape pens” where the crowd density is less.

If the event will have legal or attract illegal substances is there a substance management plan?

Consider the following:

• Be sure to identify all risks posed by these substances that may be used at the event

• List your strategies and actions for reducing and/or eliminating those risks

• Are you clear on who is responsible for implementing these strategies and who your back up personnel is? Do you have private security working with law enforcement? Can they communicate with one central command? Then ask yourself: Do you understand all of the risks (including open containers) that alcohol presents at this event?

Know what the substance risks are and divide these risks into subsets. Often the task seems overwhelming. In this case divide the task into small units For example is the problem excessive drinking or young people smuggling illegal substances into the crowd? What methodologies will you use to lessen the risk? Does the checking of bags create a second crowd or is there a way to eliminate those people who have a potential to become violent?

Learn from past mistake and try to avoid repeating these mistakes. For example, it is better to have too many than too few officers at the event. Be clear that entrances and exits are clearly marked, do not fail to advertise what will not be tolerated. Remember that crowds provide the anonymity that allows people to do what they would fear to do when not in a crowd.