Mini Blog 3

The frustration of operations vs academia

 

It’s been a bit of time since we put fingers to keys and blogged, mostly this is due to operational commitments.

 

It is partly through this, that frustration spawns this blog. Since finishing further education just over a year ago, the want for self improvement kindles within. This is not easily achieved for those in full time employment, especially operational within the events industry. Our hours vary; long days, weekends, evenings and when we do get time off, we try to catch up with life. We aplaude all those that are enrolled in any form of further education whilst performing their day job.

 

Academic study not only allows time for self improvement,but, where it is grasped; the opportunity to advance the field we are engaged in. The problem being, that most practitioners do not get the time to develop their thoughts and ideas fully, just getting their results has to do. The opportunity is sometimes lost due to time constraints and pressure.

 

Where can operational leaders within the crowd safety industry develop their ideas then? Do crowd management providers (operators) have research departments, think tanks or partnerships with universities? Do they allow members of their teams or themselves the time to develop, research and test theory? We are sure that this happens in some places, but it may be limited. Does this leave it down to consultants to bridge the gap between academia and operations?

 

There is a stumbling block if operators want to develop an idea and round it out academically. That being the access to academic publishing, journals, research papers and libraries. The vast amount of knowledge on a subject is out of reach of most operators due to availability and cost. When you have to pay in excess of £25 for a single bit of literature and rounding out your idea could require upto 50 such papers, most individuals are priced out of participating. Employers are reluctant to source the required literature, because the 1 person in 20 that would read and understand the work, does not constitute a good investment.

 

Do not take this as a slight, we do not challenge the authors right to charge or how ever a charge has be imposed on a piece of work. We just point out, that this creates a divide between academia and the industry.

 

In an ideal world, all crowd safety providers would work in partnership with universities and colleges, as far as we are concerned. This could either be through sponsorship, providing work experience or grants. Creating an ever evolving open resource of knowledge and output. Knowledge should be shared, especially when it comes to safety. Were the inability to develop safety practice is stifled or not attainable, then what is the point of it.

 

Our operational suppliers should be pioneering the development of the industry. Instead, they grasp at the rare idea that comes along to give them an advantage over their competitors. They may deploy half baked and understood concepts, in the hope that their services are chosen over others. When was the last time someone said, we came up with this idea and it made our events safer……would you all like to have a look and try?

 

On looking for academic material to share on this site, it is overwhelming the amount available. What is open source and free to share, is a far smaller percentage. It is there if you look though. We are sometimes dreamers, we like the idea of all information being free for us all to develop and learn from one another. We have laughed along with others that refer to this site as the Wikileaks of crowd safety. (We do not breach copyright and if we do, we would quickly remove it……just pointing this out). We share to help, it is that simple. The struggle to understand and make crowded places safer does not get easier year on year, it just changes. We have to learn to change and stay ahead of the curve.

 

workingwithcrowds.com 21st May 2018

 

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The weather effect

 

Well what a week it has been. Life has been consumed with basics, bread,milk, heat and catching up on daytime tv ( and understanding I never need to watch it again). Thanks to beasts from eastern regions an storming Emma, the United kingdom basically ground to a stand still for 2 days.

During that time events were cancelled, government adviced not to travel and roads up and down the country impassable. We must say, the right advice was given and the cancellation of events was the correct thing to do (in our opinion). Travelling to events during dangerous conditions increases risk, in an industry that tries to reduce risk were it can.

As the weekend approached and cabin fever set in a nation of sports lovers, concert and club goers were split over the cancellations continuing over the weekend. Were safe to do so stadiums and arenas open when they could clear the grounds and public transport limped back into functional service. Was there still a risk though?

Let’s split this into two parts, working personal and customers.

Working personal are those that you need on event days to run your operation. Not the full time management but the ones that you rely on; generally paid minimum wage (yes, that is a personal opinion on pay, they deserve more) Your stewards, catering staff, car park attendants and hospitality. When making the decision to green light an event, how much consideration was given to the workforce being able to get to work? Not just the customers, but those you need to open your venue. We are sure that it was, but was there a realistic view of the levels of staff that would be able to get to work. If you are being paid minimum wage, are you going to go the extra mile to get into work? There are always a percentage of those that will try the best they can to get to work, the dedicated, the passionat , but to most it is just a job and not a job they feel loyalty to.

There is then the consideration of your customers. Again they are advised not to travel unless it is essential. Does attending an event fall under that banner? For a few maybe, but entertainment is something you are meant to enjoy, not risk life and limb over. It was disheartening to see some events being postponed very late in the day, taking it to the final hour before pulling the plug. Where is the customer service in that. We understand the money involved and the passing of the buck as no one wants to take the blame and backlash. Over last week though the backlash came when the delay in postponing events was held up. Those events that cancelled early and let the customers know as soon as possible were seen to receive praise and thanks. Delays damaged reputations more that cancelling. Social media is a powerful tool and those frustrated and angered are the first to voice their opinion, but if you manage to hit the common consensus on the head, they are also quick to praise.

There is then the question of those events that finally got the break in the weather to get up and running, events like football games and concerts. Was the decision made on the event space and area around it being safe? How far out did those that are responsible for safety look. There are reasons we ask this…..

We watched masses of people walking on roads because all the effort rightly was put into clearing roads, but paths were not cleared. The risk of slipping on the paths forced pedestrians to walk on roads. A balance of risk by pedestrian, but something events seemed to ignore out with the perimeter of there event space. In our minds we seen that the greater number of people you attract, the further out from your venue you need to consider as being safe to use.

The lost drivers? with public transport unreliable and in places not available, many took to using their cars; were normally they would not to attend an event. Firstly this increased traffic were advice was to not. Secondly, were to put the car. Main routes were cleared, but most on street parking spaces were filled with cars not moving, those abandoned and the gaps filled with piles on snow. The hunt for the sneaky side street to park up in was knocked on the head as they were not cleared and unusable. We watched drivers go round and round in circles in the hope that a gap would appear. It must have been frustration and not the best way to start your day of enjoyable entertainment.

All of these are just observations. The thoughts that maybe it is just not outside your venues door you need to think about, but further afield. Also, risk to reputation can be greater in the long run than the monetary value of a cancelled event.

Workingwithcrowds.com 5th March

Is selling out your festival a good thing?

Seems like a rather strange question, but to crowd managers and security providers, it could be rather relevant if not thought about.

We noticed this week the announcement of a line up for a large scale urban music festival in a British city. Lots of trending and popular artists and sure to be a massive draw. Seems they have got the line up spot on, less than 2 days later it is being announced as a sell out. Fantastic news, high fives and pats on the backs all round. But is this a massive headache for the crowd management and security provider?

If an event has proven that popular and sold out so quickly, what happens to those wanting to attend but never got a ticket? Do you think they might just go along on the off chance they may get a ticket off a tout? Do you think the touts may have bulk bought tickets because they took the chance this might happen and they can rake the money in?

This leads to the potential of hundreds if not thousands of non ticket holders on the perimeter of your event. Public transport allows them easy access to the area. The city has a massive population and following of the acts on offer. The event is in a public space, so you cannot restrict people using the area.

All in all; if not monitored and measures put in place, the potential for a testing few days is a lot higher. Selling out a festival that quickly, indicates that demand is higher than provision. Easy access to the area of the event allows the ability to take that chance and see if you can get in. In recent years we have seen incidents of this nature, gate crashing; Wireless festival in London and RATM in London. We are sure this will have been considered and the plans already underway to prevent this occurring, but it is worth considering if your event looks like it has the potential to head down that path.

Food for thought.

Workingwithcrowds.com 24th January 2018

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Just what have we been up to at Working with Crowds?

Time sure moves fast when you work in this industry. New things are happening all around us and we are attempting to take in as much as possible and share with the community. There are always moments of doubt though; is this worth doing, spending the time to collect all the information in, search for news and developments in the industry?

For the past year we have juggled the site and social media accounts, with the daily commitment of events and projects. We are not going to lie, this has not been an easy year. That is seen by us taking some periods of time out, to allow focus else were. So, a decision had to be made; to scrap it all and just move on, maybe pass it on to others to continue with or to develop the site and try new routes with it.

We had decided the path of development.

As with all projects……we need a plan. This one has two stages.

Stage One

We are revamping the site. A fresh look,  interactivity and graphics. We also decided to introduce a logo to the site and across the social media platforms. This provides continuity to all the platforms. We hope you like it.

Stage Two

This is a long term project; still under wraps and will be for some time. The concept is to give longevity to the site and take part of it in another direction. We will continue to develop this as we run the site; which would then have 2 branches.

We are looking forward to working on this and hope that it will serve us and others well further down the line.

Workingwithcrowds.com 19 January 2018

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HB 183 Crowd Management and Crowded Places (Standards Australia).

This morning we received some great news from Australia and the standardisation of crowd management in the country. This shows that determination and the efforts of like minded professionals can change an industry for the better. We wish all those involved the  best and look forward to seeing all that comes in the future.

In 2001, I was part of the security management team that worked at Big Day Out when Jessica Michalik died. The “Jessica Recommendations” were released. Several of those recommendations referred to Guidance (Pts 1 @ 4)

  1. That a ‘working party’ be established under the auspices of WorkCover Authority of NSW, to review current ‘entertainment’ industry standards and practices and develop guidelines to ensure the safety and comfort of patrons attending large scale events. This working party should comprise of representatives from the police, ambulance, fire brigade, local government, promoters, security, entertainers and any other appropriate ‘stakeholders’. Given then changing dynamics of rock and pop festivals and the alarming number of deaths at outdoor venues, the working party should be established forthwith. The ‘working party’ to devise guidelines for promoters to be adopted at events such as the Big Day Out and other large scale entertainment events. The guidelines should be developed with the intention that they be adopted as a ‘National Code of Conduct’. Australian Standard AS:4360 of 1999 should be used when considering the issues of ‘risk assessment’. The working party should have regard to (but not limited to): crowd numbers generally and at individual venues the compulsory preparation of comprehensive ‘risk assessment’ emergency protocols for stopping artists during performance age restrictions the accessibility of water, shade and first aid the suitability of crowd activity such as moshing, slam dancing, crowd surfing etc barrier configurations

 

  1. That a National Code of Conduct be adopted by each state and territory, to ensure uniformity of approach to safety issues for large scale events.

Over the years myself and several others have attempted to get these recommendations looked at.

In 2016 I submitted a proposal to Standards Australia for a Crowd Management Standard, in 2017 this proposal was accepted and today 17th January 2018 we had our first planning meeting for HB 183 Crowd Management and Crowded Places (Standards Australia).

Special thanks to Tara Hopton Fda, Paul Corcoran OAM for assisting in the proposal and some fine tuning and also to Mick Upton (RIP) for advice and encouragement in persevering.

I would like to think that based on the coroners recommendations we now have the “Jessica Guidelines”

James Fidler Fda.

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Consume to queue to consume to queue…..repeat till the end

 

It has been a fair bit of time since we put together a blog; what can we say, life has been busy over the past few weeks, months….year? There were some events, lots of crowds, a load of plans, versions of plans, last minute changes and somewhere in there, the time to update the website.

We sent out a tweet into the twitterverse the other day, after seeing the first draft of a stadium concert plan for summer 2018 (and Santa has not even dropped off his presents yet). These get the blood pumping and the juices flowing, looking forward to longer days and the promise of the sun shining down on us all. This is then followed by the flash backs to this years events, the chance to fix small problems ahead of time, to review the operations and look for the new systems to deliver a more dynamic and stable process.

Then……there are those things that just bug you and you wish you could fix. This brought to the front an itch that we have scratched at for years, but never had time to consider the solution – Toilets! Not just your bog (get it!!!) standard toilets, but toilets during events. Why are there always queues? ALWAYS; unless you get in there within the first hour after doors open.

In the UK, the purple guide and a few other forms of reference, provides us with pointers in the ratios of loos to visitors. If this is the case, why are there always queues? Is it because this has been written in a room, looking at the average use of the toilet by a person over a day. Stadium concerts have the advantage of having facilities built in to service the supporters and then supplement these by a few temporary toilets to accommodate those on the pitch; correct?

Things to consider when thinking about this.

We are not being sexist, but football stadiums still lean towards male use. Concerts do not match the same demographic as football and god forbid you end up with females in the majority (ladies, what can we say – some still think it’s a man’s world)

Most concerts show higher levels of consumption, alcohol, coffee and food. Your average football fan will turn up just before kick-off, have a pie and a Bovril or even a pint (sorry Scotland), then spend 45 – 90 minutes watching the game. At half time, there is a rush on the toilets and you may have to queue; a stadium cannot facilitate the capacity for a 5-minute burst. This is accepted. But, a concert has a longer time line, more breaks and the opportunity to consume more – and you can consume whilst watching the entertainment (limited during a football game).

Consume more – expel more. It is that simple, the more you put in, the more must come out. Were as at a football game, a fan may visit the facilities once, maybe twice a game; a concert goer may visit twice that; or more for the weak bladdered or greedy.

Woman take longer in a toilet, sorry there is no discussion on this one. We all know it’s true – clothing, chatting and for some the draw of a mirror (or selfie???? We just don’t understand the selfie or portrait in the toilet fixation of some). All this adds time to the visit. Gents….we just hope you wash your hands at some point during the day (YES…that is a joke).

All of this adds up to time spent in the toilets. Was this built into the calculations for suggesting the toilets required for an event?

Having thought about it for a few years and not had time to research, maybe it is time to do so. Is the guidance accurate for your event? Can a more accurate calculation be obtained…thoughts;

Attendance

 

Arrival profile

 

Serving outlets/points

 

Historic sales profile

 

Customer profile (known to consume more?)

 

Preference of consumption (wine, spirits, pints of lager or cider?)

 

Weather conditions (we visit more when it is colder)

 

All these let us look at each event and venue and build a more accurate requirement of facilities. It must be one of the biggest complaints at most events, toilets, not enough toilets, queues at toilets……. the list goes on.

Food for thought, if by chance you already have something on this subject, please feel free to share and help improve everyone’s events.

 

Workingwithcrowds.com 8th December 2017

 

 

 

Nice Terror Attack – Was it a case of us burying our heads in the sand

I am going to go back a bit, to when I was younger to start with. A young lad that liked nothing better than watching action movies, going to the video shop (pre Netflix generation – same thing but you have to leave the house to get the movie and you had to give it back; after you rewound the tape) and hiring the latest movie that I was far too young to watch.

In these movies I seen films such and Gauntlet (Clint Eastwood classic right there), Convoy, Speed, Mad Max, II and III and even up to modern movies, World War Z and the Matrix, where large vehicles where used as weapons to crash through roadblocks or just as weapons.

If you lived in the UK, how about 1996 Manchester, 1993 Bishopsgate, 2007 Glasgow Airport; where we see trucks, large cars getting used in terror attacks.  Every other day since the mid 90’s footage from some middle eastern country uses some type of vehicle as a weapon.

So what makes us think that is was never going to be used in Europe to bring harm to people? At what stage did we convince ourselves that this was never going to happen? Is it not easier to get hold of truck than explosives?

A quick question. How many times have you put in road closures around an outdoor event, but somehow a vehicle has managed to get in (no you cannot count the local authority bin truck that appears out of nowhere)?

What do you have in place to stop a vehicle getting into you event? Is it a steward and some cones and road closed sign? In the past 48hrs we have seen 2 run away vehicles in the UK that caused damage and harm; can those cones stop that.

Now we are treating this blog with a pinch of humour. That is because we spend a fair bit of time thinking what bad people out there could do to our event (not a happy life sometimes). Trucks, buses and cars are a risk to an event, they must be thought about, but there are measures out there that can stop this happening; look into it.

What really keeps us up late at night are motorcycles and scooters. They move fast, fit through gaps and seem to be the new favourite in action movies (Bourne, Bond, Mission Impossible). A couple of bad men on a bike could cause more damage than we can imagine.

There is no excuse for any event not to have considered this and implemented some form of preventative measure.

Food for though

WorkingWithCrowds 19th July 2016

 

Is the good life coming to an end for the Blue badge?

 

Treading old ground here, but as another summer is upon us and we are coming across what we have all known for awhile. Where do you get all the security you need?

Door Supervisors; known to hang about the local pub and club doors or the local music venue. In some parts of the country they bounce between multiple companies, some just hang about on that door step all night, some work at sporting venues and music venues.

With the country now seeming to be spent of large scale multiple day events that require vast amount of security the only events that require large numbers of security is music festivals. Now, this may sound cynical; but where is the draw for these people to go and work in festivals? Most of them have shifts at weekends anyway. You could pay them a bit more? But does that compensate for letting down their regular income, go to a muddy field, get no sleep, hardly any food and deal with pissed up and drugged up teenagers. You can stay at home and get that on a normal weekend and still have a takeaway and your own bed at the end of the night.

What about the London bubble? Is that fading away with the national living wage starting to kick in. We don’t see the clients putting up the wages of door supervisors to keep them ahead of the rest. The pub doors don’t change, or nightclubs. Only events- music and sport do we see the difference; just where you need the bulk of security. If the living wage is getting closer to that pay threshold that the blue badge graces you with, then where is the incentive to go get one? Go work at the football or a concert and get paid a couple of pence less and you don’t have to take all the grief.

Is the living wage going to cause a headache in years to come or sooner? Are you paying attention? Are their signs?

  • Is it easy to get door supervisors for large scale events?
  • Do your door supervisors work for you exclusively?
  • Are your stewards upgrading to door supervisors?
  • Are you seeing a reluctance to do so?

Have we seen the end of the good times and racking in money for the provision of door supervisors? Can you man your events without having to go to subcontractors? Are you client wanting you too save money because you want them to cover the cost of the living wage or increases in national minimum wage——on that..

Side note. If you employ a company to provide you with stewards and security and are arguing over the age limit of the national minimum wage then get a grip. We have seen and discussed with providers that have to provide under 25 year olds to clients because they are not willing to foot the increases. You are putting people’s safety at risk doing this, so much experience out there getting lost from event over a few pence.

As an industry it is getting ever closer to that day when you have to say- sorry but we cannot meet demand. For years the security/stewarding suppliers have been asked to cut and cut to save clients money. We are now coming to that stage where we cannot cut anymore.

I will give you a quick example of where we have come from. My first festival – taken there by bus, worked the shift, provided with three hot meals, taken at the end of the night to accommodation – bed, tv, hot showers. Couple of years later – the accommodation was gone and the showers where kind of warm. Couple of years after that – the 3 hot meals where down to 1 hot meal and a grab bag.

Not much motivation there to go to those festivals. This is something that need addressed before the reason that your festival never happened is because you could not get enough security (Yes, we know how close this comes every year now for so many events)

Anyway, food for thought

 

WorkingWithCrowds 19th July 2016

 

Is it a festival or Tough Mudder?

1

As we pass through another festival season in the Northern hemisphere, we get to learn more about what we can do for our customers and how to improve our service. No matter how much we plan, sometimes the weather tries it’s hardest to spoil all our months of planning.

It is amazing what a bit of rain can do to an event and devastating what a lot of rain can do. Mud! Mud! Mud! All our planning and effort for turn those Green fields into a small town to provide entertainment to thousands and a bit of rain can suddenly through a big spanner in that planning.

Green grass becomes dark green, then brown then it vanishes. It is replaced with a river of water and soil. The repeated pounding of feet over those Green fields helps turn the hardened ground into soft loose mud. Then if is rains heavy enough the ground says—that’s it! Enough, and starts forming puddles, that can turn into ponds, small lakes, rivers and lakes.

We guess that is the problem when you use a Green field site, unless the weather is favourable you are subject to the ground conditions.

It is an amazing thing to watch, your average festival camper, or Tough Mudder contestant in training. They spend days in conditions that you would normally see the UN Peacekeepers fly in to rescue them from. They will carry a whole weekends/weeks camping supplies, clothing, food and double that weight with beer and cider. Tramping over field and hill to find that pitch that they will call home for days, mentally challenge themselves to build their home (beer and tent building is not a good mix) and then they will venture forth to their chosen entertainment.

After the hard slog from entrance/campsite into the arena the endurance section starts. To stand all day, well you have to because there are no seats. So the challenge begins – Stand, drink, Stand, trudge, stand, beer, trudge, sing, dance, trudge and beer. Repeat until you can no longer do so; the festival version of last man standing.

Why do they do it? Why?2

This happens a lot more often that we would like and yet we have not moved forward. What can we do? Is there an alternative? Or do we just keep going down the same old path.

 

Food for though.

 

WorkingWithCrowds 18th July 2016