Not all we see is positive
It has taken a bit of time for us to post this blog. We like to have a positive outlook on the crowd safety industry; sharing news on what goes wrong is generaly as negative as we get around here.
So, after a bit of thought we will share a very sterilised and anonymised version of this tale.
Once upon a time…..in a city not so far away.
We were asked by a person to pay a visit to a rather large outdoor entertainment venue in a rather large city. A temporary event space that can attract some of the larges crowds at peak times you would see for an outdoor event. Consisting of entrances, event space, entertainment and all protected behind a rather imposing steel shield fence. Due to the first visit, we were prompted to visit a second time…just to be 100% sure of what we say.
In the month of November, not the warmest of places, it was an outdoor venue and it gets dark about 3pm, so we headed there about 2pm. Lets not beat about the bush….
1- the security search was bad…like really bad. We had hid things in a bag to be found and was deliberately subversive when showing the content of the bag. Items were not found.
We need not have bothered, there was no interest being shown by the security officers. They were cold, it is that simple. I watched them for a bit after and the minimum effort was put in to the role. For a customer point of view, this did not provide reassurance we were entering a safe environment and not one word was spoken to us through the process. Not the best experience when you are looking for a days entertainment and spend a fair bit of money.
2 – On a rather large site (which can accommodate thousands) there was very few staff internally. Plenty at the bars, but we only found 1 in a large circulation space. It seems monitoring is done via CCTV.
3 – No one responded when we deliberately started taking photos of the cctv cameras, security (when we found them) and exits. In this day and troubled times, you would have thought someone may have shown an interest. Let me tell you, this was a game to us, we deliberately and overtly went out our way to be seen taking photos of security features.
4 – And we will end visit one on this (because we did, we left straight away). Out of the 3 fire exits we could find and access, 2 of them were locked and unmanned. We checked and they were padlocked; while the site was open and not a member of staff with a life saving key in site. 1 exit even had a euro bin blocking it.
Exit stage left.
Now we are about 3 weeks later. The site is at peak use and it is a Saturday late afternoon. After talking about our findings with a few people, we were encouraged to revisit.
To be fully transparent, this was not a normal visit. This was on a Christmas night out, mid way threw the day and after the warm glow of wine and spirits had warmed us up and made us merry. Also, this time is was a with a group of qualified crowd safety managers; experts in there field, full of fun and ready to observe a unique crowded environment. Needless to say, the visit provided conversation for a fair bit of time after.
1 – The long walk. Due to it being peak time the local mass transit stops encouraged you to exit stops before, due to congestion. A fine plan, until you stay on and realise the closest stops are like a ghost town. An old trick, but could be embarrassing if you get caught out.
2 – The queues. Well, thousands and thousands queuing lead to one conclusion- Crowd managers do not queue. Endeth the chances of seeing inside.
3 – Searching – again observation show a lack of commitment and communication. The idea of not going inside is sitting better with us now.
4 – Hostile vehicle mitigation. Barrier for Barrier sake. It seemed to be everywhere and most served no purpose at all. Our favourite one – the national asset barrier that was protecting a small fence that lead to a large grouping of trees, that no public have access to?
5 – It is really dark at this time, the lighting exterior is virtually non existent. This created small areas of illumination and large areas of near darkness. Not an friendly environment and what felt unsafe.
6 – FIRE EXITS LOCKED. The exact same exits from visit 1 are still locked and unmanned. This time there are 10s of thousands inside. Now the thought of not going in is the best idea ever. So we head to a safe and warm bar to critic the event space and share our observation and thoughts.
Thankfully as the night progressed, the more alcohol we consumed the more we forgot the horror of what we say. Maybe that is why it has taken nearly 3 months to put fingers to keys and recall those visits.
What concerned us all, was how simple it would be to rectify what was perceived as wrong. Simple crowd management solutions and a bit of focus. And how simple safety checks and management plans that are standard on a large scale music festival (about the same size and capacity) seemed not to apply to this event space.
We will end on one for free. If you are conducting searching of customers in an open space, in darkening conditions, cold and a lot of visitors try these.
- Provide heating for the staff. A bit of heat will keep them happy and productive.
- Provide shelter and good lighting conditions. A simple thought, but overlooking it can create a poor working environment.
- Communicate, your searchers are the first point of contact to your event. Greet your customers.
We hope to visit again at the same time this year and hopefully we will see a vast improvement and a safer environment.
workingwithcrowds.com 12th March 2018
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
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.
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.
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
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)
- 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
- 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.
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;
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 wee 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?
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?
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