Mini Blogs 2

 

 

 

We have been in hiding

Ye, we have been away. Time over the past few months has been very limited (we can blame becoming a student again for that). But, we are now set free to frolic and blog to our hearts content. There is a lot been going on in the past few months and we may comment on a few of these topics. We will also look for what we can add to our referencing pages and EVA video collections; as well as fixing or removing any broken links.

workingwithcrowds 7th May 2017

 

When football fans win

There is so much press and comment on the violence been shown by a minority of “football fans” in France. We have not commented much or shared tweets, or experts opinions on this, because one, we don’t want to give these idiots any more limelight if we can help it and the experts source material is where we should be looking, not here.

Apart from the violence been shown in the streets and stands, it is the pyrotechnics getting into the stadiums that gives us concern. We are talking about a nation that had a terror attack at their national stadium, yet football fans can get flares, fireworks and small explosive like devices through what should be the tightest security operation in Europe at the moment.
Are we wrong, are we missing something?
If you have an operation of this size and scale not able to prevent these items getting into a stadium, what chance does a stadium on a league day have. Also every time we see one of these items, we cannot help but think, thank god it is not anything worse.
WorkingWithCrowds 17th June 2016

 

Egress Efficiency Calculation…..what?

It is a bit of a silly name, guess that will be in the edits going forward.

Just happens to be the follow up of the blog below this one…..weird that.
After working events for a few years, going through Uni, attending table tops, it always annoyed me when it came to working out the calculation for egress. We can calculate how many minutes and seconds it will take as long as everything goes 100% to plan. But is that reality?

What about the factors we over look? Those hundreds of little things that slow down an egress. Lots of little things can mount up to a bigger thing. Suddenly what should only take 10 minutes, it taking 20 minutes, 30 minutes!

Factors like what?

Is the grass wet under foot, so you have to walk a bit slower, so not to slip.
We are all different heights, with different stride lengths, so have to adjust that.
You may want a pee before you leave, a quick pint or buy a tour t shirt.
The lovely summer weather has given us plenty of mud to slip and slide in and fall over.
The road way has pot holes, lights, trees, kerbs, cable runs to contend with.
That outfit you bought goes great with your new heels, but you walk like you are on broken glass barefoot.
The exit signs and not illuminated the best
You where that busy talking, you did not even pay attention on where the exit was an someone stole the sign at the gig the night before.
There was an inch of snow overnight. If you are luck enough to be indoors at an event, you now have on big boot, padded jackets, scarves and walk like a Sumo wrestler.
Your lovely customers decided to drink as much strong lager as they could and can no longer walk in a straight line.
The tunes where banging all night and all the happy punters are pilled out their nuts

Lots of little things, that help slow it down. Put it all together and you erode that perfect timeline to a more realistic figure. On a live event, would you rather go with perfection (never going to happen) or reality?

WorkingWithCrowds 10th June 2016

 

 

 

RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY!!!!!!

*Monty Python – The Holy Grail

After attending a few large events over the past couple of weeks and a discussion or two around this subject, we pass the questions out there for others to think about. Not running away, but evacuation.

There has been lots of work on evacuation, plans, guidance, venue and event plans; all looking at the subject and making our events safer.

Are we having a fingers in the ears, eyes closed and shouting NANANANANANAN!!!! moment when we think about events and evacuations though. All the planning is around the perfect conditions and everyone follows the instructions as we expect. Do we add in factors that can affect the time it takes a person to leave a venue?

  • Age
  • Height (or is that differing stride lengths)
  • Stairs
  • Grass / sand / mud
  • Weather conditions

All factors that can slow down an evacuation process. What about this though

  • Drunk
  • Drug use
  • Footwear ( especially ladies in high heels)

A great majority of the events we cover involve these factors. The use of drugs and consumption of alcohol are proven to affect how we coordinate operate as a person. If you cannot drive a car, do you think you can get out of a burning building?

Footwear……ladies, if your feet a killing you when you leave the house, how are you going to be when someone wants you to suddenly leave a venue. Those shoes may look great, but are you putting yourself at risk?

NANANANANANANANANANANANA!!!!!!

Nope

Our plans are reality based.

We have accounted for all this.

Really?

Are you sure?

What to have another go at it??

 

WorkingWithCrowds

17th April 2016

 

The Elephant in the room?

101975945-200355511_001.530x298

After listening to the presentation and panel discussion at #ICSC2016 , there can be no denying that the common thread, hot topic, the question on everyone’s mind was the ongoing terror threat we face and what do we do next.

Now the easy path would be for the police and government to tell us the answers and coordinate all the planning for us. This is not going to happen. For once they will admit that we are the experts on the ground and festivals and events, they are there for crowd control if needed. The hand over process in an emergency situation is controlled and organised and in stages, the police don’t swoop in like the Avengers and take over. In most events the crowd management provider has the greatest number of staff on site, you are the one with the man power and it is this resource that is required during any emergency.

But, what use is man power and resources if there is no planning behind it? Have you thought lately about your planning for emergencies? We all have the bog standard evacuation plans for fire, but what else do you have in place? If you are thinking ahead you will have a few to deal this the current ongoing threat.

Of these plans in place, are they live plans or a paper exercise? All the planning on paper in the world is wonderful and the teacher will give you a Gold star and a smiley face, but it’s not much good sitting in a folder and no one knows about it.

police-634748

In the past few weeks we have seen the emergency test their planning for large scale events, stress testing their resources and plans. Funny how you never hear of crowd management companies doing this. You can ignore the test evacuations at stadiums, they are worthwhile, but you could hardly call them reality based. Reality based…….Reality Based.

I am going to tell you a story, not a long story but it is relevant. I used to head up the crowd management provision for a 2500 capacity venue that shall remain nameless. Over the course of time we built a strong, tight knit team that was comfortable working the venue. Unfortunately, I am not one for standing still; I am always looking to push the boundaries. It just happened that one of my colleagues at the venue taught reality based self defence. So through conversations and talking to the venue, we were allowed to create something that I had not heard of at the time, a reality based training system at the venue. Now, this scared the hell out of our employers, so the groups where small and select and behind closed doors.  As well as training in personal self defence, we looked to the future and our place of work. We tested casualty extractions, bad person extractions, team coordination and terror threat attacks. As well as a physical threat we also drilled venue sweeping for suspect devices and weapons, learning how to work a room as a team and ensure we were all safe.

You can tell when something is going to raise your game, when your first lesson is your instructor bursts in to the room shouting at you and shooting an airsoft gun at the team (a common occurrence during the training sessions, always caught us out as well). You learn quickly after that. We tested all over the venue, different rooms, and staircases and even back stage. Without knowing it we where 6 years ahead of the curve.

To this day, I still say it was the best team that I have worked with and the majority of the people in that group are now operational managers or higher. We saw a massive jump in ability, confidence and teamwork. A completely out the box idea, and it worked. What still comes to mind when I think about these training sessions; not just the team work, by training based on realistic event, situations, emergencies and what bad people want to do to you.  It was this that sparked our interest and kept us wanting more. Think about it, experiment, try it…what is the worse that could happen.

Can it be done on a bigger scale, yes I believe it can! You just have to believe it and be willing to push it forward.

 

Workingwithcrowds.com 20th March 2016

 

 

Does pay and training create loyalty?

#ICSC2016 raised a question in a room full of industry leaders and experts; something that we have raised several time – pay/wages/living wage…wonga, whatever you want to call in. But instead of just being a question to moan about rate, the question looked at a more relevant point of view.

“If you are paying minimum wage, will your staff stand by you during an emergency?”

A very relevant question; especially in the current climate and threat level.

Well, do you think your team will be standing there when it all goes wrong? What makes you think they will or are the dark clouds of doubt gathering. What would you do, if a high percentage of your team left you to get on with it?

The panel of who the question was asked did provide well rounded and thought out answers.

By the way, this is not their answers; this is a person point of view. So what can you do?  Pay is pay, we all want to pay more, but the restrictions of the industry are making this harder and harder. Training? Well, if you are not providing it, then we doubt you will be about long enough to worry about it (Yes, sometimes the truth hurts). We all feel the need to know more. For whatever reason that member of your team decided to join you. Initial motivation is money and they want to make more. The more work they can do the more they make. By training our teams we allow them to understand what is required of them and as such they start to work as a team. Well trained members of your team creates and environment of trust, self worth, team spirit and eventually loyalty to  those around them. For smaller providers this should be easy. For large organisations it is harder to get that personal touch and there is a risk of team members becoming nothing but numbers.

Is it in this that we can help build that loyalty? Know your teams, spend time with them, work with them, help in their training and development. Too often we can pass the buck to others and we miss that link to what we all need, to feel part of something bigger than ourselves. If you are in management, get back to the floor and work alongside them, if you are in training get out of the class room and show that you don’t mind getting your hand dirty. In other words, be a team.

 

Workingwithcrowds.com 19th March 2016

 

It all in the wording

At the recent #ICSC2016 a question was asked about the wording of the UK Police provided video Run, Hide, Tell. This was in relation to the word “Run”. It goes against everything we have been taught and the training and information we have provided over the years in regards to emergency situations, walk don’t run, take your time.  It was an exceptionally relevant question and the panel answering provided a rounded response.

It left me with the earworm question though, could you replace the word “Run”; I blame the 2.5hr traffic jam for this one. Can we replace the word..

Walk

Evacuate

Flee

Jog

Scamper

Retreat

Leave

All of these words have their own draw backs. As the officer on the panel said, there was concern around introducing the information into the public with the word run in it. They understood that this goes against all that has come before and as Dr Drury says it is uncertain what effect this may have in future terror threats evacuations or emergency situations.

As this word bugged me and I stared at the hard Red Break lights in front of me, I decided for myself that it was the best of a bad bunch. I believe that after years of information being provided to us on how to act in an emergency, we will revert to what we know. This is one campaign and although relevant at the moment is going against a mountain of information and training over the years before it.

Walk, don’t Run.

 

Workingwithcrowds.com 19th March 2016

 

 

 Is cheaper the better option?
The question in the back of out head is; are we placing safety behind price when it comes to crowd management?

After spending a year or so watching the market and listening to discussions on the matter, contracts swapping hands and new contracts being taken on, it may appear to be the case. We have heard of contracts been won purely based on the price, the lowest bidder.

We have even heard of a rather large safety contract being handed to a company as it was the cheaper option and after all any company can put people in hivis on the ground. This one did take us back a bit, especially when we heard this was challenged and trained staff and experience paled in comparison to price.

There have been major events that has taken serious steps back the way in order to save on cost. Safety and security has been compromised to save money, we would not point fingers; but I am sure a few out there know the tightrope they walk.

Is cheaper better? These providers have to make money somewhere and where does that saving come from?

Wages – what do the pay their staff.

Let’s all face it, money is why we work. If you are paying minimum wage are you getting the most motivated staff

Training- do they know what they are doing

Training someone for a casual/part time job is a large expense, especially with the turn over in the events industry. So is it cost effective to train staff?

Sub-contracting

How many times do you hear of agency staff being used as stewards? A fair bit, even on sites that you might not expected. So, no motivation or training

A few points on where to save money.

The cracks are appearing across the industry. You can tell by the volume of job advertisements for the industry. Companies are winning contract where they do not have the depth to man the jobs. Turnover is on the rise as retail companies increase there wages and a casual workforce turn to it.

Are we as an industry based on safety, now compromising this safety in order to save our clients a few pounds.
Workingwithcrowds.com 15th December 2015

Bad Man!

“Terrorism has once again shown it is prepared deliberately to stop at nothing in creating human victims. An end must be put to this. As never before, it is vital to unite forces of the entire world community against terror.”

Vladimir Putin

Again we have spent another weekend watching news footage, reports and videos depicting the death of innocent life. Around the globe we have seen a campaign of terror try to crush hope and prevent us from going about our daily life.

In Western Europe this was aimed at people as they went about their social lives; enjoying sports, a meal with loved ones and friends and an evening watching a rock band. Out of these venues, two would have had some form of security and stewarding deployed for the safety and crowd management. At the football stadium this would have been private security and police and the music venue private security.

“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

Alfred Hitchcock

Over the coming weeks there will be enough people talking about tightening of security, additional measures, being vigilant and awareness. When it comes to private security companies this will means requests for additional searching of customers, bag checks, accreditation checks, site patrols and resources. These will be deployed, then over the course of time scaled back, when the news returns to other stories and the memory fades.

Although security is part of the remit of crowd safety, it is not an area of expertise that this blogger focuses on. There are experts in the field that should be consulted and take advice and guidance from. It is crowd safety that comes to mind when I think of these attacks. What can we; as persons responsible for crowd safety, do in situations like this? Have you looked at it from that point of view?

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

For many years I worked alongside a colleague that took a great interest in the security and the protection side of the industry and life. Over the course of time he learned how to defend himself and what worked for him and what did not. He looked for the best in all disciplines and studied the best for him. Taking all he learned and combining it into a way of thinking, being, training and teaching. He expanded his knowledge and focused on those that would do harm to others in the name of terror and listening to things he would talk about sparked an idea, which just happened to be in his mind as well. This lead to a small group of likeminded people training; in a local venue that we used to work in.

Part of the experience was an expression that has stuck with me. As I have progressed my learning this is something I have tried to pass on – “Bad Man”. Two very simple words, that compared to words such as “terrorist”,  ”Extremist”; seem to mean nothing. But, if you think about it, they are far stronger. This simple combination of words for me is the perfect description. There is someone out there that wants to do bad things to you. That simple, someone wants to cause you harm.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

Sun Tzu

As well as the training, I started to think about the bigger role I had to perform. It was wonderful that I now felt confident in myself and a small group that I worked with, but what about my duty of care to those that visit the places we work in. What more could I do for them?

Traditionally, fire in what all venues are gauged on as an emergency. We now need to think bigger than that. We have to think of the “Bad Man”. As the persons responsible for the safety of customers at a venue, you are supposed to be the expert in how to evacuate your venue. If this is not the case, then why are you there? If it is for a pay check for you and your company then you are part of the problem.

Have you considered that you may not have that 2 minute warning to evacuate your venue? A sudden act of mass aggression will not allow you the luxury of redeployment of resources or possibly follow the chain of command. If your ideas are in your head and kept secret from those you work alongside, what is the point? You are a team and as such your ideas should be shared with the team. If you played football and end every player just went and done their own thing, then the game would not go very far.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

It may take a mindset that you do not want to think about, but someone has to do it. If you look at a problem long enough you will see so many variables that it becomes impossible to solve. You have to look at what measures can be put in place and then backups for each of these. By preparing several variations you increase the percentage of success. You then have to empower those around you. In the worse case the chain of command may not be there to pass on the information. They have to be confident in what they are doing. Through this your customers will have belief in what they are being instructed to do.

Some focus and team work and you will be amazed at what you can achieve. But, do not forget the most important part of the whole process – PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

Workingwithcrowds.com 16th November 2015

 

The struggle will only get harder

 

“Aldi trumps rivals with living wage hike”

“Big UK supermarkets adopt different living wage strategies”

The subject of the living wage has been going around the UK for the past couple of years and it looks like the retailers are pushing the button on activating it. So what does this mean to the crowd safety management in the UK? Do you think nothing will happen?

First question you should ask is, what do you pay your staff? When we say that we mean you proper staff, not those Blue badge heros that will not leave the house unless is for £10 an hour to hang about a pub door. I mean the brightly coloured masses that keep events safe and without them you would not be able to operate.

We are going to guess it is national minimum wage, or just over it so you don’t have to say you pay the minimum. Well this picture sums that up perfectly.

Chris-Rock-Worked-At-McDonalds-Making-Minimum-Wage

This is what you are telling your staff, we think that little of you, that it is only the government that is insisting that we pay you this. Not the greatest motivation to come to work.

Now think of your workforce, are they that motivated and dedicated to the safety of the public that they would rather earn less money to provide this service. They would rather be standing in the rain at an outdoor event than stacking shelves in a supermarket. They would rather be faced with abusive drunken attendees or sitting at a checkout talking to a wee granny doing her daily shop.

Not something that may affect you in year round venues, but what about when you have to ramp up for those seasonal peaks.

Winter, those party nights and New Year celebrations?

Summer, the festival season?

Have you ever considered that retailers are busy at this time as well? Winter, supermarkets take on seasonal workers to deal with the Christmas rush. This can be up to a 3 month window with the longer build up the Christmas and then the ever expanding sales in the new year.

The summer is not much different. Retailers have higher turnover in the summer. A lot of their workforce is mostly student based. During this period they will have higher labour turnover as students graduate and move on.

What strategic planning have you put in place to overcome this hurdle? Do you have a plan? Have you thought about it?

Maybe it’s about time you did.

“Aldi trumps rivals with living wage hike” By Ashley Armstrong, Retail Correspondent 26 Oct 2015

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/11953908/Aldi-trumps-rivals-with-living-wage-hike.html

“Big UK supermarkets adopt different living wage strategies” Andrea Felsted, Senior Retail Correspondent

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/1b3abf2a-7c08-11e5-98fb-5a6d4728f74e.html#axzz3q8jzsylj

Workingwithcrowds.com 31st October 2015

 

Spot the difference 

 

After a long weekend at an outdoor festival, due to illness I was in the unique situation where I could step back and perform a different role. This was as stage spotter during a concert.

This is a role I have performed before and found it no different than before. Unlike previous times though I had grown in confidence and comfortable with my understanding of crowds. A show stop which was always a nerve racking decision was now something I would not think twice about. But what I found was frustration and then my thoughts turned to other spotters and companies around the country; these thoughts being post event on the drive home.

Frustration

This was born out of a couple of things. First is the occasions where I was just a bit too far way to see something clearly. Then it dawned on, what equipment do I have but a radio/headset and a torch. Why don’t I have binoculars or video camera with digital zoom? This would even allow me to record incidents if need be. Why the hell have I never thought about this before?

This frustration was added to when I had to have a few prolonged radio calls to direct a cctv operator to pick up something in the crowd. Why does the spotter not have remote access to the cameras above the stage. These radio coms cause delay and tying up the airwaves.

Thoughts on Spotting

Post event my thoughts turned to the roll of the spotter and what training do they have? In this day where qualifications are all important, what training and qualifications do we provide to our spotters?

Do we train them on crowd dynamics and movement

Do we train them on crowd densities

Do we train them on show stops and when to call them

Do we provide relevant data and reference to pass accurate locations

Do we give them sufficient rest

Do we only have them on stage during bands

It seems that we have slowed in the development of this role, should we not be pushing this development. Could we introduce technology? Should we standardise training and qualifications?

Or should we just plod along with the same old same old
Workingwithcrowds 11th September 2015

Where are the limits?

Over the years we have seen a vast improvement in the safety at events across the UK and the success of these improvements have been watched from around the world and influencing global change.

Are we creating problems down the road though? We do not mean in legislation or regulations, but in man power.

Years ago the police held the control over the final say in an event happening or not and I am sure there was decisions made on the police not being able to supply enough officers to the event. With the reliance now on private industry and “police free” events, this is no longer a factor. As long as the organisers have made all the correct applications then what is to stop it……it is then the problem of the private security provider to resource the event.

Not many companies are going to refuse work or money. But are they providing the service they agreed to? Or are they getting by with the skin of their teeth; using every trick in the book to get the boots on the ground. But are they trained? Have they performed the role before? Are you putting your events at risk?

Be honest with yourself and think about this manpower. It is a limited supply. There are a limited amount of companies, trained staff and capability. Every company can boast that they have so many staff, but the majority of them work on a casual basis and how many work for multiple companies?
Then look at the volume of events on and the resources they need – football clubs, sports grounds, music venues, street events, nightclubs, music festivals. This is no problem when they all happen at separate times, but what happens when you get the perfect storm and they all land on the same day.

Now, there are people out there breaking into cold sweats because it happens a lot more than you think. Events are not just a local impact, they can be national; especially if you think of large scale festivals or sporting events.

Is there control measures in place for this? Who out there is saying ” wait an minute! “. Is any one looking at all the events in a city and calculating what resources they need, what companies do they use. Then look at it by county, then nationally.

Years ago, one of the biggest companies in the world got caught out. Not in the service it supplied or training, but in demand. The demand for security increased massively compared to the initial request; but just like any company, they where never going to say no…that is not what we agreed, it is too late and cannot be done.

If the biggest supplier globally struggles on the biggest event in the world, what about everyone else week to week when demand peaks well above normal. At what point do we say it is not going to happen.

There is not an endless number of hivis clones waiting in warehouses to be brought out when it is busy. Most companies function on minimum wage and their workforce are casual. They don’t all just sit about waiting to jump into action.

Scary thoughts and walking a line that grows thinner every year.
Workingwithcrowds 21st August 2015

………but the Law won

 

This one is a mini blog, on the back of a few tweets and a post from Emma Parkinson on the possibility of acts now being sued in the USA for crowd surfing. This got the old Grey Matter thinking, can you imagine it; the effect this could have on live music.

– bands would stay on the stage

– concert goers could be lined up at the side of a stage giving details, just in case anyone wanted to sue them for crowd surfing during the show

– the audience would have more cctv trained on them to gather evidence

– bands would be actively stopping them doing it

– venues and promoters would be terrified each show invade they are dragged into the legal minefield

Hitting promoters, venues and band where it hurts the most is what brings about change and self policing. Getting your safety and security provider to educate your customers only goes so far, but a band getting involved changes the whole picture.

The fear of loosing money could have a massive impact on certain genre and change the landscape of the live performance. Can you see Slayer and Slipknot playing to an all seated audience? It could happen.
Workingwithcrowds 17th August 2015

 

The answer to the question, lies in social media.

 

Well, what is the question? The question is, why are we not learning fast enough? Why are we not progressing faster. Well, could it be because we do not share?

An old subject that I have been prompted to share again. Why does an industry based on safety not share knowledge and information? Again we come to the point where we would suggest “knowledge is power” and in this case the more power, the more money.

The best example of this can be found in social media. In an age where we spend a vast amount of time online, it is stunning how little we share with others. We all love a good kitten video or baby picture, but it would seem to be out of the question to share some news, knowledge or information.

It must be said and I cannot deny it, I spend a fair bit of time on Twitter, Facebook and Google search. A rather unhealthy obsession that means I don’t spend a lot of time watching TV (I am just catching up with Breaking Bad) and I don’t read newspapers or magazines because they are out of date. In my online lust for information I see others join in, but not many. In an industry that in the UK alone must employ over 100,000 people, social media is lacking in participants.

I will admit, there is a tendency to focus on when things go wrong within the crowd management industry; good news just comes off as boasting or a hard sell. It may be wrong, but it is the bad news that pushes us forward. We learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. Unfortunately though, it seems like we would rather just watch and read than share with others. Surely, sharing helps us improve and makes out events safer.

For example

A Tweet on an accident created by a fault at a festival. What would happen if we shared this information, how far could we go. Let’s set some limits though, based on real life.

A small crowd management company 5 managers, each use Twitter and have 100 people follow them with industry ties. Sharing the post means 500 within the industry are aware of it. There is also the overlap of a person seeing something multiple times on a timeline. We are more likely to read an article if you see it more than one; it will catch you attention.

A medium size company, let’s say 20 managers, each having 100 followers. That is 2000 people reached. If they retweet, then it grows and grows.

A large company 100 managers, with 100 followers. That is 10,000 reached. Can you imagine the number reached if they all retweeted. Why is my timeline not exploding with news and developments within the industry.

You know the reason; money rules. Would it be wrong to share the information within the industry and let others know. Maybe then, we would look at our events to see if the same fault is there. We could learn about new bands and the profile of their fans. Maybe we could learn new techniques that someone has developed in Outer Mongolia? Maybe.

I am guessing it would be optomistic of me to think that one day this will happen. On this subject, I choose to have hope, to see the best in all of us and to care about what we do. Maybe one day.
Workingwithcrowds 4th August 2015

 
Inner City Blues

 

We have seen footage of some scary scenes at a festival in England this week and everyone is entitled to their point of view and opinions. Video and the press can make things seem worse than they were and the sensationalism can blow things out of proportion. All I would say on the matter is, well done to those on the ground on the day for performing as professionally as possible and controlling the situation in the best possible way.

This has helped highlight inner city events and what we see up and down the country though. Although I would suggest this was an extreme version of other events, it is common at outdoor events held within city limits for this type of behaviour. The yearly game of cat and mouse between non ticket holders and security seems to be a never ending loop.

Festivals held in the green belt areas are seeing a reduction in “fence jumpers”, maybe they are just not as attractive these days. There could be several factors in this – cost of getting to these sites, better security or a lack of interest in the line up. A festival/ outdoor concert held within the limits of a major city though is within easy reach of the local population.

We can all admit that your average concert ticket price is not cheap. This puts it out of the reach of parts of the community, either they don’t have the money or would rather spend it on other things. If your event though is attractive to a high percentage of the local population, it may be worth while dropping past. What is the worst that can happen, they waste some time? If they are lucky, they get a look and hear the gig for free and if they are really lucky, they get in somehow.

Over the years we have seen the development of fencing to separate the paying customer form the would be chancer. Is this needing reviewed now though; do we have to relook at these provisions and improve this system. Over time the deployment of a massive Green fence is becoming less problematic to those that do not want to pay. What is the next step?

It could be suggested that as a community that we should be looking at this together, not as individuals or companies and all coming up with varied ideas. ( look at VHS and Betamax – costs lots of money for finally one to bite the dust ). Through working together, can we not develop ideas and work with providers to achieve the desired results quicker and save on cost. It is just a thought, but if we just all keep complaining about it and don’t move forward, then do we have the right to moan.

 Workingwithcrowds 8th July 2015

 

You have to be swift to keep up with the Swifties

“Swiftie

A fan of the young country/pop singer/songwriter Taylor Swift.

“Look at her Taylor Swift-shirt! She must be a Swiftie!”

Urban Dictionary

A few years ago I would have been just like anyone else of my age group “Taylor who?”, after storming through the ranks in the music world to the pinnacle,  I guess none of us can say that now though. With a devoted fan base of millions and an artist that communicates with her fans through all forms of social media, you have a connection between artist and fans that possibly shows us things to come with this genre of music.

This blog is more of a memory dump of events and implementation of thoughts for Miss Swift’s massive outdoor concert in London in June 2015 – 65000 Swifties.

What we knew before hand

  • We had a sell out show, 65000.
  • We could negate overnight queuing due to site restrictions
  • As a festival set up, we had a longer ingress time line and multiple entrances
  • A couple of tour dates in the lead up to the event, to provide relevant crowd data.

What the tour dates provided us with

  • There was less early queuing than predicted ( although the shows where mid week )
  • They arrived on mass for the door times, so the queues built quickly
  • The customers where older than we thought in the whole.
  • They were very compliant and took instructions and information well when passed by stewards
  • When the show starts, they are focused on the show and very little movement.
  • The indoor shows had seating on the floor and the customers kept the isles clear.

This late information was extremely valuable when it came to the show day preparation. As there was a show the night before we had to wait to the last minute ( and a very late night ) before we could start the implementation of the crowd management systems. So what type of things did we look at?

Communication

The social media information, email drops and stewarding was all about communication. When you have a fan base that follows every movement of the main acts life; then keep them informed. For those that turned up early it helped to talk to them. Choose relevant information that they will want to know and speak to them. Pass on helpful tips and speak to them in smaller groups; don’t try and speak to hundreds at a time, pick smaller groups. Continue this throughout the day and they will trust you – if you tell them lies though, god help you.

Queuing systems

We had the potential for 65000 customers to turn up for the doors opening, so we had to plan ahead. Site maps, Google earth, crowd dynamics software, queuing theory, arrival profiles, customer ticket purchase information, customer surveys, weather reports and that gut feeling. All where looked at and all relooked at and relooked at. Barrier systems where constructed in a way that customers understood that they would enter in the order that they arrived. This was the most important part – there is nothing worse for a devoted fan than the thought of someone queue jumping.

We worked with the customers as soon as they arrived, communicating, passing on safety advice and relevant information on the show. We encouraged them to sit on the ground ( it was a lovely summers day ). This provided a sociable and relaxed audience, well rested and enjoying the wait. In crowd management terms – we prevented a build up in density in the queuing systems, conserved the energy of the customers to assist them last the long day and we could see that they where hydrated and fed.

When it came closer to doors, we communicated to small groups at a time. We explained the entry process, we explained how we would move them through the queuing system and that it would be slow and controlled. This is exactly what they wanted to hear, we were getting them in as they arrived and they wanted to help this happen.

As we got the queue ready to move, the customers followed the information they were provided with, the occasional reminder of what we all wanted was enough to see a controlled and compliant queuing system. Well done Swifties – you rocked.

Security ain’t all that bad

Too many attending, they would not be experienced concert goers and security was a scary thing. To your average 5 year old, I am a 6ft monster. Your average teenage girl, I am the guy that is going to give them into trouble and spoil their fun. To the parent and guardians I am the man that could spoil their loved ones day out. We had to ensure this did not happen.

The breaking of these stereotypes started days before. We explained to all stewards the profile of the audience, provided them with all the information and explained what we wanted to make it a great day. This was emphasised the closer we got to show day and especially on the morning of the show.

The stage barrier staff had comprehensive briefings and safety information. This was worked on throughout the day and tweaked for each area to match the audience in those areas.

The queue management teams; they where the exact same. The whole operation was to show that we were there to help and ensure they had a great day out. It was the simple things that worked, talking to the customers, joking with them, joining in selfies, sing alongs, dance routines. I personally ran the batteries out in a few loud hailers keeping customers entertained. A loud hailer, ipod and a sing along goes a long way to show that you are part of the experience.

Preventing a queue building up

As we got closer to the door times we observed a rapid increase in the volume of customers arriving. So, we kind of cheated – we opened early. It was not a massive deception and we did not lie to anyone. All we done was prevent the creation of a massive queue. This allowed us to process all the ones that had been queuing and waiting all morning. When those customers arrived at the time of advertised doors opening, they walked straight in. This was a win all round – those that queued all morning, got in a bit early, those that were expecting to join a big queue walked straight in to enjoy their day and we freed up man power from queue management to assist in other areas.

Arena design

All your average fan wants to do is see and hear their idol when they go to a concert. When you have 65000 customers they cannot all be in front of the stage. The site was designed to allow the customers to use the full site and have a great experience. This was created through the use of video screens, PA system and creative show.

A stage barrier system was created to encourage full use of the site, preventing late comers to attempt to push their way to the front and cause disruption.

All of these things helped create a systematic and controlled environment and hopefully an experience to remember for the customers and encourage them to attend future events. All it takes is a bit of understanding, thought, team work by all partners and reviewing the plans till the last minute to ensure you have got it on the button.

Workingwithcrowds 8th July 2015

Barriers to match audiences.

After assisting in the planning process for an event and then spending the past two weeks delivering the plan; it is with satisfaction we can look back and see that all the effort was worth it. That includes the late nights before the events, tweeking the plans. reviewing the latest data and reviewing the barriers as they where being built.

It is very rare to see and event that puts as much effort into matching their front of stage provision to match the requirements of the audience and the front of stage teams. To see a barrier being moved each night and altered to take in ticket sales, profile, stage set up and customer experience.

Taking the learning’s of previous years and similar profiles of event, a bespoke barrier system was set up each day. Working as a team, the promoters, barrier contractors and safety teams worked together to create a greater customer experience and a safer working environment for the front of stage teams.

As well as the focus on the barrier, training was important. This came from the ability of the safety teams front of stage and enhancing their training and also looking at the crowd dynamics in front of the barrier and the expected movement of the audience. This paid off on the event days as we seen a more interactive and educated safety team at front of stage that thrived on the training provided to them.

We will go further into this in future in a more  in depth blog.

Workingwithcrowds 01 July 2015

Standing up for making change

We are seeing changes across Europe and finally we are seeing changes within the UK in top fight football; although not England. Premiership football in Scotland is introducing the safe standing system within stadiums.

Following in the footsteps of European clubs, Scotland if now looking to move forward. After the Hillsbourgh disaster the introduction of all seater stadiums across top fight football within the UK was required. Of this I have no doubt and I do not see the day where we will return to the days of all standing stadiums. A generation of fans have been brought up being told to sit down and a high percentage with still want to. But times have changed and so have the safety equipment and management of stadiums.

It is time to move forward. Our nation has been educated through the mistakes of the past. I have had fans talk to me about areas of congestion and talk to me about crowd density. They may not know it but the years of news coverage, reports, those “jobsworth stewards” have passed on a basic understanding of crowd safety management.
Now is the time to work with them and introduce new and tested systems to provide the experience they are looking for. I have spent years working at Celtic Park and I have seen the efforts the club and stewarding companies have gone to reach the point they are ready to introduce safe standing. The fans have a want for it and are willing to work with the club. This ensures self policing and correct use of the system. They will take pride in what they are doing and this with cascade across the stadium and the changes they are making.

I wish these clubs all the best and look forward to seeing the results.
Workingwithcrowds 9th June 2015

Pay it forward

As with all industries, crowd safety management has developed over the course of time. We have leaders and pioneers that every once in awhile push the industry forward and improve the standards of delivery, service, thought process, technical ability and understanding. It is for the rest of us to understand this and implement these developments.

With the passing of time I hear people harking back to the good old days and things have changed; “it’s just not the same these days”. Correct, times have changed; we have moved out of the dark ages and now strive to improve.

It is through our adoption of the teachings of these pioneers that we drive the industry forward. Those that want the good old days are the ones that have been left behind and do not want to change either through lack of interest or understanding.

If we have undertaken the time and effort to learn the developments provided to us by the industry leaders, is it not our part of the chain to pass this learning on? Should we not assist in spreading the teachings and knowledge? After all it is not our intellectual property, it was gifted to us to assist us develop and create safer events. If we have an understanding of this knowledge, by passing it on we can spark the interest of our colleagues and maybe engage the next pioneer.

In a small way we can all play our part to move forward. Education is for the betterment of all, it is not to assist make your company more money. The generation of money from the development of a product lies with the pioneers that created it.

With great sadness that I see companies try to take credit for others work and just look to make money from it. There are also too many industry leaders that are not willing to work together to better what we can achieve. Money has blinded them and egos have suppressed them. We should work together to improve basic training and understanding. We should freely work in partnership with educational facilities to validate and expand the development of our skills.

 

Workingwithcorwds 6th June 2015

To pin, or not to pin? That is the question

Taking part in a course relating to the barrier and operations at a front of stage, it was enjoyable to see different points of view and opinions. One of the topics was, should a front of stage barrier be pinned to the ground at an external event?

There where two camps on this; those against pinning and those for it.

After joining in on the conversation ( and then deciding to shut my mouth and spend the remainder of the conversation reading Twitter ( I get bored when banging my head against a brick wall )) it seemed to come to the conclusion that there was no right of wrong answer.

That struck me as strange. Why is there no answer? If there is disagreement in terms of safety, why is no one working on this? We have computers to run simulations. It is not like we are looking for crash test dummies.
There was also another part of the conversation that I found strange, this being the two camps; pro pinning lobby and the anti pinning lobby.

In the Pro Pinning corner we had-

The local authority, those that on outdoor events will finally sign off you licences to have the event.

In the Anti Pinning corner we had –

The barrier supply companies

The barrier construction companies

The event planners/ health and safety managers

The crowd safety managers

The consultants delivering the course

The front of stage supervisors

As you can see the balance of the anti pinning group was significantly greater. Despite this, the pro pinning group would not agree. This is despite all the experts in the room; those that are practitioners, suppliers and planners where opposed to pinning. And, the reason for this stance?

They wanted proof.

That simple and when I think about it, they are not wrong. How can you disprove them as being mistaken in their opinion without proof.
Workingwithcrowds 28th May 2015

Did you hear the one about the bouncer in a field?

“This one’s for the bouncers. Big, big Monkey Man”

The Specials 1979

article-1169416-046B7942000005DC-864_233x3181979……1979. Sorry I had to repeat that year. This was a song dedicated to the “Bouncer” back in 1979 and we can still sing along to it today and relate to it. I am not going to focus on the nightclub scene and all the related stereotypes that go with it, but instead look at the festival scene and the volume of staff and type of staff it requires.

Music festivals; especially the larger ones, can swallow up vast quantities of staff. With this in mind we will find the variety of the staff is just as varied as the customers. We will have students, professionals with a second job, retired folks looking to keep active and door man. It is the door man we will look at.

Since the introduction of the SIA and Door Supervisors within the UK, we have seen an improvement in the standards of security within the industry, but that does not always relate to a festival. If you go with the stereotype a door man “bouncer” will be a muscle bound gorilla standing all night on a pub or nightclub door. Now, at this point I would like to say that I do not agree with this stereotype; I will admit there is a higher percentage than I would like that do have an uncanny resemblance to this stereotype, but it has improved. I will admit though, that I am amazed that some managed to get a Security Licence and it does worry me. These security professionals have no place in the world of crowd safety management and should be left standing on doors whilst the rest of the industry moves on and looks after the safety of our customers.

 

 

It is at this point the industry hits a problem and a bit of a conflict of interest.

Promoters want to present the image of a friendly welcoming environment with rainbows and skipping through the fields holding hands.; lovely image that. A true festival is reflective of the local society we live in though. If you live in Disneyland, then that is the festival you have. If you live in an area where there are a lot of bars, nightclubs where people enjoy drinking and possible drug use; then that is reflected in the festival you have. You have nice family friendly festival and you have festivals are a bit rougher and have higher risk to them.

To provide as safe an environment as possible, the promoter in partnership with the security provider will put all the planning in place in line with the safety advisory group. This will be to a budget and in line with the requirements of the festival. As budgets get tighter and profits focused on; then so do costs. Security is a massive part of these costs. More and more promoters want to operate a police free environment (cost plays a part of this as well as legislation). So how do you make the naughty kids behave when there is no police……..

To make the young and the reckless behave you implement what they are used to week in week out when they are out socialising, the doorman. For me there are two types of door man; Type 1 – They just have to look at you and you will shit yourself and start behaving as they have the ability to let you know mentally that the beating they could give you would be epic. Type 2 – The hard men that make you behave by being violent – slap you around or if no one is looking, give you a good kicking. Type 1 have a great ability and to be honest is an asset at times. When you have no police at hand the ability to make a group of aggressive people calm down without really doing anything but talking to them; with the ability to bring a violent confrontation to a safe and controlled end if needed, is usefully at 3am on a dark campsite. But Type 2, they just cannot adjust to the festival environment and are an accident waiting to happen.

“Festival-goer died after being ‘handcuffed by security staff and dumped in field’

The Telegraph Wednesday 20 May 2015

The majority of door staff  are very adapt at doing the role of club security and working on a festival; they grasp the understanding that you are there for customer safety above all. But others should just avoid stepping off that door step. If they cannot admit it themselves, then it is our responsibility to do so. We are the safety valve that is there to stop harm coming to our customers. it may take relooking at your staffing for an event to realise that you have a few loose canons in there and it is time to weed them out and give the customers the protection and service that they require.

Workingwithcrowds 20th May 2015