Everything You Need to Know about Crowd Management

In this episode Frank Wijnveld tells you everything you need to know about crowd management, and how you can tackle this challenge on your next event.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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In this episode Frank Wijnveld tells you everything you need to know about crowd management, and how you can tackle this challenge on your next event.


Hi Frank, welcome in our studio.  


Thank you.  


Today we're going to talk about crowd management. But let's start with: what is crowd management? 


Well, crowd management is basically what you have on your shirt: it's event planning. We try to develop a good arrangement for the event, so that people are welcome, don't have the feeling that it's too overcrowded, dangerous and not comfortable. So basically crowd management is all measures you can think of to create that atmosphere. So partly it's planning, security planning, safety, creating a good entrance, catering, and so on. So that you can do before the event, but on the day itself you can also develop a good design for your site, so that people are not with too many people in narrow areas. 


What's too many people? How many people can be on a square metre, for example? 


Yeah, there's not a real proper definition for that, because when you think of people having a beer in a bar, normally it's about 3 people per square metre. But you can also think of a situation on the barrier line in front of the stage. 


Yeah, it will be a bit more crowded.  


It will be more crowded. So it might be up to 6 or 7 people at the most, but that's really the limit. And crowd management is all about designing layout, where you plan a lot of people directly in front of the stage, and a smaller number of people per square metre in the areas further away. So if you add those numbers up to a total, then that's the total capacity. 


But then we are also taking into account the escape routes, the entrance routes, and all capacities over there?  


If you have done this, then the second question is: how much evacuation capacity do I have to offer to get the crowd out in proper time. But the question also is: what is proper time? Because at least in the Netherlands, there is not a legal time for evacuation for outdoor events. So we calculate with the numbers from the UK Purple Guide, in 8 minutes we design. But there is also a law in the Netherlands that says that buildings and so on must be empty after 15 minutes. 


But 15 minutes is still a long time if there's an explosion or a fire. Then I wouldn't stay in for 15 minutes. 


These 15 minutes are the defined time that people must be out of the room where the fire is in 1 minute. And the next room they have 6 or 7 minutes to leave that part. And the total building should be empty in 15 minutes, so that's the translation of that. But outdoor events are totally different. So normally we design them 8 minutes. Both because the Purple Puide in the UK does the same, and they are very experienced in crowd management and crowd planning. And at the same time you want to have the area free for the emergency services, so they can cope with the disaster. 


Okay, so suppose you made your homework upfront. You know how many people you can host, you know all the escape routes... But then it comes to the day of the event itself. You need to make people aware of an issue on an event, and get them out. How do you manage that? 


We work with the theory of the professor Dr. Keith Still. A British professor who has a theory and it's called DIM ICE. DIM is Design Information Management. So design is all about a good layout of your venue. So you can imagine that if you want to host 10,000 people and you only have two entrances... 


That will be very long queues.  


Yeah. Well, in Britain it's not a problem, because they have the noble art of queueing, but in the Netherlands it's not good. So you have to think, probably months before opening, about a good layout. Because you don't want too many crowd flows crossing each other or facing each other. If possible you don't want any. So if you have a good design, then you're gonna think about the information you have to offer to the crowd to get them properly informed, but to also have them move the way you want them to move. So that's two ways. Prior to the event, they are planning how to arrive at the venue. So you have to offer information about mobility. And within the premises you have to offer good information about toilets, catering facilities, emergency routes, emergency exits, and so on. So you see that information is much more than only saying: "we are opening at 3 o clock and this artist is coming and so on". You have to create an arrangement, a concept, where you hide those safety notices within your information about the event. Because then they adapt the information. Oh no, then they can consume the information.  


Because people are not interested in that kind of information? They just want to know when the artist is coming and "I'm coming for that". 


That's why you have to hide it more or less in the total event information. And on the day itself you have to make it very clear for everyone, with big banners, where which services or exits are located. The third thing about DIM ICE is the M for management. You have to have a good organisation, a good management, in place, to cope with the large numbers of crowds coming in, staying there and leaving after the event. Certainly, if there's an evacuation.  


If you did all the planning correct, then there's still the fact in most cases that you have the private event organisers, you have the police, you have the firemen. How do you get them to work along and get them to have the same action plans if something happens? 


We have the problem that we're struggling with the connection between the policy, city, fire brigade and so on, on this side, and the organiser and security company on this side. Because they all have their own plans, but there's no integrated concept. I also work in football, and from the UEFA perspective, we say we have to have an integrated approach. And we work on that on Champions League and so on. Yeah, it makes sense to have an integrated approach. Yeah, but on events we don't see that too much yet. So we are always trying to gather everyone around the table two months before the event. And to create a proper plan, which contains the tasks of the police, of the fire brigade, of the organiser, of the security department, private security, and so on. But it's a struggle, yeah. 


Maybe to conclude with: How big does my crowd have to be to start doing crowd management? 


Well, it's 2 persons and up, basically. You can't say: "from 500" or "from 1000", because it's a combination of the number of people coming in, the area where they arrive and have to circulate, the number of emergency exits and the identity of the event you plan. You can imagine that some events are riskier than others. So this combination makes it worth having a small crowd management concept or a larger one. 


Frank, thank you very much for coming over. And you at home: thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week!