Mind Over Matter

Event Safety Revisited: Crowd Management after Manchester

Posted: August 17, 2017-Likes: 1-Comments: 0-Categories: Crowd Management

Reeperbahn Festival Conference Mag approached Professor Chris Kemp, CEO for MOM Consultancy Ltd shortly after the terror attack at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on May 22, to talk about new security levels at live events. Recent attacks on events mean event promoters are facing new challenges to revamp their safety concepts and strategies in order to meet the new need of increased security efforts due to the threat of attack.

Read the interview below.

Reeperbahn Festival: The tragedy of the terror attack in Manchester has
once more shown how vulnerable events in these days are. What is your advice the live music community should consider when developing or newly adopting safety concepts for their events?

Chris Kemp: There is a lot of advice one can give but it falls into two categories. The first is advice that people will take notice of because it is new and stimulating and the second is advice that people refuse to take on board because they do not wish to change the way that they have always worked. The main issue with any organisation is that they are not good at reviewing what has always worked because they have not been involved in a terrorist attack. In many cases, there are simple changes which can create a deterrent, where those attacking may think twice or abort such an attack. One element which must change during an event is the way in which arrival, ingress, egress and departure phases are viewed by those managing the event. During the arrival phase the audience is pulsed towards the event by transport arrivals, lifts and escalators. Depending on the genre of music, the artist playing or the idiosyncrasies of the particular, venue this pulsing will take place at set times. Some will follow a normal distribution curve but others may have a late walk up or, in the case of a teenage audience, may cause early arrival at a venue. In such cases the arrival patterns of the audience can cause large queues and congestion which creates blockages and congestion which is a prime target for an attack. Small changes and crowd profiling activities can help the venue management team prepare in advance for such eventualities, changing the ingress and site design to cope with early or late pulsing. In relation to the egress and departure phases which happens all at one time over a short period, it is clear from surveys that the same security presence is not available at the end of a show as it is at the beginning; staff get tired, security is used to sweep the audience from the building and in many cases those waiting for relatives and friends to come out of the venue are in close proximity. A small change to the security, crowd management and safe delivery to  transport hub connections could help stop such atrocities as were seen in Manchester. These are just two small elements that could be changed to support better resilience at venues. However, training in behavioural detection for all customer service staff can create deterrents and changing timings of searches, walking the floor and overt approaches to those in queues can create the abort of an attack. All simple things but which need to be applied in practice to help avert similar attacks on venues.

Reeperbahn Festival: Due to your academic expertise you are also a consulting official for security bodies. How have these kind of organisations changed in recent years regarding security strategies and concepts?

Chris Kemp: Much of my work today is working with festivals, events, railway stations and other crowded spaces to try to alleviate different kinds of issues. These organisations have changed drastically over the last ten years but there is still a reluctance to spend money on hostile countermeasures, safety devices and other crowd management tools by some organisations, as they do not see their relevance. It is not until there is an attack that money is thrown at such interventions but by then it is too late. The best organisations to work with are those that have budgets to spend on the latest deterrents and are constantly updating their software and hardware elements to try to keep one step ahead of the terrorist. However, with the range of attack methodologies being utilised at the present time this has become a difficult task. Many of the crowd dynamics and modelling companies such as Movement Strategies through their constant updating of software and new delivery of crowd movement help those in companies to get to grips with the kind of issues that they have in their venues and crowded spaces. This can then be translated into
countermeasure delivery which can project when and where both soft- and hardware elements will be needed. The main issue here is that most companies do not have a strategy but work on short term operational plans. This is about having a strategy in place through which the implementation of resources can support the changing hostile environment.

Reeperbahn Festival: In the article „Keeping Festivals and Events in an Uncertain World“ you wrote in April for the City Security Magazine, you mentioned that Roskilde Festival has taken on a security expert with a military background. Is this now a new level of expertise promoters need to take into consideration when undertaking efforts to improve their safety concepts?

Chris Kemp: I would say that this is one of the options. It just happens that this expert has worked with my company on a number of occasions and is a consultant on one of the most crowded areas in the UK. His expertise was invaluable, not only because he was able to apply what he does to the festival environment as another crowded space but also because it was a fresh pair of eyes being used in a different context. This type of interdisciplinary approach is invaluable in security and crowd management as often new ideas can be developed and new insights into what is taking place can be relayed to the client. I would say that using people from all areas where crowded space is an issue as consultants at events and festivals can pay dividends as they often put a new spin on what is often a tried and tested scrutiny in one context and a usual environment. This is about differentiating what is happening from the event baseline. Identifying the unusual and what is different is the key when trying to stop incidents from taking place.

Reeperbahn Festival: What are from your point of view your latest findings when it comes to training and education measures for security staff?

Chris Kemp: I have recently been tasked with creating a Behavioral Detection programme for customer care operatives on railway stations which focuses on base level staff identifying when something is out of the ordinary and relaying this upward immediately to superiors and the police. Just the simple identification of unusual behaviour and an approach from staff to ask if a person is lost can be enough to disturb a pattern of hostile reconnaissance and ensure that an attack in the future may be aborted. Using modelling companies is also important to identify pinch points and areas of congestion where queues could easily form and create a target for the terrorist. Educating staff on vigilance and ensuring that they get proper breaks is really important because complacency is the enemy of resilience. Developing response teams that are educated in behavioural response is really important, as such teams can help security and the police when issues become apparent. This not only links to attack methodologies but crime, queue jumping, gate hopping and other aspects of crowded space deviance. The key element in training is to ensure that interoperability takes place in all areas and that those working for different organisations are working as a team with a single plan as this is crucial to the safe running of an event. Other specific aspects such as searching must be updated on a regular basis to ensure that new methodologies and compliance with the law is upheld.

Reeperbahn Festival: The festival promoter of Rock Am Ring in Germany
gained sharp criticism when recently announcing for its current edition of the event that festival goers are not allowed to take in foldable containers for security reasons on the festival site. However, the promoter provides free water and cups on the site itself, but some parts of the visitors ventured via social media outlets their concerns regarding this decision, leading to the promoter meanwhile to allow at least foldable empty containers with a capacity of not more than 500 ml » on the site. Do promoters now need to adopt for their audience security standards as we know them for passengers in the aviation sector?

Chris Kemp: I believe that there should be a series of pan European safety measures for events which are tried tested and retested each season to ensure their efficacy. In the case of Wacken Festival, they provide every participant with a ‘swag bag’ which includes such bottles. If the organisers are willing to manage such a dissemination of bottles they can be (almost) sure that tampering has not taken place and that they are creating a sterile system. However, this should not be about cost, it should be about ethics and ensuring that the audience, who after all pay everyone’s wages through their ticket purchases, are the focus of the event and not the profit line. To create a universal set of guidance elements would cost the festival some money as corners would not be able to be cut  and a high level of safety measures would have to be implemented to ensure that the audience was not only safe but cared for through a high level and supportive welfare system essential at all events.

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