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Crowd Management at Events: 5 Best Practices for Venues

by | Last updated Nov 20, 2017

A heavy event turnout is indeed a good thing. However, with a crowded venue comes a greater likelihood of disorder, injury, or damage to property. It’s your legal obligation to ensure the event concludes with everyone making it safely to their cars or hotel. Crowd management is extremely important and cannot be overlooked. Here are five crowd control measures for maintaining order at a crowded function.

  1. Have Ample Staff

What’s the optimal staff-to-attendee ratio? There’s no specific figure, but one to two staff members for every 10 guests is a good rule of thumb. Each staff should also be versed in the layout of the venue. They should, for example, know where the nearest restroom is from any point in the venue.

Communication among members is also very important. Each member should be able to stay in contact through their personal devices or walkie talkies. This way, staff can hurry over in a minute’s notice if a colleague requires assistance.

Staff should also be strategically placed and assigned an area. There should be staff present for areas like the registration line, guest service station, and presentation room.

  1. Hire Third-Party Security

It’s not recommended that you have your own staff perform the duties of security or safety officers. Regular staff may lack the training and a single misstep can result in a major complaint or even a lawsuit.

Instead, hire third-party security that are actually trained to handle certain situations. The following duties should be left to security and not event staff:

  • Using metal detectors and checking personal bags for contraband
  • Confronting an unruly guest and detaining an attendee
  • Contacting law enforcement or ambulance in an emergency

Be sure to instruct staff to report any suspicious activity to security. The communication among staff also need to extend to the security team.

  1. Use Barricades and Stanchions

Lines can quickly become disorderly with people branching off and forming second and third lines, cutting off people in the right line. For registration areas and any area that requires waiting in line, use stanchions or cones with yellow tape to establish where the line begins and ends. You can also use these materials to cordon off no-go or staff-only areas.

You should use temporary fencing and/or barricades to establish the event perimeter from the rest of the public square. This is especially recommended if all or a portion of the event takes place outdoors. It also prevents event crashers from blending in from the rest of the attendees.

  1. Perform a Risk Evaluation

There is always a risk of something undesirable occurring, hence the need for security personnel. Review all the possible scenarios in which something terrible may occur and have a plan for it. As part of a risk assessment, you should, for instance, be able to identify every venue exit and instruct staff to make sure they’re unobstructed at all times.

An evaluation may also include the likelihood of purposeful disruption. People may use your event to advance their own agendas or protest if they have a grievance with your company. An example of this happened with a 2017 speaking event with political commentator Ben Shapiro at the University of California Berkeley. A risk evaluation concluded that protestors may potentially occupy the second floor of the lecture hall and throw the chairs down at the guests below. As a result, the entire second floor was cordoned off even though that meant drastically reducing the number of available seats. This is what it means by covering all possible scenarios and planning with safety as a priority.

  1. Have an Emergency Plan

Having an emergency plan is the natural follow-up in a risk evaluation. It outlines the steps staff members are to take should an emergency scenario take place. If attendees need to be evacuated, for example, is there a designated waiting area outside for them? Another consideration may be cordoning off an area near an entry as a reserve spot for an emergency vehicle. You may also need to identify all entryways with a double door that allows emergency responders to enter with equipment (i.e. stretcher).

All potential emergencies are compounded when dealing with a large crowd. On your part, you need to plan and keep communication tight between staffers and security. An organized plan ensures you are ready to tackle a situation should situations get out of control.

Dan McCarthy is an Event Manager at Ultimate Experience and Mask, event management companies part of the Concerto Group, based in the UK. Dan has 6 years of event project management under his belt. He has worked on many successful events, and currently he shares his knowledge by writing on the company blog. Follow him on Twitter @DanCarthy2.