The ability to understand crowd behaviours should be considered as one of the most important tools available when planning for crowds, the management of crowds, the measures used to reduce the likelihood of an incident and how best to control the crowd.
Examples of crowd management planning that went wrong
At the Love Parade festival in Germany (2010), 19 people died as a result of crowd surges and a further 510 were injured. A 240 meter tunnel was the supposed only entry point for festival goers, so when people were told to turn around due to overcrowding it led to crowd surges from two directions meeting each other. All of the autopsies showed crushed rib cages and lung collapse as the main cause of the fatalities (source: www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-10751899).
More recently, in September 2015, 717 people were suffocated or crushed during the annual Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. The root cause of the disaster was two bottlenecking streets that formed the entrance to the Mecca Shrine (source: www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-34346449).
Both the above incidents could have been averted if there was a clearer understanding of the crowds behaviour with planning for incidents arising in ‘normal’ conditions and not just ‘emergency’ conditions.
Site design is considered to be a contributor to both the above incidents but I would argue that a lack of effective crowd monitoring, coupled with poor decisions, were an equal contribution to these losses of life.
To reduce the likelihood of a similar situation from happening, we must first understand what has historically gone wrong and the reasons why.
Planning is the foundation to a successful outcome, but is merely one component to build on, for a safe completion. Suitable and sufficient numbers of trained staff, updates to any changes in venue design, topography, underfoot conditions, event running order, misplaced structures/additions, artist profile, performers, or challenges with sports fans, may all contradict the original plan, each having to be dynamically assessed and form part of the bigger picture and response strategy.
Monitoring crowd behaviour, and having a clear understanding of the ‘normal behaviour’ of the crowd event, are important attributes to forming the appropriate response which prevents an adverse effect from the crowd. Current Terrorism MO throws an additional complex issue into the mix, whereby an incidents’ development can be rapid, reinforcing the need for effective monitoring, command and control and suitably trained staff, if casualties are to be kept to a minimum.
The ability to dynamically assess incidents and a robust command and control structure, across all resources, is imperative if incident management is to be effective.
Pre-movement time can be significantly reduced by the early identification/detection of any incident and a managed response that focuses the crowds audio and visual senses. This approach will serve to increase the safety of crowds attending your event.
An understanding of the crowd profile, recognition of the effects which a tangible or intangible incident will have, alcohol consumption, drugs, weather conditions and unfamiliar evacuation routes should always be taken into consideration as this may affect the judgment and rationale of a crowd during any localised or full evacuation or invacuation.