When Chaos Erupts: Crowd Control on the Minds of Security Officials

security crowd control

Recent current events such as the August 30 shooter scares at LAX and JFK are compelling crowd control specialists and security officials to look even more closely at a wide range of potential risks and to put added layers of planning in place to keep crowds safe, especially in the face of an emergency.  This according to a recent CBS News story.

CBS pointed to the increasing focus on crowd control at the US Open in light of events at U.S. airports. The news station interviewed security director of the US Open, Mike Rodriguez, and he remarked, “Crowd management is not going away. We are always going to have crowds. Organization is the key to keep crowds in line.”

While we certainly can’t predict or prevent every emergency situation, there are some tried and true ways to enhance crowd control and keep people safer. Effective crowd control can help mitigate potential dangers that can arise quickly when uncertainty or fear rushes through a crowd. If a crowd begins to panic, the resulting chaos increases the challenge to keep people informed and direct them to safety. Planning ahead is key. Here are a few tips:

1. Expect the Crowds, and Even the Chaos

For a crowd control specialist or a queue manager, knowing the full range of potential crowd flow is one of the ways to prepare and predict scenarios. Footfall analytics including people counts and traffic patterns can provide a baseline against which risk management can strategize. With this insight, potential scenarios can be assessed, planned and even rehearsed with staff for as high a readiness state as possible.

Predicting flow patterns and even crowd swells with the support of analytics or crowd modeling can arm you with information that could keep crowds managed and potentially, in a case of an emergency like an active shooter incident, could even save lives. By identifying what is happening and exploring what could happen, crowd control specialists can ensure a level of control and safety.

Analytics also provide real-time data. If chaos ensues, reports can quickly inform officials and operating agents about the actual scenario in order to take swift action.

To achieve the highest level of safety possible, a team approach to crowd management is ideal, including queue managers, crowd control specialists, security officials, and risk managers. Because managing an incident would require multiple departments working together, planning in this way sets up the best case scenario, even in the face of worst case scenarios.

2. Design Clear Pathways with Built-In Flexibility

Organization begins with clear entry and exit pathways. This is true for the threshold entry to a venue and also includes the various entry and exit points to any queue, corridor or service area. Designing a clear and easy-to-navigate traffic system is one way to contain and direct a crowd of any size.

Wayfinding components include belts and stanchions, arrows, lighting, signage and even staff. All of these elements can be designed and set up for a particular scenario, and can also be used with flexibility as needed. In an instant, digital signage can be changed, stanchions and belts moved or redirected, staff repositioned, lights turned on or off. A robust pathway system is one way to keep a crowd relaxed by knowing where they are supposed to go and therefore flowing safely.

When an unpredictable incident creates chaos, clear pathways can be a cornerstone to providing much needed direction to a frightened crowd. Clear entry and exit points as well as clearly marked routes help people understand where they can go for safety. If the systems are quickly changeable, staff can immediately support emergency efforts by shaping routes, altering messages on digital signage or even stepping in to add vocal or visual direction.

3. Involve the Staff

While signage and systems can help mitigate chaos, real-time human connection is even more effective at reassuring and redirecting a panicking crowd. Staff needs to be informed and alerted to be able to confidently and effectively respond to the immediate and possibly quickly-changing needs of both the crowd and the system. Staff members must not only hear about, but also practice potential scenarios in order to understand their roles as well as the chain of command, even between departments or agencies. This proactive staff involvement may require additional training but can potentially support the team’s ability to provide a full safety response.

An effective crowd control management system relies heavily on both the proper equipment as well as well-trained, reliable staff. Consider both categories carefully as you plan for safe crowd management.

Check out lavi.com for a range of crowd control products as well as knowledgeable consultants to help you plan out the safest crowd control possible. Safety first.

the Author
Perry Kuklin is the Director of Marketing and Business Development for Lavi Industries, a leading provider of public guidance and crowd control solutions.