Crowd management is the systematic process of planning, organizing and monitoring large gatherings of people with the objective to establish a safe and secure environment and maintaining a minimum level of space to avoid panic and rapid crowd movements. Crowd management anticipates and plans for the worst case, such as fire or riots and aims to reduce and mitigate the risks associated with it way in advance. The project of crowd management begins before the gathering, continues throughout and ends after the gathering or event.
Where is crowd management used?
Crowd management is often used or required in public spaces and events such as concert venues, demonstrations, festivals, sports stadiums and amusement parks.
Who uses crowd management?
Crowd management processes are typically established by the event organizer and/or law enforcement agencies. The successful implementation of a crowd management plan requires the cooperation of all involved parties, from venue staff to event organizers to law enforcement.
Context of crowd management
Crowd Management is a multi-faceted field with an array of disciplines ranging from event planning, crowd simulation for evacuation analysis to security management. Crowd management plays a critical role in ensuring safe, secure events for attendees.
Differences between crowd management and event risk management
Crowd Management is a part of the event risk management. While crowd management focuses on the risks that come from the crowd and crowd movement, event risk management has a wider scope of risks such as weather conditions, minor and elderly protection, food safety, medical assistance and transportation.
Differences between crowd management and crowd control
Crowd management is focused on prevention of crowd disasters and includes pre-event activities such as planning of capacities, escape routes and signage. Crowd control is a sub process of crowd management that enforces or restores order by restricting or limiting group behavior. Crowd control can include measures such as the use of force, arrest, or threat of personal injury by security personal or law enforcement agencies.
Measures of crowd management
For successful crowd management it is important to realize that crowd behavior is not random but follows rules and patterns which can be predicted. The crowd behavior is essentially a result from physical, physiological, psychological and social needs of humans including:
- Adequate space
- Water and air
- Access to toilet facilities
- A feeling of safety
- Progress towards a desired goal
- Availability of information, communication, entertainment etc.
An insufficient consideration of such factors can promote disasters, particularly if shortcomings accumulate.
The crowd manager
The crowd manager and its team are responsible for the crowd management. Some countries require crowd managers for certain type of events or locations.
The crowd management plan
The crowd management plan is central to covering all aspects of crowd management. It documents and asses central questions regarding crowd safety and security, including:
- The location and size of entries and exits as well as emergency escape routes
- Access to first-aid facilities
- Venue capacity, and the resulting people density
- Access control and access management to limit the number of people and to prevent unauthorized access
- Sufficient provisioning of water and food as well as sanitary facilities
- Clear communication and guidance through speakers and (digital) signage
- Real-time crowd control, analysis and monitoring capabilities
- Sufficient and trained (security) staffing to execute crowd control decisions
- Clear crowd management structures and responsibilities
Having a detailed crowd management plan in place helps to improve on all aspects of the crowd management as it can be revised after each event.
Several best practices exist to create a reliable and scientific crowd management plan.
Evacuation simulation and people flow optimization
For large scale events a simulation of an evacuation and people flow might be required to understand if the event venue requires structural changes or the number of participants needs to be limited.
Furthermore, crowd simulations help to understand how long a crowd would need to leave the building or location in the event of an incident. With this information at hand, event operators can make informed decisions throughout the event.
Crowd analysis and people flow monitoring
Video security systems help event operators to understand and monitor crowd behavior visually. Augmented with AI video analytics capabilities such as crowd counting or people flow measurement, cameras can provide powerful real-time crowd KPIs such as density per square meter, flow-rate and velocity to event operators and authorities. When these KPIs start becoming abnormal, an alarm can be triggered in the video management system, notifying the operator who can decide on appropriate actions such as reducing inflow through access control, making an announcement or deploying additional security staff.
The video below displays how Isarsoft Perception can be used to monitor crowds in busy areas. In this case, of a crowded boardwalk an Object Flow Application is created with lines and zones for the measurement of people flow volume and density.
The tool MapChecking by Anthony Catel allows to estimate the number of people in a given area given a certain density. The tool implements the Jacobs method, named after Herbert Jacobs, who invented it in the 1960s. The tool has presets for light crowds (0.30 people per sqm), crowded spaces (2.00 people per sqm) and densely packed crowds (4.00 people per sqm).
Crowd disasters or crowd collapses and crushes happen when the density of the crowd reaches or exceeds 4 to 5 persons per m². The crowd collapses in on itself, or becomes so densely packed that individuals are crushed. The pressure through the crowd on the lungs causes a lack of oxygen (Asphyxia) which can lead to death.
World crowd disasters map
The World Crowd Disasters Map by Dr. Ali Asgary, Associate Professor, Disaster & Emergency Management, York University illustrates that crowd disasters unfortunately can happen everywhere and often do so with high number of fatalities. Thorough crowd management is the best way to avoid such tragedies.
Crowd management is an important tool for keeping large groups of people safe. Unfortunately crowd disasters still happen. A concise crowd management plan and the use of technologies such as simulation, access control and intelligent video technologies can help event operators and authorities creating safer events.
- The Causes and Prevention of Crowd Disasters, John J. Fruin, Ph.D., P.E., 1993
- Crowd disasters as systemic failures: analysis of the Love Parade disaster, Dirk Helbing & Pratik Mukerji, EPJ Data Science, 2012
- Crowd Management, International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), 2019
- Introduction to Crowd Science, G Keith Still, CRC Press, 2014