90% of Your Event Audience Won’t Know What To Do in an Emergency. Are You Prepared to Keep Them Safe?

By Cameron Ungar posted 05-30-2018 19:08


Event managers and event venue operators have an explicit responsibility to create safe environments for guests in their buildings and at their programs. In the years since 9/11, Americans have grown used to elevated security protocol. These steps have become a way of life. It is expected and routine. Still, when terror attacks or mass shootings are in the news, people get scared. It is a reminder that security protocol exists for a reason and we find comfort in these rituals. Event attendees now think about their safety at events when they are in public assembly facilities.

This is a scary but necessary reality- people need to be situationally aware to assume responsibility for their own safety (See Something. Say Something.). Event attendees have an expectation and desire to feel safe at events. This expectation is relevant for events of all types and sizes- not just large venues and mega- events. If you fail to create a sense of security for your guests, they are likely to feel anxiety in your venue and have a less enjoyable experience (spend less money, time, etc.).

NFPA 101 (Fire and Life Safety Code) suggests public assembly facilities employ one (1) Trained Crowd Manager (TCM) for every 250 people in attendance.” Though considered a suggestion, this is an industry best practice. Failure to maintain this standard could create liabilities issues for the venue and operator in the case of an emergency. NFPA 101 does not specifically articulate what or who a trained crowd manager is, but it does give instruction on what they do.

Trained Crowd Managers Must:

  1. Recognize and report hazardous situations.
  2. Understand crowd dynamics and how to influence crowd behavior.
  3. Understand different methods of crowd movement and how to use them.
  4. Understand the venue’s emergency response plan and evacuation procedures.
  5. Be willing and able to assist and direct people to safety during an incident.

In order to standardize “training” for Trained Crowd Managers (TCM), the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) has created a two- part TCM training curriculum. The first part is a standardized online course and competence test. The second part is venue specific and created by the event venue to include specifics on that particular building and its policies and procedure. Trained Crowd Managers are so critical to the emergency response process because:

  • They are already inside the venue. In most emergency situations, there is a gap between the initiation of the incident and the response time from law enforcement and first responders. During this time, the crowd managers already inside the venue are absolutely critical to getting people to safety. In many active shooter situations, the incident is over before law enforcement even arrives.
  • They are familiar with the venue, the event, policies/ procedures and the emergency response plan. In an emergency situation, individuals will react a certain way (including Trained Crowd Managers), but if they have been trained for situations like this, it is more likely that they will respond in a positive or helpful way.

In an emergency situation, time is the critical resource. In the IAVM Trained Crowd Manager Phase 1 training curriculum, we learn that survivability is greatest when the available safe evacuation time (ASET) is greater than the required safe evacuation time (RSET). Therefore, the Trained Crowd Manager’s goal is to increase patron survivability by increasing available evacuation time. The best way to save lives then, is to shorten the window between alerting patrons of an emergency situation and the initiation of crowd movement.

In an emergency situation, the typical crowd response is:

  • 10% of the crowd will remain cool.
  • 80% of the crowd will act stunned and take time to make a decision.
  • 10% of the crowd will act inappropriate or counter- productive.

This is why time is so critical. 90% of the crowd will not respond in a productive way without clear and actionable instruction.

Crowd management and emergency response planning has to be part of the event planning and venue sourcing process. We are fortunate to work in an industry and environment that is fun. People come to our events for enjoyment. For the sake of their enjoyment, we must prioritize their safety and security. This is a serious and sometimes overwhelming responsibility for event organizers. Patron safety can be a heavy burden if you let it be.

About the Author:

Cameron Ungar, President of Stylehawk Event Services has been managing, booking and scheduling sport event venues and public assembly facilities for more than a decade. He has worked in university, municipal and private venues and has an impressive track record of developing organizational structure, building powerful operations teams and driving significant event revenue. He is an active member of the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) and is an Adjunct Professor in the Sports Management Graduate Program at the University of San Francisco.

Originally published at www.stylehawkevents.com on May 21, 2018.