The Basics of Crowd Modeling to Promote Crowd Safety

May 22, 2014Perry Kuklin

Crowd management techniques exist to help keep people safe and happy as they attend large-scale events or attractions. As a crowd control manager, where do you start? Stanchions, barriers, signage and other security products cannot just be thrown together without careful consideration of your venue and crowd expectations. Enter the concept of “crowd modeling,” a practical approach to planning your robust crowd management strategies. Crowd modeling is the first step in creating the optimal environment for promoting a safe crowd at your event. You may have heard it referred to as behavior or customer flow modeling, but keep in mind this process has nothing to do with simulations of general crowd behavior and everything to do with charting your specific event and its expected crowd. Your model can be as simple as a line diagram, more intricate with maps or very sophisticated using various computer programs. No matter your choice of modeling tool, you must include four key elements for an effective crowd model: space, time, direction and flow.

Space

Consider the various areas of your event that are used for different activities. Think about the venue entrance versus the restrooms versus the concession stand. “Space” refers to the capacity of the crowd at each of these given areas and the demand of space will vary based on the crowd’s needs at each activity.

Time

“Time” encompasses when and how long crowds will occupy a specific area of the venue. For example, when will the parking lot have an overwhelmingly large number of people and when will it be relatively subdued?

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Direction

“Direction” entails how the crowd will be approaching and leaving a given area. Is there only one way to enter the venue? Are their multiple exits from the parking lot?

Flow

“Flow” refers to the rate in which people navigate through your event. Maximum flow rates should be calculated for each designated area. These numbers are directly influenced by space, so you must consider how many people can occupy each area before the flow rate becomes restricted. Once your model is created, use it to dive into a three step process that will help you better understand your event and create strategies to promote a safer crowd.

1. Discover the dynamics of your event

Let your model reveal what forces will be driving your event and the nature behind your expected crowd.

2. Develop a deeper understanding of your event

Analyze the discovered dynamics for a greater understanding of why your crowds will flow in various directions, across multiple areas and during different timeframes of your event.

3. Create control strategies

Once you obtain a deep understanding of your event and the flow of the crowd, you can create the optimal control strategies to keep the public and your staff members safe. For example, compare your venue’s maximum flow rate with your expected flow rate. If your expected flow rate is greater than the determined maximum rate for a given area, you must deploy controls to bring that rate down to an acceptable level. Depending on the venue’s specific layout, you may be considering turnstiles, directional signage or increased personnel as control strategies. We know you take your crowd management strategies seriously. So, next time you are planning your event, consider crowd modeling. It sets the foundation to create effective management techniques that result in much safer crowds.

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