Duisburg Tragedy Puts Crowd Safety and Crowd Dynamics into the Spotlight

From: Movement Strategies
Published: Wed Jul 28 2010

The tragedy highlights the critical importance of detailed crowd planning work which needs to be undertaken before events such as these take place. Here, Simon Ancliffe, Managing Director of London based company, Movement Strategies, leading experts in crowd dynamics and crowd safety, throws some light on the preparations needed and outlines just some of the issues connected to safety at high-density crowd events.

Ancliffe says "Un-ticketed events always present extra risk compared with ticketed, paid-for events, as often, more people will turn up than the capacity of the site can accommodate. The plans for un-ticketed events must recognise that this can happen and include procedures for safely and effectively turning people away, ideally before the crowds ever get close to the areas that are already crowded. This becomes very difficult when the crowds become very large as in Duisburg at the weekend.

A site’s capacity is not just the size of the crowd that it can accommodate, but also the capacity of the entry and exit routes. Crowds do not willingly crush the people in front of them. Crowd crush requires people to move into a confined space, or in opposing directions, or for people to slip, trip or fall (either because of the crowd, slippery surfaces, or other obstacles). Crowds ‘panic’ when the people in them are scared, in which cases panic and flight are the right responses to the conditions around them.

Similar tragedies have occurred when crowds panic in a confined space. The Baghdad Bridge tragedy in 2005 occurred when a terrorist threat caused a crowd of pilgrims to panic and rush onto a bridge which was closed at the opposite end leaving nowhere for the crowd to go and more recently in 2009 at Birmingham when X Factor stars, JLS, switched on the Christmas lights and a metal barrier collapsed. 60 people were injured. A crowd of 5000 was expected but according to reports over 27,000 actually turned up.

The transfer of information in crowds is limited. People in a crowd cannot see far in front of them or always hear information well. They certainly do not have the birds-eye view of the organisers, to understand what is happening, thus creating more panic.

Risk assessment of high density crowd events, should also recognise that emergencies can happen at any time including on the way in or before the event, particularly with un-ticketed events.

More and more events organisers have recognised the importance of undertaking risk assessment with particular emphasis on crowd dynamics. I would not wish to comment on the specifics of this tragic case.

About Movement Strategies:

Simon Ancliffe, MD of Movement Strategies is the leading world expert on crowd dynamics and crowd safety.

Movement Strategies specialise in planning for high-density crowd events, including religious events, music festivals or concerts, and sports stadiums. The company has helped improve crowd safety at some of the most demanding crowd environments around the world.

The crowds deliver the atmosphere and experience that make these events so enjoyable.

Movement Strategies work encompasses the full lifecycle of venues from planning, through detailed design, to operation. The company has practical experience of live events, venue and transport operation, and can demonstrate a track record of making significant improvements to safety and visitor experience/satisfaction through both design and operation.

Movement Strategies has worked on the London Olympics, Sochi Olympics masterplan, FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, and its consultants have played smaller roles on the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics. Movement Strategies has experience of national sports and leisure events which attract large crowds and where visitor safety and comfort are critical success factors (e.g. Sail in Amsterdam, the Great North Run, Chelsea Flower Show, and Duxford Air Show).

Most significant of these is our experience of planning, modelling, and gaining an increased licensed capacity for the Glastonbury Festival, which is a multi-venue secure site with 177,500 visitors. We also undertake on-site consultancy every year to observe crowd movement, safety and behaviour and have materially improved safety and visitor experience at the Festival.

Simon Ancliffe
Movement Strategies
3rd Floor
The Johnson Building
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+44 (0) 207 870 9205
Company: Movement Strategies
Contact Name: Simon Ancliffe
Contact Email: info@movementstrategies.com
Contact Phone: +44 (0) 207 870 9205

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