Report of the Task Force on Crowd Control and Safety

Chapter I - Crowd Management

1. Introduction

As the Task Force sought information on crowds and public safety, it became increasingly clear that the primary factor in assuring a safe and comfortable environment for large crowds is the planning for their management. There is considerable emphasis in this report on crowd management planning and implementation because the Task Force believes that it is the key to providing safe events in Cincinnati.

Crowd management must take into account all the elements of an event especially the type of event (circus, sporting, theatrical, concert, rally, parade, etc.), characteristics of the facility, size and demeanor of the crowd, methods of entrance, communications, crowd control, and queueing. As in all management, it must include planning, organizing, staffing, directing and evaluating. Particularly critical to crowd management is defining the roles of parties involved in an event, the quality of the advance intelligence, and the effectiveness of the planning process.

2. Crowd Behavior

A. Crowd Actions

To have an effective plan, facility management must be aware of the characteristics of the audience attracted by a particular event. Once the facility operator, police commander and event promotor know their crowd they must plan accordingly. Sociologist Dr. Irving Goldaber has pointed out that the way patrons perceive the environment and the various "sociological signals" they receive at an event whether consciously or unconsciously can escalate or de-escalate patron emotion and influence their behavior. For example, the general attitude of the facility staff and of the interior and exterior security and law enforcement personnel, as well as the promulgation and enforcement of patron house rules combine to produce additional "signals" to influence patron behavior. Other "signals" include reliable door opening policy and truthfulness in communicating about alterations in event programming. When people are informed of changes and delays and the reasons for them, they can more readily accept those delays. While patrons are waiting, the provision of necessary comforts becomes crucial and can diminish discomfort and impatience.

Hundreds of thousands of events are held nationally and few, if any, have problems. But unquestionably, new and unexpected difficulties have been arising. In major cities, for example, some police officers have informally estimated that at any one time anywhere from one half to two percent of the spectators at sporting events are carrying handguns. Dr. Goldaber speaks of four types of conditions that can create crowd management problems: 1) Problems created by a crowd from within; 2) Problems created for a crowd from outside; 3) Environmental catastrophe; and 4) Rumor. These threats must be considered by those responsible for managing crowds.

B. Public Education

Schools, governmental and social service agencies have prepared us to confront many situations which pose serious threats to our personal safety. Fire drills teach effective escape procedures; driver educations courses encourage safe driving; and first aid, saving lives. Yet, there is little to guide the public to anticipate and respond to danger signals in crowds. Education about crowd dynamics and the role of individuals in crowds is sorely needed on a national basis. The consequences of the various modes of individual and groups behavior should be afforded equal importance with other safety programs by governmental, educational, and public services agencies. It is time to include this safety concern with others taught to the public.

The media can also play a significant role in public education by promoting special features, programs, and public service announcements relating to crowd safety and personal and group responsibilities. They can help discourage present safety hazards at large events such as the use of open flames and firecrackers. They can also monitor the crowd management techniques of facilities at indoor and outdoor events for their audiences. Facilities, too, can educate the public by publicizing and enforcing their house rules and by setting a courteous, professional level of conduct for their staff.

3. Drugs and Alcohol Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse is a national crisis, not just a problem at rock concerts. That recognition does not, however, diminish the problem at rock concerts and at other events where patrons use illegal drugs or abuse alcohol. The complex and overwhelming task of enforcing drug and alcohol laws at major events without violating individuals rights has facilities and law enforcement agencies directing their attention to drug sellers rather than to users. This, in turn, has created a belief among patrons that the illegal use of drugs/alcohol is possible if not acceptable at major events. New and equitable methods of enforcing relevant laws are needed. This is an area where facility operators and law enforcement agencies must cooperate and patrons, regardless of age or social standing, must assume the consequences of breaking the law.

The sale of alcoholic beverages at rock concerts and other events where rowdy audiences are expected or where a high percentage of the audience will be under the legal age for consuming alcohol can have adverse effects. When these conditions exist - rowdiness, high level of excitability - the potential for and detrimental effects of alcohol abuse become very real. Even though a prohibition on alcohol sales may reduce concession profits, many facility operators by such action reflect their concern for the safety of their patrons.

4. Roles and Responsibilities

The role and responsibility of those parties involved in an event should be specified in writing and known to all prior to an event.

There must be a clear understanding by all involved of the chain of command and the duties that each person is to perform. An important aid in this endeavor is an event management plan produced by the facility or promoter with the cooperation of public agencies that specifies names, duties and location of the people at the event; lines of communication; contingency plans; door opening; method of plan implementation; a checklist of personnel, equipment and procedures; expected crowd size and characteristics; and normal and emergency egress/ingress procedures.

Those with a role in planning, organizing and controlling events cooperatively must find ways to: 1) anticipate potential sources of danger in public gatherings, 2) take steps to prevent trouble when and where possible, and 3) be prepared to respond to trouble quickly and effectively when, and if, necessary.

A. Local Government

Through laws and their enforcement, local government influences the character of event management by establishing building and safety codes and by determining facility capacity, seating configurations, and other related items. Government also influences an event by the manner by which it provides such services as police, waste collection and traffic control.

B. Police

In 1972, an American Bar Association report, The Urban Police Function, noted that police responsibilities are frequently the result of "design and default". Because it is often assumed that police can and will take on all manner of broad responsibilities, they sometimes carry out duties and functions for which there are no written policy directives. While the need for law enforcement remains the paramount duty of the police, there is an ever increasing demand in the other areas of policing. This is especially true where crowd management is required. Generally speaking, the role of police at events is to enforce laws and to manage crowds on or adjoining public property in cooperation and with the necessary support of the facility operator and/or event promoter.

C. Fire

The Fire Division is responsible for making unscheduled and routine inspections of facilities to enforce local fire and building codes. It also has the responsibility of citing a facility operator or patron for violation of safety laws. Their authority to require safe exiting conditions, as well as to enforce capacity and safety regulations, and their relationship to other personnel should be clearly defined in advance. Fire personnel, like other appropriate city personnel, should be involved in the advance planning of an event to assure an acceptable level of compliance with fire and life safety codes.

D. Facility Management

Next to local government, facility management has the most influence on crowd safety and on the activities of promoters and entertainers. No matter how a contract between a facility and promoter is written, local facility management must acknowledge and accept its obligation for the safety of the community that it serves. Facility management has primary responsibility for assuring safe conditions in compliance with applicable statutes and reasonable standards. That responsibility also requires cooperative efforts with law enforcement and other event managers. But that cooperation should not relieve facility management of its accountability for providing resources for safe and successful events. Of course law enforcement officials can take over direction and control in emergencies, but that should not dilute management responsibility for taking all reasonable steps to assure that emergencies don't happen.

The establishment of house rules and the strict enforcement of those rules and local laws determine how the patrons, promoters, and the entertainers will behave.

Many facilities train their crowd management personnel and provide orientation manuals for staff and security. These manuals describe audience characteristics, problem areas, staff functions, house rules, and emergency plans and facility layouts. They deal will types and levels of security and familiarize personnel with management objectives. The use of such manuals underscores the notion that the best crowd management results are obtained when there is active cooperation between facility management and personnel, promoters, and public agencies.

E. Promoter

The promoter is the broker between the entertainer and the facility and plays a critical role in preparation of contracts. The promoter obtains the use of the desired facility, prepares appropriate contracts between facility and entertainer, arranges for event promotion and ticket sales, and pays for security requirements. The promoter is also likely to pay the taxes on the entertainers' profits and may even arrange to provide the entertainers' meals and snacks. Promoters are paid by the performers to organize the event and most often work independently of facilities.

The promoter's responsibilities are to coordinate all aspects of an event with facility and government officials to assure that an event complies with local safety laws. Promoters often prepare their own event management plan for an event, listing personnel responsibilities and an event timetable, and usually share this material with the other parties in an event.

F. Entertainers

Entertainers have varying degrees of influence over the promotion and execution of their performances. The most popular can often demand a certain type of seating, determine the audience size, within the legal capacity of a facility, set ticket prices and promotional arrangements, and stipulate when the doors will be open prior to their show.

Most entertainers realize the influence they maintain over their audiences and do not exploit it. With their support, a facility is better able to discourage open flames, blocking aisles, use of fireworks, drug and alcohol abuse, etc. There are, however, those who will intentionally and irresponsibility incite their audiences to a level of behavior where fighting, vandalism, or rowdyism may occur. If this happens the performers must be held fully accountable for their actions.

G. Private Police

Some private police are commissioned in Cincinnati by the Police Chief and employed by private businesses or individuals. Some private police are hired to perform security functions but are not commissioned. Whether commissioned or not, their authority is limited to the premises of their employer. Although there are similarities between public law enforcement officers and private police, there is a fundamental difference: the law enforcement officer has more extensive authority, responsibility and training.

H. Ushers

In additional to seating patrons, an usher's duties include enforcing of house rules, maintaining order, reporting security problems to private police or others, keeping people out of the aisles, and enforcing open flame and smoking regulations. Ushers should remain at their posts until and event is completed.

I. Peer Security

Peer, or Tee-Shirt security is a product of rock concerts. Hired by promoters to protect the stage area, screen patrons for contraband and to do other special assignments, peer security personnel are people of similar age and background to the patrons and, therefore, presumably have good rapport with them. Peer security can also serve as an effective buffer or mediator between uniformed security and patrons in tense situations.

They are usually recognizable by the specially designed tee-shirts that they wear. The Spectrum, in Philadelphia, has departed from this casual look of peer security and supplies specially designed outfits for their own youthful security personnel.

J. Patrons

Though a careful and elaborate crowd management plan may be implemented, it cannot be fully effective without patron cooperation. Nor can it protect individuals from self-inflicted harm.

In a crowd, patrons should always be aware of the possible effect of their actions on the safety of the whole group. Pushing, fighting, spreading rumors, the use of firecrackers or projectiles all can cause severe repercussions that the instigator may never have considered. An audience's tolerance of abusive actions further jeopardizes its own safety.

Responsible patrons will acquaint themselves with local laws and facility house rules and should not hesitate to report situations that threaten their safety to the facility management, promoter and/or the media. In many instances, the pressure of public opinion is the best regulator of private industry.

5. Tickets and Queueing

A. Sale of Tickets

Tickets for most events in Cincinnati, including rock concerts, are sold through Ticketron, Inc., a computerized ticket system with outlets in stores and shopping centers. By using computer technology and standardized ticket design, Ticketron can sell tickets to an event at both local and non-local sites for the convenience of its patrons. The elimination of festival seating and restrictions on general admission seating may have unexpected repercussions at ticket outlets, especially for "superstar" performances. While reserved seating largely removes the factors which cause early and overwhelming crowds to gather hours before an event, reserved seating can instead result in the early gathering of large crowds at ticket outlets who have come to purchase tickets for the limited prime seating areas. These factors can cause problems and difficulties for ticket outlets. To help relieve this problem, two options are suggested: 1) The actual date, time and location that the tickets are to go on sale should not be announced prior to the time that tickets are released for sale. 2) When the demand for tickets is expected to exceed the available seating capacity, a mail order system of ticket sales should be implemented.

B. Appearance of Tickets

At present, all Ticketron tickets are similar in color and overall appearance. Hence it may be difficult for ticket takers and others to screen patrons with bogus tickets, especially when the rate of patron flow is high.

A variation in ticket color or format would aid those facility and security officials attempting to prevent patrons with invalid tickets from gaining access to an event at which they do not belong.

A ticket should also state the specified entrance the ticket holder is to enter.

C. Ticket Taking

In determining the number of ticket takers to be employed, most facility operators use a ratio of one ticket taker for about every 1,000 ticket holders. The actual ratio may vary and depends on the actual crowd size, location of contraband searches, type of entertainment and the architectural design of the building. The efficient movement of ticket holders is critical in preventing crowds from gathering outside a facility. Limiting entrances and using fewer doors, or opening and closing doors to control crowd movement are very dangerous practices. They only serve to increase anxiety in a crowd and make it more difficult to manage. It is much more effective to separate people in a crowd by using many entrances, by queueing, and by providing for the proper ratio of ticket takers and doors to patrons. Dispersing entering crowds through multi-entrances is particularly effective in processing people efficiently into a facility.

D. Queueing

Whenever large crowds gather for the purpose of peaceably entering an area it is vital that the processing of those people be organized, orderly and disciplined, and, if ticket taking is going to take place, that it be coordinated with the queueing of patrons.

There are two major types of queues, linear and bulk, as described by pedestrian planner Dr. John Fruin in his book entitled Pedestrian Planning and Design. In linear queueing people line up in single file. In a bulk queueing there are no defined lines, but simply a large amorphous mass.

Many facility in cooperation with law enforcement agencies queue their patrons in zig-zag lines, around buildings, and on sidewalks. Often queues are further organized by metering (when sections of a queue enter a facility in a measured and regulated manner). In this way, patrons can claim a particular space, feel less anxious about their ability to enter in an orderly fashion and can judge better the length of time it will take them to enter, as they progress in a line. Using a queue means having control over a large crowd. It also prevents the potential hazard of a mob craze-the sense of urgency causing a rush toward an entry point. This sense of urgency or anxiety is the crucial factor that must be removed. The type of queueing to be used, along with the other procedures, like metering must be planned in order to minimize the potential for crowd disorders outside of a facility.

6. Contraband Screening

Searching patrons for contraband has become increasingly prevalent. Pre-admission screening is a reasonable preventive measure to prohibit or reduce such items as weapons, dangerous objects, alcohol, drugs and other undesirable objects and substances from being introduced on to the premises. City Council should specify by ordinance contraband materials not allowable at major events and also require the contraband prohibition to be posted at the event and on tickets.

Legal considerations suggest that the screening of patrons for contraband is best performed by private security and not public law enforcement officers.

7. Crowd Management Planning

Safety aspects at facilities are routinely inspected by the Fire Division and Building Department to assure their compliance with City regulations. The adherence to numerous City codes is pivotal to providing safe environment for the public. What is needed beyond that is a method for assessing a facility management's or an event promoter's preparedness to accommodate its patrons safety. Having a formal crowd management plan is equally as important as compliance with safety regulations. The City should require crowd management plans of all facilities and/or event promoters contemplating hosting or sponsoring events attracting 2,000 or more people. These plans should be prepared in writing and presented to the City for public filing. Plans could be written for categories of events and, when necessary, for specific events. The format and requirements of a plan should be determined by the City, facility operators, private security, promoters and other concerned parties.

A copy of a facility's crowd management plan should be on file with the City and accessible to the public so they may understand what kind of crowd management to expect. The required filing of a plan will make it difficult for complacency to return to the issue of crowd safety.



  1. City Council should study and implement new and equitable methods of enforcing all laws governing events.

  2. The sale of alcoholic beverages should be prohibited at events where unruly audiences are expected or where a high percentage of the audience is under the legal age for consuming alcohol.

  3. The roles and responsibilities of parties involved in an event should be specified in writing and made known prior to an event.

  4. Facility management must accept responsibility for the safety and enjoyment of the people who patronize its facility. Management should coordinate its efforts with police, fire and medical personnel.

  5. Facility management should train its personnel in crowd management and provide manuals for staff and security.

  6. Entertainers should cooperate with public safety laws.

  7. The entertainment media should promote special features, programs, and public service announcements relating to crowd safety and individual and group responsibilities.

  8. Ushers should remain at their posts until an event is completed.

  9. Patrons should be encouraged to report situations that threaten their safety to the facility personnel, promoter, local government officials and/or media.

  10. Public education in crowd dynamics should be afforded equal importance to other safety programs by government, educational and public service agencies.

  11. Facilities should educate their public by publicizing and enforcing their house rules, local laws, and by setting a courteous, professional standard of conduct by their personnel.

  12. The date that tickets to an event will go on sale should not be announced until the tickets are available for sale.

  13. When the demand for tickets to an event is expected to exceed the capacity of ticket sales outlets to accommodate ticket buyers or to pose problems for ticket sales sites, a mail order system for ticket sales should be implemented.

  14. When more than one entrance to a facility is to be used, tickets should specify the particular entrance the ticket holder should enter.

  15. Tickets should be printed with a clear warning against contraband such as, "Alcohol, drugs, and weapons are not permitted on premises."

  16. A facility should separate crowds by using multi-entrances, queueing, and by providing a proper ratio of doors and ticket takers to patrons.

  17. Facility security personnel should screen patrons for contraband, not City police officers.

  18. The City should require facility managers and/or event promoters sponsoring events that are expected to attract more than 2,000 people to file crowd management plans. Copies of such plans filed with the City should be available to the public so citizens can know the levels of crowd management to expect.

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