SONCO Empowers Better Event Crowd Control
Get Ready With Prevention & Preparedness
Can you imagine drafting a statement explaining security failures after your outdoor concert, political rally or sports competition ends in chaos, with attendees or performers injured or dead? During the 2021 event season, organizations hosting high-profile gatherings faced the situation more than once. Event crowd control measures failed and left an aftermath of wounded or deceased fans, fearful performers and frustrated first-responders.
While analysts continue to unravel what went wrong at this year’s PGA Championship and Travis Scott Astroworld concert, SONCO draws on decades of industry experience to understand event dynamics. Our team of perimeter security and safety experts offers a variety of tips for better crowd control at sporting events and emotionally charged concert performances.
Security Wake-Up Call: Learn From Recent Events
For the past century, the PGA of America has personified good sportsmanship, with respectful and considerate behavior from professional golfers, caddies, officials and throngs of fans lining the fairways. When Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka were overwhelmed by excited fans on the final hole of the 2021 PGA Championship, tournament officials and security staff were caught off-guard.
In a later statement, PGA CEO Seth Waugh said, “…we regret that a moment of high elation and pent-up emotion by spectators during the conclusion of yesterday’s historic PGA Championship briefly overwhelmed security and made two players and their caddies feel vulnerable.” Fortunately for the golf pros, security personnel successfully extricated them from the crowd and prevented injuries.
The Travis Scott Astroworld concert ended on a far more tragic note. Shortly after the event began, it was declared a “mass casualty incident” as members of the 50,000-person crowd surged the stage. The crush left 10 concertgoers dead and some 300 people injured, and a key factor may have been the poor placement of crowd control equipment and barriers in sections close to the stage. Paul Wertheimer, well-known crowd safety expert and owner of Crowd Management Strategies, reviewed the concert’s 56-page operations plan for Houston Public Media and found serious shortcomings in the day’s setup.
Wertheimer is a recognized concert safety advocate who investigated the aftermath of The Who’s deadly concert in Cincinnati during 1979, where 11 people died. He also consulted with the Danish government in 2000 after nine people were trampled to death at a Pearl Jam concert.
“There is no mention in [the Astroworld] report of the crowd in front of the stage and how to manage them,” Wertheimer noted. “No mention of that area where the disaster occurred.” Some reports also indicate that medical and security teams were ill-equipped, inexperienced or could not navigate the crowd to render aid or facilitate evacuation.
The House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform recently launched an investigation into Live Nation Entertainment, the organizer of the Astroworld music festival. In a letter to Live Nation’s CEO, the Committee said, “Recent reports raise serious concerns about whether your company took adequate steps to ensure the safety of the 50,000 concertgoers who attended Astroworld Festival.”
Wertheimer says the injuries and deaths were preventable. “The crowd was allowed to get too dense and was not managed properly,” he said. “The fans were the victims of an environment in which they could not control.” According to the experienced crowd safety specialist, the day’s events took “everything going wrong, like dominoes.”
Proper Planning & Equipment to Save Lives
Lessons learned from this, and other festival and sporting event tragedies, divide concert crowd control into two significant areas of concern:
- Event crowd management refers to the collaborative discussion of risks and the steps security, venue organizers and event personnel take to anticipate potential problems and prevent emergencies. Crowd management includes measures taken to allow safe movement and enjoyment of attendees within a confined area.
- Event crowd control is defined as the measures taken to manage a crisis after crowds become rowdy or emergencies arise. It includes methods used to deter injury when spectators have reached safe behavior limits inside a space.
Crowd management focuses on preventing an unsafe situation from developing. Performance organizers are responsible for determining, in advance, the probable nature of the crowd and the venue’s limitations for safe containment. On the other hand, event crowd control sets up intervention procedures and effective physical boundaries. Facilities commonly utilize event barricades, bike rack barricades and stage barriers to separate groups and contain large gatherings.
SONCO Tips for Crowd Surge Preparedness
While the Astroworld investigation is still underway, it’s important to note that event organizers and venues can work to prevent dangerous concert surges and protect their companies from inevitable lawsuits that follow such a tragedy. When you plan your 2022 events, make these performance and concert crowd control measures a part of the planning process:
- Understand crowd character. As seen at the PGA Championship, any large group can get out of hand. Anticipating the crowd size and nature of the spectators helps you prep for dangerous behaviors. Social media pressures, alcohol or drugs can also influence people to abandon social norms and join surging throngs or out-of-control mosh pits.
- Control venue entry. When fans broke through security checkpoints at Astroworld, it was an early sign of the mayhem to come. Concert organizers had no control over fans that arrived early or crashed through gates. A safe event environment begins with proper perimeter and entry control.
- Establish lines of communication and evacuation. Organizers must communicate with performers and security personnel to stop a dangerous situation before it progresses, and on-staff personnel must be trained and equipped to manage crowd stampedes. Unfortunately, Travis Scott continued to perform for nearly 40 minutes after first responders arrived. Security and EMTs struggled to break through the pressing crowd, making Astroworld a particularly deadly situation.
- Define and protect movement corridors and spectator sections. The lack of effectively placed concert crowd control barriers in front of the Astroworld stage likely contributed to the size of the crowd surge. It is thought that improper barricade placement prevented fans from escaping. Some couldn’t breathe; others had nowhere to go to avoid the crush. The Harris County medical examiner’s report has determined that the 10 victims died from accidental “compression asphyxia.” When people collapsed, medics had no corridor access and couldn’t treat or rescue the injured. Some analysts say improving the placement of high-performance event crowd control equipment could have dispersed attendees — and saved lives.
Event Crowd Control Equipment That’s Engineered for Your Success
SONCO experts have decades of experience and a thorough knowledge of industry standards for concerts, speaking engagements or athletic event crowd control. Our field-tested equipment performs beyond industry standards, looks professional and lasts for decades to come. Most importantly, the skilled use of these event barricades and equipment helps protect event-goers from injury or death.
Safeguard concert attendees and shield your company from liability with our steel-strong and time-tested barricades, stage barriers, security gates and temporary fences. SONCO equipment is designed to withstand rough handling, inclement weather and waves of unruly crowds.
Connect with a SONCO product representative to set up your account and explore our bulk and truckload pricing options. Preparing for a New Year’s event? Consult our in-house design team for cost-effective custom signage that brands your venue and helps spectators make their way through your safe, secure facility. For more information about event safety and security, check out our comprehensive guide to preventing fan violence at concerts.