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Dealing with changed crowd behaviour in the post-pandemic period: “We are out of practice”

Eric Stuart, president of the Global Crowd Management Alliance, said that there is a change in the people’s behaviours in the post-pandemic period and the event industry is out of practice following COVID-19 pandemic, which is a combination that makes crowd management “extra challenging.”

Mr Stuart said: “More people are coming out now to enjoy themselves than have ever done before, and we are also seeing some excessive behaviours by some of the people there.

“But just as importantly, we are out of practice.

“We didn’t work for two years; we lost a lot of expertise and a lot of staff.

“So we’re having to gather as an industry and renew and refresh and learn about our crowds again.”

He added: “And now we’re having to learn about new crowds, which is making things doubly difficult.”

Young people are more detached from social control

Mr Stuart said there has been more incidents in the last two years, compared to the previous 10 years.

Similarly, the Event Safety Institute stated that there has been an increase in incidents due to unruly crowd behaviour in many Western countries since the restart of events after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gate storming of the O2 Brixton Academy in London on 15 December was a striking example, during which two people lost their lives, one of which being Gaby Hutchinson, a security guard at the venue.

Experts indicate, according to the Event Safety Institute, that young football supporters, for example, have been less educated during the COVID-19 years and are more detached from the social control of older supporters than before.

High-dependency on mobile devices resulted in diminishing sense of community

Social distancing practices and isolation resulted in this change of behaviour in crowds but more factors are involved such as high-dependency on mobile devices.

“We seem to be increasingly self-absorbed, which can have the side effect of diminishing the sense of community of ‘Social Identification’ with people around us,” the Event Safety Institute said.

“In addition, copycat behaviour can also play a role. Because how much fun is it to imitate a video from TikTok where gates are stormed at a concert or fireworks show if you get the chance.”

How to deal with it

“I think the first thing to do is to accept that there is a problem,” Mr Stuart said.

“I think having an honest conversation when you’re first planning to sit down and consider what is the worst thing that could reasonable happen here?

“How do I prevent it?

“And if it did happen, how do we start to recover from it?”

He continued: “Are we all first-aid trained? Do we all understand basic life support and giving CPR and how to keep people alive until the emergency services arrive?”

Proper planning, i.e. asking difficult questions at the planning stage and working hard on the day to make sure nothing goes wrong constitute the two stages of crowd management, according to Mr Stuart.

But the most important stage is the third one, he said.

“Always be ready just in case it does go wrong.”

(Source: Event Safety Institute)


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