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Case study: How to safely increase customer numbers and standing floor capacity

For the last three years, MOM Consultancy has been working with some of the largest venues in Europe on various projects including changing barrier configurations at events, testing plans at major stations, supporting new plan implementation at sporting and music events and facilitating the uplift of standing floor capacities. The latter of these has been a revelation for the company and helped MOM to understand the complex integration of safety and security needed in such projects.

In all projects, the customer has to be the focus. Realising the full benefit to the customer and also the primary key stakeholder needs to be met is a fine balance between customer care, safety, security and increased income. Many approaches to projects are based primarily on a profit motive whilst others are made putting the customer and the centre of development. The secondary type of approach enhances the whole experience and does not just focus on tangible quick wins. Two examples of clients who have put the customer at the very centre of their developments are the Echo Arena in Liverpool and the O2 Arena in London.

In this article we are going to focus on the O2 Arena as a case study and their three-year project to uplift the standing floor capacity whilst ensuring key benefits to the customer. To enhance the project MOM felt it pertinent to bring in a health and safety expert from ACT, Chris Hall, to provide expertise in an area where MOM does not work but is essential to understanding what is legal and practicably possible in relation to guidance, fire safety standards and other key precepts. Working alongside firstly Steve Gotkine, and then with Danielle Kennedy Clark, the seamless continuum was of paramount importance – it took three years from the start to the finish of this remarkable journey.

The project started with a series of familiarisation sessions to ensure that the team were au fait with the venue; this included visits to events, a review of plans, guidance used and health, safety and crowd management aspects, as well as interviews with a cross section of staff and a customer survey. By triangulating the plans with the surveys and observations, the team were able to put together a plan which tested the outcomes requested by the O2 management. The key aspect was spending time with the team watching how they prepared for events, their training protocols and the implementation of plans at the venue. Creating an understanding of how the venue worked, what made the audience and staff tick and what possible additions would support customer perceptions of care were all-important.

The delivery of the uplift in numbers utilised both a qualitative and quantitative approach, and one which would turn out to be a gradual testing and monitoring process from the initial numbers to the new density. Some may feel that a three-year testing period is a long time to finally implement the requested and agreed uplift, but due to the venue’s duty of care and ethical approach everything needed to be right to ensure the buy-in of every stakeholder involved.

The process was initiated by a debate: Firstly, a debate about the efficacy of increasing the number on the venue standing floor and how this would look given the shape and structure of the venue. The second debate was around the venue’s present structure and how this would cope with the obvious uplift and whether the existing structures were adequate to support such changes. Once this had been identified, preliminary meetings were held with the fire consultants to view the fire plan and what the envelope surrounding the plan provided. Deep and testing conversations were held and also secondary reviews held to test the envelope, which proved sound.

The key to all deliberations with a venue is openness and the will to succeed

The consultants then worked on the figures creating a series of options, each of which had a number of caveats. Each caveat was related to the idea that for each calculation the management team would have to consider changes to the venue to facilitate the numbers.

Chris Hall worked on the figures, while Chris Kemp worked on the psychosocial aspects of the staff and crowd and what their appetite was for change. How likely did they feel that an uplift in floor capacity was the right thing for the venue? The results of the conversations were positive and the interesting piece was the difference in the appetite for risk both among staff and also the audience. These reports were written up and presented back as part of the final report.

Delivering such reports and ensuring that they meet exacting standards is difficult, as the safety and security of all stakeholders must be the first concern. Any changes proposed by the team in conjunction with the venue management team have responsibility and accountability attached to them – so this is not a light touch, but rather a complex integration of qualitative and quantitative factors resulting in the possible reshaping of the venue or unforeseen changes which, of course, can have knock on effects.

The key to all deliberations with a venue is openness and the will to succeed, as in a carefully structured and trusting client/consultant relationship. This is based on respect and that each individual brings something special to the table that may result in a better than hoped for outcome, especially in the competitive arena environment.

The initial project took five months to complete and at the end of the process provided an outcome which could then be taken to the council’s planning team. This nerve-racking process can be very testing unless, like our combined team had done, answered every question that we knew that we would be asked in the presentation to the council. From this presentation there were few questions, and the joint delivery by MOM and the O2 went down well, showing a finely integrated strategy and operational delivery.

A number of recommendations were then made by the council which resulted in the O2 team having to take the results to the board and provide them with a specification and costing, which included a cost-benefit analysis. MOM also made a number of recommendations which were accepted by the council – these were all related to health and safety activities and the gradual increase in capacity until the final capacity was reached. A further recommendation was that the O2 worked on a case-by-case basis with the increase and not as a blanket for every event, taking into consideration holdback of tickets, artist and audience profiling, the A-Guide and the resultant templates for gigs and other salient information.

The process to reach this desired density was a long but necessary procedure

The management team’s understanding of their customer base is very deep and they can usually predict how an event will go and how the customer will act. This is key to the unified and positive outcomes of any event. However, the team is only as good as their weakest person and the O2 assiduously provide training for their teams at all levels to ensure that all members are working towards their true potential, thus creating a culture of safety across the organisation.

Following the work that the O2 carried out with MOM, the O2 team were confident that they were moving in the right direction and it was safe to embark and introduce their first change in the floor density for the arena. After they had completed a thorough risk assessment for the forthcoming shows, they introduced the first density change in October 2015. The standard floor density that the venue had worked with for a number of years was altered from a .4 to a .39 density. On average the venue operated a minimum of 15 shows at the .39 density before reducing the density further. Following each show the team, led by Danielle, monitored, debriefed and reviewed the standing floor footage of the event and obtained detailed feedback from the staff on the ground. They continued to risk assess each event before implementing any changes to the density. The desired safe density that Danielle and her team were working towards was .36.

The process to reach this desired density was a long but necessary procedure. This ensured that the team had considered and fully evaluated the risks and continued to work towards the desired outcome. Over the three-year process they continually liaised with their licensing authority on the progress that was being made. Danielle and her team are now coming towards the end of our their evaluations and working at the lower density levels, Due to this process, the standard floor numbers have increased on average by 10% for each event. However, what is very clear is that the time taken over the process and alterations made inside the venue have been supported by a strong health and safety underpinning to their approach.

Changes like this are not to taken lightly – but if venues have the patience to deliver without considering the financial benefits, but concentrate on whether such a development will be safe, is crucial in ensuring the resilience and longevity of such changes.


Professor Chris Kemp is the founder, CEO and owner of Mind over Matter ConsultancyDanielle Kennedy-Clark is director of operations at the O2 London.

Tightening up venue security in South Africa

One dead and eight injured during a concert’ is not the kind of headline anyone would want to wake up to. “A man walked onstage and stopped a music performance at Hillbrow Theatre in Johannesburg, claiming that his phone was stolen. He then pulled out a gun and started firing at random,” the South African press reported.

Apparently, extra security was deployed on the night of the event, which the theatre’s management said was privately organised. How did additional security not eliminate the threat of violence, and how did the shooter get access to the stage in the presence of security guards?

On 22 May 2017 fans of the US pop sensation Ariana Grande attended a show in Manchester, England. The show ended in tragedy after a suicide bomber killed 22 people, most of them children. Then there was the Orlando shooting, the massacre at the Bataclan in Paris and the slaying of Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell. In Europe and the US, terrorism is a big concern, but in South Africa it’s violent crimes without an ideological basis, and often without evidence of major psychological disorders, that take many more lives.

But crime at concerts and performances works the other way around, too. South African kwaito star Makhendlas – the brother of Arthur Mafokate – shot and killed an ‘irritant’ fan in October 1998. The kwaito [a type of African dance music] musician killed himself the following day. This is an old story that highlights safety concerns at events in general. Why did he have a gun and who let him in the venue with a weapon?

The irony of the incident that took place at Hillbrow Theatre last week is that the perpetrator shot up the audience because someone had stolen his cellphone. It seems even criminals are tired of having their personal belongings stolen in public. Ask any concertgoer in South Arica and they will tell you that they’ve had a wallet, car keys or cellphone stolen. The South African media has written much about crime at concerts, but little has been done to ameliorate the situation. Because of this, parents are locking up their children at home come the weekend – and in the process depriving them of the arts. The latest incident will bring even more paranoia to this picture.

There needs to be a hardline policy where every concertgoer, and performer, is thoroughly checked before entering a venue

When people attend festivals they want to feel safe, and should worry only about having a good time. But the South African reality is quite different, and it seems that attending a public event like a concert or festival induces more anxiety than becoming an agoraphobic recluse. You have to get in a car (preferably one that hijackers don’t desire). You drive through the safer areas while ogling every four-way stop like a chameleon. You eventually get to the venue where a car guard tells you that if you don’t pay R70 (US$5) to have your car watched over you can expect a tyre slashing. The gamble comes in when you have to decide whether to leave your cellphone under the seat or take it with you into the venue. Either way, there’s a big chance you won’t see your phone again.

Many venues in South Africa have serious budgets to deal with crime, yet it’s sometimes impossible to control events completely, especially when there are too many people attending. And venue owners say that criminals are always one step ahead in getting loot out of a venue without detection.

Here’s another peculiar fact. According to the Firearms Control Act of 2000, in order to declare a venue a gun-free zone in South Africa, owners have to apply for a permit, which means that they have to own a safe where patrons can leave their guns before entering the venue. But most venue owners don’t go through this process because of red tape, so their venues, technically, are areas in which guns are allowed. This may be a technicality since most venues exercise the ‘right of admission’ policy, but making things official should make gun-bearers think twice. If you’ve been warned, then the repercussions are heftier.

South African venues need to take serious measures to prevent violent crimes from taking place on their premises. There needs to be a hardline policy where every concertgoer, and performer, is thoroughly checked before entering a venue. If live gigs have to begin resembling airports, so be it, but another incident like the one at Hillbrow Theatre should never be allowed to happen again.


This article first appeared on Music in Africa.

Conference agenda for first E3S announced

The organisers of the new Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S) today announced the provisional conference agenda for the inaugural event in October.

The one-day meeting, announced last month, will bring together leading international venues, touring and sport professionals and security experts for a mixture of dedicated presentations, keynote addresses and broader panel discussions.

“With input and active involvement from some of the most renowned security, venue and event experts in the business, E3S is shaping up to be a insightful and pivotal day,” says Greg Parmley, head of the International Live Music Conference (ILMC), which is organising the event in close collaboration with the European Arena Association (EAA), the National Arena Association (NAA) and Association of Event Venues (AEV) in the UK and other leading theatre and venue organisations and live event security companies.

Dedicated presentations cover a range of topics from behavioural detection and crowd dynamics to search and screening and advances in festival security.

The four key E3S panels, meanwhile, are structured chronologically through an event. The day kicks off with The 3 Ps: Preparation, Planning & Prevention, which considers terror methodologies, variation in protocols, communication channels and risk assessment.

“E3S is shaping up to be a insightful and pivotal day”

Then, Rings of Steel: Securing Your Event looks at practical operational measures to secure events, new available methods and technology, security perimeters, and internal security measures.

In the afternoon, The 3 Rs: Reaction, Response & Recovery examines the aftermath of an event, timeline for recovery, emergency planning exercises and questions whether there is a shortage of trained personnel and resources.

And finally, The Show Goes On: Moving Forward Together asks what sort of future venues and event organisers should be preparing for, who’s going to pay for it and what shape a collective industry response might take.

Confirmed presents and panel chairs include Simon Ancliffe (Movement Strategies), Roger Gomm (Roger Gomm), Chris Kemp (MOM Consultancy), Ian Kerr (ID Resilience), John Langford (The O2 Arena), Carl A H Martin (cahm.uk) and Andy Palmer (London Gatwick Airport).

The full agenda can be viewed here.

E3 will take place at the Intercontinental Hotel at The O2 (pictured) on 10 October, with around 200 delegates expected to attend.


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Measures of security

Terrorist attacks stooped to a new low with the bombing of the Manchester Arena in May, where it was known that large numbers of children would be attending a concert by Ariana Grande.

One of the most challenging aspects of the attack was the location of the explosion, which was focused to cause maximum carnage: at a major interface between pedestrians in transit at Victoria station and the arrival and departure of concertgoers. This juncture is also an egress point to the public car park in the basement of the arena. The early detonation of the device reduced the numbers killed and injured, but the message was loud and clear: any target is legitimate to the terrorist.

The venue and its environs encompass the essential principle of accessibility and fluidity, enabling the city to function in an effective and efficient manner. Creating checkpoints at all access/egress points would be counterproductive and create blockages and unmanageable congestion.

Venues are faced with a complex problem specific to the characteristics of modern cities. Accessibility and fluidity are structural components of contemporary urban planning. Arenas based on the model of the mediaeval fortress town, surrounded by ramparts with fixed entry points, are counterintuitive, as such meticulous controls may slow down or even block access.

Unfortunately, we seem to be reaching the limits of our security capabilities within the current measures and need to try to expand the envelope to stop us repeating the same mistakes. Terrorist attack methodologies will continue to evolve and we must evolve with them. It is important to accept our vulnerability, and not to delude ourselves on the effectiveness of our current systems.

We have to accept the fact that, in many cases, there is nothing that we can do – even if we were to multiply the controls – to contain the risk at all costs. The concept of absolute security is almost impossible to achieve, so we need to reduce the risk to as low as is reasonably practicable. What we must do is act now with the tools available to us by accepting the idea that these strategies are partially effective, thus seeking new strategies to keep ahead of attack methodologies.

Our current approaches are outdated, predictable and clearly inefficient, creating constraints that make situations unmanageable

At the same time, security policies must reinvent themselves by changing paradigms. The challenge we face today is how to raise the level of control while guaranteeing fluidity in public spaces. To put it another way and add a more political dimension, we must attempt to protect individuals whilst still maintaining their public freedom. We will not solve these complex problems with the simple solutions we implemented previously.

Multiplying the controls at the ingress points of events is a partial solution, symbolic of our ‘make do and mend’ attitude in the face of raised stakes. A single, fixed-control point creates queues in areas upstream of the event, which may create an obvious target rather than safeguarding the public. The issue here is to balance crowd management with counterterrorism measures to ensure that they are both applied in equal measure.

In the case of a terrorist attack, we have two options: firstly, to stop it in the build-up or during hostile reconnaissance periods. To do this, we must train venue operatives and security teams on how to spot different types of behaviour, understand what the baseline venue context is, and then get them to escalate if necessary. Secondly, we must ensure that venue operatives are fully cognisant with differing attack methodologies, and are vigilant and understand how to work with the police and other security services.

We must rethink our strategies; integrate infrastructure and planning into a control and crowd management approach; and implement remote, non-systematic control points at different locations in the enlarged perimeter, and at different times. Our current approaches are outdated, predictable and clearly inefficient, creating constraints that make situations unmanageable.

It will take time for new strategies to emerge but time is one thing that we lack, so speedy resolution to issues must be a priority to put us one step ahead of this ongoing threat.


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ILMC launches Event Safety & Security Summit

The International Live Music Conference (ILMC) today announced the launch of the Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S), a new one-day meeting that will bring together leading international venues, touring/sports professionals and security experts to discuss best practice in security for live events.

Produced in close collaboration with the European Arenas Association (EAA) and the UK’s National Arenas Association (NAA), with input from theatre and venue organisations and live event security companies, the invitation-only event will take place at the Intercontinental Hotel at The O2 in London on 10 October, with around 200 delegates expected to attend.

The format of the day will mix practical presentations with panel discussions and keynote addresses.

“As pan-Europe’s specialised arena association, we share a responsibility to provide our members with access to industry security professionals, technology experts and counter-terrorism specialists,” says EAA president Brian Kabatznick. “The EAA joins the NAA and ILMC in participating in this important E3S conference with the intention of providing our venues, staff, guests and tenants with the appropriate procedures and methods to safeguard our facilities and events.”

“It is imperative that we continually and collectively identify and understand best practice in safety and security, and E3S gives us precisely this opportunity”

ILMC head Greg Parmley comments: “ES3 will be a forum to share information and best practice, as well as the latest concepts and tools related to security at live events. We’re inviting anyone who can contribute to this open, focused dialogue to get in touch via [email protected].”

“Developments to improve the safety and security of everyone in our arenas has always been a key priority for the National Arenas Association,” adds NAA chair Martin Ingham. “It is imperative that we continually and collectively identify and understand best practice in these areas and E3S gives us precisely this opportunity alongside other venues and industry experts.”

The full agenda for E3S will be published in August. Full event and contact information is now online at www.e3s.world.


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13 dead in blaze at unlicensed Hanoi venue

An investigation by the Hanoi fire brigade has revealed that up to 80% of karaoke bars in the city fail to meet fire safety standards, days after 13 people were killed in a blaze at a venue on Tran Thai Tong Street.

Reports in local media suggest the fire, on Tuesday (1 November), was sparked by welders working on a sign at the unlicensed bar, with the victims – among them 11 government officials – likely suffocating in windowless karaoke rooms, which spanned eight storeys.

At a press conference yesterday, Hoang Trung Hai, the city’s party committee secretary – or local representative of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) – said the venue had a single fire exit, in common with the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, which was destroyed by a blaze last October.

“The karaoke bar had one fire exit at the back, but I think the victims did not know how to reach it, and gathered in one room”

“The karaoke bar had one fire exit at the back,” he told reporters, “but I think the victims did not know how to reach it, and gathered in one room. They did not know how to handle the situation.”

According to the fire brigade, of the 988 karaoke bars in Hanoi, up to 787 lack fire certificates, reports VietNamNet.

Lieutenant-colonel Bui Quang Viet, the deputy head of the Hanoi fire and rescue department, says firemen battling the Tran Thai Tong blaze struggled to reach the fire because the building was covered in huge signboards. All the city’s bars will now be inspected to check their compliance with fire safety regulations, says Bui, which require that all walls, rooves, exit routes and wall displays must be fire resistant and that signs must not cover the whole building or block the exits.


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Festivals “more safe” following year of terror

Music festivals “have to see the positives” in the recent wave of terror in Europe, the promoter of Belgium’s Rock Werchter has said, with festivals now better prepared for any future incidents as a result of increased security.

Speaking on the Festival 2020: The Long View panel at the International Festival Forum (IFF) in London, Herman Schueremans said Rock Werchter – which, along with five other Belgian events, implemented bag checks and a raft of other security measures for 2016 – said: “Everything negative has something positive. The bottom line is, we learnt from it. Festivals can say they are more safe now.”

Stephan Thanscheidt, managing director of Hamburg-based FKP Scorpio, was less optimistic, saying that the threat of terror “will remain a problem for us” and revealing that in the wake of four terrorist incidents in Germany in the space of a week in late July, ticket sales to its August festivals “went down to almost zero. The fear of terror was enormous for a while.”

He said there were “huge traffic jams” caused by the beefed-up security (“the things we needed [to implement] were crazy, but necessary”), although Schueremans countered that “extra checks don’t always mean long queues. By anticipating and doing pre-checks, you can even save time.”

“Everything negative has something positive. The bottom line is, we learnt from it”

Former AEG UK director of live music Sam Bush, now director of Global Live, whose portfolio includes Festival №6, Snowbombing and Electric Elephant in Croatia, said it’s important festivalgoers aren’t put off by terror, but that there’s only a certain amount festivals – like any major public gathering – can do: “Our foremost concern is festivalgoers’ safety,” he said. “But the reality is that it’s world we live in today. As long as we’ve got everything covered [from the security side], there’s nothing more we can do.”

Schueremans agreed on the importance of festivals in combating fear of terrorism. “Festivals are about uniting people, bringing them together,” he said. “Politics and religion divide people. Festivals unite people.

“And we’re the lucky bastards that can get youngsters together, new generations together, under the banner of music. Isn’t that fantastic?”


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