‘Crowd science’ could keep Aussies safer at festivals this summer

Published:31 October 2017

Dr Aldo Raineri (second from left) joins moderator Stephanie Brantz and Stephen Woolger and Tony Williams on the Safe Work Australia video panel.

The emerging discipline of ‘crowd science’ could help keep thousands of Aussies safer this summer as they attend festivals, concerts and trade shows.

That’s according to CQUniversity OHS specialist Dr Aldo Raineri who recently joined a Safe Work Australia video panel to discuss major event safety.

Dr Raineri says it’s important that event planners consider ‘heat mapping’ of expected crowd movements based on previous events.

He also recommends using active observers or technology solutions to monitor crowd density, movement dynamics and behaviour in real time.

“One of the highest priorities for major event safety is also often the least understood and least well dealt with … crowd control planning,” Dr Raineri says.

“A crowd density of 7-8 people per square metre starts to get uncomfortable in a static crowd and it can be worse in a moving crowd.

“At higher crowd densities, people lose their ability to move freely.

“You become part of this greater amorphous fluid mass and that has really serious repercussions.

“If you look at physics for example then that creates wave motions and so literally you can have wave motions in densely packed crowds … that can have some really serious effects obviously at the centre of that mass of people but also at the margins; at the edges if you’re pushed up against a barrier or fence for example.”

Dr Raineri says the second critical issue is the dynamics of crowd movement so it’s important to keep people moving in the same direction without cross-flows or backflows.

A major issue to avoid is having people entering and exiting through the same gate. Organisers also need to create smooth pathways for people going to the bathroom or purchasing drinks.

“Venues may have a build-up of people at the point of ticket collection or bag searching so there’s potential for pushing from the back.

“Some venues will have poor design so you have to work around it to create alternative paths.”

Dr Raineri says the third dimension of crowd science is the expected behaviour of crowd dictated by the nature of the event, both during normal and emergency scenarios.

“Issues to keep in mind include the design of the venue, pre-event information about transport and entrances and also information during the event itself such as public address systems, particularly if there is a bottleneck or emerging issue.”

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