How can technology help address security issues at events?

How can technology help address security issues at events?

Tech­nol­o­gy can help event organ­is­ers find solu­tions to their var­i­ous secu­ri­ty issues. The lat­ter have been receiv­ing atten­tion in recent years but have nev­er­the­less always exist­ed. Access con­trol and search­es, crowd surges, ter­ror­ist risk, sex­u­al assault and extreme weath­er events… how can tech­nol­o­gy help you bet­ter antic­i­pate risks and address inci­dents in the most effec­tive way?

Here are some ideas to think about. They were dis­cussed dur­ing a work­shop led by Weezevent at the MaMA Fes­ti­val — Paris, France —, with Jérôme Tréhorel, direc­tor of Les Vieilles Char­rues — biggest French fes­ti­val —, and Pas­cal Viot, secu­ri­ty man­ag­er at the Paléo Fes­ti­val — biggest Swiss fes­ti­val —, secu­ri­ty con­sul­tant at Euro­pean fes­ti­vals, and teacher-researcher at the Ecole poly­tech­nique de Lau­sanne.


  1. Man­ag­ing crowds of atten­dees
  2. Address­ing inci­dents: dis­or­der­ly con­duct, crime, mis­de­meanour
  3. Antic­i­pat­ing new risks

1. Managing crowds of attendees

Reception and security: same battle

Wel­com­ing the pub­lic is a real chal­lenge for an event, and in par­tic­u­lar for its organ­is­ers, as it involves their civ­il and crim­i­nal lia­bil­i­ty. This there­fore requires putting in place human and tech­no­log­i­cal resources to ensure that every­thing goes accord­ing to plan, and that it gets bet­ter and bet­ter over the years. Safe­ty and secu­ri­ty are obvi­ous­ly at the heart of this issue, but so is the recep­tion of the pub­lic.

At the Paléo Fes­ti­val, this depart­ment is actu­al­ly called Recep­tion and Secu­ri­ty. Its role is to find a bal­ance between opti­mis­ing the fes­ti­val expe­ri­ence and man­ag­ing emer­gen­cies and safe­ty. Its mem­bers reg­u­lar­ly put them­selves in the shoes of fes­ti­val-goers in order to under­stand their jour­ney with­in the fes­ti­val — the user jour­ney — their move­ments and expe­ri­ence, their need for infor­ma­tion and expla­na­tions regard­ing con­trol and secu­ri­ty, etc.

Crowd man­age­ment is about man­ag­ing the flow and den­si­ty of peo­ple who will go through a process of con­trol and some­times wait­ing. They must under­stand why all this is nec­es­sary in order to avoid feel­ing as if they have to endure it. Safe­ty should be part of the atten­dees’ jour­ney with­out hurt­ing them psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly and phys­i­cal­ly, and guar­an­tee the best expe­ri­ence promised by the event.

What can tech tools do?

Arrange­ments must be in place to watch what is hap­pen­ing dur­ing the event, from the moment par­tic­i­pants enter until the end of the shows. Secu­ri­ty teams must have eyes every­where to antic­i­pate as much as pos­si­ble, or at least act and react well.

The den­si­ty of peo­ple in front of the stage should be mon­i­tored because crowds gen­er­ate a cer­tain num­ber of risks. This is where tech­nol­o­gy can help see things that a per­son can­not see alone. Cam­eras allow to zoom in on the crowd to iden­ti­fy peo­ple who might fall. This will help make deci­sions such as stop­ping a per­for­mance tem­porar­i­ly, or per­ma­nent­ly if nec­es­sary.

Tech­nol­o­gy helps to improve vision or deci­sion-mak­ing. If an event has been antic­i­pat­ed inter­nal­ly, but also with all gov­ern­ment depart­ments — on the periph­ery of the event for traf­fic, for exam­ple — it is much eas­i­er to react when a prob­lem­at­ic sit­u­a­tion occurs. But it is also nec­es­sary to cre­ate pro­ce­dures adapt­ed to each sit­u­a­tion. If secu­ri­ty teams have not planned their (re)actions in response to a giv­en sit­u­a­tion, tech­nol­o­gy will help them detect it but not address it.

Case study: additional entrances for Vieilles Charrues 2016

Most events have only one entrance for par­tic­i­pants. At Les Vieilles Char­rues, this means that 30,000 peo­ple can flock to the same place at a more or less pre­dictable time, and this can become unman­age­able. The fes­ti­val-goer’s first phys­i­cal expe­ri­ence will then be to queue for a long time before enter­ing. This isn’t pleas­ant for any­one.

Like a sta­di­um, Les Vieilles Char­rues have there­fore cho­sen to add entrance points so that each one can let in few­er fes­ti­val-goers, but with greater ease. This has allowed to stream­line entrance and bet­ter con­trol access, there­by improv­ing atten­dees’ expe­ri­ence.

Imag­in­ing new routes and con­vinc­ing fes­ti­val-goers to go to these new entrances did not hap­pen overnight. To achieve this, it was nec­es­sary to work upstream and talk to the right peo­ple and pre­pare the launch so that every­thing would go accord­ing to plan.

Tech­no­log­i­cal mea­sure­ment tools are there­fore impor­tant inno­va­tions for mak­ing the right deci­sions. They pro­duce a cer­tain amount of infor­ma­tion that the organ­is­er would not oth­er­wise have been able to obtain, but this data must then be used wise­ly. In this case, analysing the num­ber of peo­ple going through each entrance can help mod­i­fy the sig­nage and redi­rect it to the least used entrances. This is how the num­ber of peo­ple at each entrance is rebal­anced.

In a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion, a secu­ri­ty gantry can detect a pro­hib­it­ed object faster than a search offi­cer would. And then — what action is per­formed once the gate flash­es and rings? If it indi­cates an imme­di­ate risk, which pro­to­col is trig­gered? Tech­nol­o­gy is a tool at the ser­vice of a process designed from A to Z. It gen­er­ates raw and use­less infor­ma­tion, unless the right pro­ce­dures are put into prac­tice to deal with it prag­mat­i­cal­ly.

2. Addressing incidents: disorderly conduct, crime, misdemeanour

Detection tools for global processes

Among the many secu­ri­ty sys­tems, oper­a­tors use cam­eras to iden­ti­fy poten­tial inci­dents, includ­ing peo­ple in dis­tress in a crowd. How­ev­er, once they iden­ti­fy and report an inci­dent, what pro­ce­dure should be fol­lowed? If an organ­i­sa­tion remains an observ­er with no process to deal with the inci­dent, it can become a real prob­lem.

Con­crete­ly, for exam­ple, who decides to stop a con­cert? How do we com­mu­ni­cate with the artist — and not just at the time of the inci­dent? It is bet­ter to inform him before his con­cert of the shut­down process based on the risks iden­ti­fied upstream. Stro­mae or NTM audi­ences are sub­ject to inci­dents for dif­fer­ent rea­sons and nev­er due to hos­tile behav­iour. Crowds move more or less and gen­er­ate more or less com­pres­sion. It is nec­es­sary to be able to include the artist and his man­age­ment in a deci­sion-mak­ing process by inform­ing them of the tools put in place for risk detec­tion. They must be in agree­ment with the organ­is­er to ensure the safe­ty of their audi­ence.

On the organ­i­sa­tion­al side, prepara­to­ry meet­ings are nec­es­sary to allo­cate secu­ri­ty guards from one con­cert to anoth­er based on the expect­ed audi­ence: num­ber of peo­ple, aver­age age, typ­i­cal surges — pogos, wall of death, etc. It is a mat­ter of antic­i­pat­ing and prepar­ing the con­di­tions for the con­cert to pro­ceed as planned, with a lay­er of vig­i­lance and pre­ven­tion. It is the equiv­a­lent of train­ing extreme ath­letes. Upstream, it is also impor­tant to test the tech­nolo­gies used. Some­times they will not be suit­able to the organ­is­er because it is not always pos­si­ble to link a tech­nol­o­gy to a spe­cif­ic process.

What to do with the data generated

Event teams can now store a gigan­tic amount of infor­ma­tion, but they must be able to analyse it to draw rel­e­vant con­clu­sions. To do this, they can, for exam­ple, scan the cash­less bracelets of peo­ple going through the first aid sta­tion to find out if the num­ber of injured peo­ple is high­er in cer­tain areas, after cer­tain shows, etc. This makes it pos­si­ble to adjust the num­ber of first aiders to cer­tain posi­tions, etc.

This is how Les Vieilles Char­rues was able to record many injuries in an area of the fes­ti­val where the ter­rain proved too dan­ger­ous. With­out this data, aware­ness would have tak­en place, but it might have tak­en a year or two — through tes­ti­monies, for exam­ple. Thus, the tools allow for a bet­ter read­ing of the observed phe­nom­e­na.

Case study: Stromae at Les Vieilles Charrues 2014

It is impos­si­ble to invent a safe­ty pro­ce­dure dur­ing the event. Before Stromae’s per­for­mance, Les Vieilles Char­rues fes­ti­val teams went to see his con­certs to iden­ti­fy his audi­ence and the way the crowd moves and reacts dur­ing his shows. They saw a large num­ber of chil­dren in the crowd and thought it may be dan­ger­ous. They then set up a manda­to­ry online jour­ney to find out how many chil­dren would come on the day Stro­mae per­forms at Les Vieilles Char­rues. The num­ber of chil­dren’s tick­ets was lim­it­ed and a spe­cial area was cre­at­ed for his con­cert so that 10,000* chil­dren did find them­selves in the gen­er­al pub­lic crowd.

*Esti­mate of the fes­ti­val for an audi­ence of 70,000 dai­ly atten­dees if a lim­it on the num­ber of chil­dren’s tick­ets had not been applied.

3. Anticipating new risks

Active and global monitoring

Secu­ri­ty issues can­not be dealt with overnight and it is impos­si­ble to set up every­thing in a sin­gle move. All teams must be involved all the time and long-term. Reg­u­lar con­ver­sa­tions with gov­ern­ment depart­ments also make it pos­si­ble to antic­i­pate many sit­u­a­tions. Espe­cial­ly since in some cas­es, they are the ones who have con­trol over the deci­sions made relat­ing to the event: can­cel­la­tion, post­pone­ment, etc.

At the same time, as part of active mon­i­tor­ing, you should be able to iden­ti­fy emerg­ing secu­ri­ty risks each year — with­out neglect­ing the oth­ers. They change every year based on changes in behav­iour. In the past, many acci­dents occurred in front of the stage, with many peo­ple injured and some­times even killed. After tak­ing up the sub­ject, event organ­is­ers then had to pre­vent weath­er risk fol­low­ing sev­er­al dis­as­ters and unfor­tu­nate acci­dents.

Around 2015, the ter­ror­ist risk erupt­ed vio­lent­ly. How­ev­er, it should not erase the oth­er issues. Today, event organ­is­ers must be mature enough to stan­dard­ise the man­age­ment of this risk, in par­tic­u­lar by work­ing with gov­ern­ment depart­ments to rethink secu­ri­ty mea­sures. It is also impor­tant to reas­sure par­tic­i­pants who tend to be con­cerned.

New risks to address

Oth­er issues are now at the heart of con­cerns, includ­ing sex­u­al assault. The work of an event is to become aware of secu­ri­ty issues and cre­ate pro­ce­dures to antic­i­pate and deal with the asso­ci­at­ed risks. This is called a risk man­age­ment approach.

In the future, and this is already the case, heat waves will be a pre­dictable and obvi­ous risk, but some events are not yet ready to face them. The same applies to pow­er fail­ures. If they affect an entire loca­tion, how does the organ­i­sa­tion com­mu­ni­cate with the crowd? How to set up a busi­ness con­ti­nu­ity plan — so that the event con­tin­ues to oper­ate in a sit­u­a­tion of dis­as­ter or major cri­sis?

You now know how tools facil­i­tat­ing recep­tion and secu­ri­ty at an event must be inte­grat­ed into glob­al process­es. Our access con­trol solu­tion and its mul­ti­ple fea­tures are part of it. Click on the but­ton below to dis­cov­er them:

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