The Big Interview: Ken Scott – France terrorist attacks show the importance of invacuation in stadium design

THE increased risk of terrorism outside sports stadiums is leading experts to increasingly evaluate how to “invacuate” and manage large crowds inside.

In the second part of our interview with Ken Scott, Chief Inspector for the Sports Ground Safety Authority, he said the Authority was more than ever advising new stadium designers on considering how they can manage, move and keep safe thousands of people in the event of an external threat.

Ken said that the new edition of the Green Guide, the Government-funded guide to sports stadia safety, would address the issue for the first time.

“One of the key headlines of the new Guide is recognising that because of the current threat that we live under, we need to understand the people movement characteristics inside a building because it might be the fact that we are not evacuating people, it might be that we are invacuating and moving them in different directions and in different areas to the ones they would expect when they simply enter and exit.

“While previous editions were all about the stimulus being inside the building, we are now likely to have stimuli outside the building, a situation such as what happened at the Stade de France.

“How do we manage sports grounds and the number of people within sports grounds, if that is the case? If there is a threat outside, and if it closes off all of the exits on one elevation of the stadium?

“So we are now working with new stadium designers, with existing venues, to say you might want to consider this as to how you would allow for mass movement of people under these different conditions.”

In November 2015, a terrorist attack outside the Stade de France in Paris killed three people as an 80,000-strong crowd was inside watching France play Germany.

The then-French president, Francois Hollande, was evacuated at half time while after the game, which was allowed to carry on to its conclusion, sections of the remaining crowd were  moved from the stands onto the pitch and held there until being allowed to leave after the threat was over. The Germany team remained in the stadium overnight.

Ken said the SGSA work “very closely” with the National Counter Terrorism Security Office and “distilling” their general advice to make it stadium-specific. He added: “It’s important and becoming increasingly so that stadium designers consider not just what happens in the stadium, but also in the surrounding areas.”

The crowd was kept on the pitch after the game for its safety

He said more stadium operators are now considering what goes on in the immediate areas outside, with the growing demand for multi-use stadiums  major safety consideration is how to move people around when they are on the pitch at for example a concert, rather than in the stands for a game, something the SGSA produced a guidance document Alternative Uses of Sports Grounds in 2015.

“Inviting people onto the pitch and getting them away safely at the end is the taxing thing; there are additional risks to that of a sports match because not only are you inviting people into different areas, but areas which were never designed to be accommodate standing spectators, therefore ingress and egress from the pitch is generally not designed to cope with that usage.

“In a concert scenario, you also have many of these events bringing in the biggest West End stage productions with all the Hollywood special effects.

“Often you’re losing one end of the venue to accommodate the production, so you no longer have those entrances  and exits available for general use, and it’s about how that would impact on the different movement characteristics of the people using the building. So there are all of these different dimensions to consider, which is why we felt it useful to have document giving advice on how to do it.”

He said the Authority was increasingly working with companies  specialising in people movement and crowd flow modelling to help assess any potential problems at the design stage.

“In new stadium design it’s really important to understand people movement; using modelling and analysis we don’t now have to wait for the venue to open to realise what does and doesn’t work. . We can get a good idea of outcomes  from using technology, and simulating how people move around sports grounds under certain  conditions.

“The technology that can help us assess that is improving all the time. Almost every time I visit a venue I will learn from the advances in technology. .

“ The SGSA has been around a long time and in that time has built up a vast understanding of safety issues,  however we are careful not to rest on laurels and recognise that the moment we close our minds to  what is happening out there is the time we become complacent. We must always guard against complacency in safety.

“The development in all the hardware and software, the facilities going in to make stadia smart, can help the spectator experience, and assist  people movement around the building.

“Crowd modelling adds another dimension to  the static calculations that form the basis for spectator movement   in sports grounds – we can test it with the new technologies.”

The sixth edition of the Green Guide is available in Summer 2018.