The Big Interview: Paul Foster, FOAMHAND: Safety v Security: Why agencies must work together better to improve crowd safety outside venues
The shift of focus for crowd safety outside venues is growing, with recent incidents in arenas and stadiums both in the UK and overseas, increasing the need for greater collaboration between security and safety agencies, Foster said.
Foster, Chief Operating Officer at FOAMHAND, the globally-renowned experts in crowdflow analysis, said that too often there was avoidable “conflict” between security teams and safety teams, which at best could hamper spectators’ experience, at worst putting them at risk.
And he called for a far closer working relationship to ensure customers received the best experience and events passed off without incident.
Foster, whose company has recently acted as crowdflow consultants at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, said: “People might think safety and security is the same thing but it isn’t. Security will be making sure that everyone who gets in is essentially clean of anything they shouldn’t have, and ensuring any vehicles don’t get too close with things in them they shouldn’t have.
“That can conflict with safe flow of spectators and impact the customer experience, with long queues forming and people taking a long time to get into a venue. Typically safety teams are there to ensure people’s general safety when they are inside the venue.
“But of course none of that is really focused on what happens before people get in and as they leave a venue. We encourage a closer working relationship between security and safety to ensure a better end to end experience for people going in and from the event.
“If you get big queues or a large congregation of people immediately outside a venue there are some real issues around that – you can cause a serious incident without the need even to get inside as recent incidents have shown to devastating effect.
“Through our projects we promote increasing the focus from inside the perimeter to encompass what’s going on outside looking holistically at the complete journey. However, often we find the problem is that no-one wants to put their hand up to take responsibility for that part of the event because of the challenges in such a dynamic environment.
“If we are to resolve that, everyone needs to take a share of responsibility and work together. A great example of this I take away from my experiences of London 2012 when my team, the police, the local council, the Westfield shopping centre, all signed a joint declaration on the emergency action plan so that in the event of a problem we would work collaboratively to a pre-agreed plan.”
He said that the customer experience must be at the heart of future planning, particularly as more sporting venues and festivals are increasing their search and screening regimes which, without careful planning, could lead to long delays.
And he added that by “facilitating closer collaboration between security and safety, costs efficiencies can be achieved without compromising public safety and the spectator experience”.
He said: “The need to reduce the cost of hosting major global events is under the spotlight and it is well publicised over the past few years that many countries and cities have shied away from bidding to become major event hosts. However the 2018 Winter Olympics yet again demonstrated the positive impact major global events can have in a host country and beyond those borders.”