shopify visitor statistics
Crowd Dynamics
Crowd Dynamics

This chapter is sponsored by Technical Direction Company


(Revised 20 November 2017)

Crowd Dynamics can be defined as the study of the how and where crowds form and move above the critical density of more than one person per square metre. At high density there is the potential for overcrowding and personal injury. It is therefore important to understand the dynamics of crowds, how crowds understand and interpret information systems, how management systems affect crowd behaviour. We call this the science of crowd dynamics. There is potential for minor or major injury occurring through the dynamics of crowd behaviour, as past tragedies have demonstrated. Measures should be taken by the organisers of events to ensure that there is effective and safe crowd management so that overcrowding does not occur. This chapter will explain the principles of crowd dynamics, it is highly recommended that event organisers seek assistance of an experienced crowd manager to put together a crowd management plan.

17.1 Referenced documents:

WHS Regulation 2011

Safe and Healthy Mass Gatherings, Australia Disaster Resilience Handbook

HSE (UK) – HSG154 – Managing Crowds Safely

Introduction to Crowd Science – Keith Still

NSW – Major Events Amendment (Safety and Crowd Management) Regulation 2015

ACT – Major Events Act 2014

Victoria – Major Events (Crowd Management) Act 2003

SA – Guidelines for the Management of Public Health and Safety at Public Events

WA – Guidelines for concerts, events and organised gatherings WA Department of Health

QLD – A Planning Guide for Event Managers 1999

17.2 Definitions

17.2.1 Crowd Management

Crowd Management is defined as techniques used to pro-actively influence crowd behaviour at a specific site for a specific event. Crowd Management uses a range of techniques and equipment to manage the flow of people with the aim to reduce the risks associated with mass gatherings without the use of force.

17.2.2 Crowd Control

Crowd Control is defined as techniques used to address behaviour by groups of people that may impose risks to the health and safety of others. Crowd Control is a range of reactive actions to situations occurring in mass gatherings, often relying on the use of reasonable force.

17.2.3 Demography

Demography is the study of human populations – their size, composition and distribution across space – and the process through which populations change. Socioeconomic characteristics of a population expressed statistically, such as age, sex, education level, income level, marital status, occupation, religion, birth rate, death rate, average size of a family, average age at marriage. Understanding the demographic structure of the people attending the event will greatly assist in meeting their requirements.

17.3 WHS Duty

If, as an event organiser, you are in charge of a business or organisation (PCBU), you will have general duties under the WHS or OH&S Act and Regulation to ensure that risks to people’s health and safety arising from work activities, including members of the public, self-employed persons, volunteers and contractors, are properly controlled. You may allocate elements of the organisation of your event to others, eg event security or marshals provided by a contractor, but you will retain overall responsibility for ensuring the safety of the visiting crowds.

17.3.1 Contractors

Contractors and subcontractors share the duty to ensure the health and safety of workers and others, the general public, at the worksite. The fencing contractor will have a duty to make sure the fences and barriers they provide and erect are suitable for the task at hand and will not collapse or fall over.

17.4 Planning

Good planning from the onset of the event organisation will help to manage the event safely. Allow sufficient time to collect and process the information about the crowd demographics and planning how the crowd will arrive, move around and leave the event. It is important to include all staff and contractors in the early planning stages not only to understand their needs but also to understand how their activities impact on each other and the general public. Dependant on how you will use the venue, or green field site, you may need to include crowd management advice to minimise the risks.

17.4.1 Crowd density

Priority should be given to an acceptable level of crowd density for the type of event and the venue. Established venues will have set occupancy limits but these may need to be lowered to suit the event or the amount of temporary infrastructure, such as stages, BOH facilities, etc.

The National Building Code sets out the following crowd densities based on the type of event in Table D1.13:

Type of Use m² per person
Art gallery, exhibition area, museum 4
Bar —bar standing

Note: Bar standing is the area used by standing patrons and extends not less than 1.5m wide from the outside edge of the bar top for the length of the serving area of the bar.

Bar —Other 1
Cafe, church, dining room 1
Dance Floor 0.5
Indoor Sports Stadium – Arena 10

Use to determine the space required for temporary kitchens

Restaurant 1
Showroom – Display area, covered mall or arcade 5
Spectator stand, audience viewing area

– Standing viewing area

– Removable seating

– Fixed seating (number of seats)

– Bench seating (450mm/person)






Theatre and Public Hall (Entertainment Venue) 1
Theatre dressing room 4

Note that the licensed capacity of a site or venue is further restricted by the number of available exits and the required number of sanitary facilities.

When calculating capacity, ensure that allowance is made for areas taken up by facilities such as food and merchandising stalls, temporary structures etc as people cannot use these areas. Areas where there is no easy access to view the main attraction(s) should also be identified.

17.4.2 Venue suitability

The capacity of the site and venue will be determined by crowd density, emergency egress and facilities. Consideration ought to be given to:

  • Time it takes to get people into the event
  • Time it takes people to leave at the conclusion of the event
  • Emergency Evacuation
  • Available facilities such as toilets, food & beverage and First Aid.

Some of these may be complimented with additional temporary services but that must then consider the reduction of floorspace available.

17.4.3 Expected turnout

When forecasting your expected turnout, you may find it helpful to consider:

  • attendance on previous occasions;
  • numbers visiting similar events;
  • proposed level of publicity;
  • advance ticket sales;
  • the effect of public holidays, school holidays
  • good / bad weather;
  • whether some days are going to be particularly busy, eg first or final days;
  • whether any extra visitors will attend special attractions taking place at the event; and
  • allowance for unexpectedly large numbers of people turning up.

The latter is a particular problem for free, unticketed events where it is difficult to judge how many people may show up. It is highly recommended to have as a minimum a registration website where people can express an interest in attending the event. That will assist in preparing for roughly the correct number of people attending, not only for security and safety staff but also for F&B requirements, available toilets, First Aid, etc. The registration can then also be used to allocate time slots for longer running events.

17.4.4 Demographics

The demographics of the expected crowd and the type of event will influence the crowd management systems of the event. Parents with children have a different need from people attending a dance party, classical concerts have different needs from a rock concert, a sporting event is different from a performance or concert.

Elderly people and people with special needs may have specific expectations and requirements that must be considered if they fit the expected demographic.

17.4.4.a Performers

Performers can have a great impact on crowd behaviour. Understanding the relationship between the performer and the fans is an important part of crowd management preparations.

17.4.5 Arrivals

Understanding the audience demographics will assist in predicting arrival patterns. If primarily using public transport, arrival patterns can be based on time tables of bus, train or ferry services near the site or venue. If primarily driving then the arrival pattern will be more spread-out but depending on nearby parking facilities there may be many latecomers if parking is difficult.

17.4.5.a Other events in the precinct

Make note of any other events in the same precinct that may affect arrival or departure patterns. Traffic congestions can even affect public transport busses.

17.4.5.b Excess Arrivals

Where there is a risk of more people arriving than can be accommodated safely, procedures must be in place to manage arrivals and restrict access to the event. This situation can arise in open public events such as New Years’ Eve fireworks or other public celebrations. Because of the high possibility that people unable to attend the event it will be advisable to maintain close contact with the police, public transport providers and local broadcasters. Communication with the crowd is essential in managing the situation and a suitable PA system and announcer must be part of the plan.

It is highly recommended to set-up a registration and ticket option, even for free tickets, to avoid disappointment of people who may have travelled a long way to attend.

17.4.6 Consultation

From an early stage, ensure that clearly defined roles and responsibilities exist in relation to crowd safety, addressing both normal and emergency situations. You will need to appoint someone who is responsible for the various safety duties, making sure there are no gaps and ensuring everyone understands their own responsibilities. Although this person must be able to act without reference to others, that appointment does not remove the responsibility of the event organiser. The event controller must have final control over all subcontractors, stewards etc and ensure all procedures are in place and followed.

17.4.6.a Meetings

It is important that meetings, and what has been agreed between various parties, have been clearly documented to avoid unnecessary confusion and misunderstanding.

17.5 Hazard Identification

Consider hazards associated with the expected crowd and hazards presented by the venue. It is important to identify hazards that are introduced by changes to the venue or site. Front of House may have additional merch stands or sponsor displays that may impact on ‘normal’ operation of the venue and the predicted flow of people. Stage extensions, production towers, cables, whether or not covered by a cable ramp, can all introduce trip hazards or change the crowd dynamics.

17.5.1 Hazards presented by a venue

  • Slipping or tripping due to inadequately lit areas or poorly maintained floors
  • Moving vehicles sharing the same route as pedestrians
  • People getting trapped, eg wheelchair users in a crowd
  • Collapse of a structure, such as a fence or barrier
  • People being pushed against objects
  • Temporary objects that obstruct movement and cause congestion
  • Crowd movements obstructed by people queuing
  • Crossflows as people cut through the crowd to get to other areas, such as toilets

17.5.2 Hazards presented by a crowd

  • Crushing between people
  • Crushing against fixed structures, such as barriers
  • Trampling underfoot
  • Surging, swaying or rushing
  • Aggressive behaviour, particularly between groups of rival supporters
  • Dangerous behaviour, such as climbing on equipment, running down steep slopes or throwing objects

17.6 Considerations

17.6.1 Lay-out

Ensure that entrance routes do not filter into vantage points such as popular attractions or front stage areas. This is to avoid people staying at the end of the route and blocking flow into the venue.

17.6.2 Surges

Crowd surges or pushing should be anticipated when the action in the venue becomes particularly exciting, leading to excess pressure and overcrowding – standing areas are particularly vulnerable. For example:

  • the audience may move forward as the main act comes on stage at a music concert; or
  • unexpected mass movement of audience members from one attraction or performance to another; or
  • in response to cheers and shrieks, the people gathered around an attraction may rush forward to get a better view.

17.6.3 Viewing areas

Design viewing areas in such a way that all people have good sight lines to any stage areas. This reduces the tendency of people to crush or surge in order to obtain a better view.

Ensure that viewing areas are set aside so that people using wheelchairs have a clear view of the attraction and are not affected by crowd movement, such as surging. Be careful that wheelchairs do not block gangways or exits.

17.7 Crowd Management strategies

Basic crowd science is based around the DIM – ICE matrix and can be applied to all situations. Please use the following explanation as just that, an explanation how the system works at the basics, do not see this as a ‘how to’ instruction.

17.7.1 Stages

The first step is looking at the three stages of crowds attending an event:

17.7.1.a Ingress

The review of Ingress starts well outside the venue, preferably as far out as realistically possible. This is where we look at how people will travel to the event and how they enter the event.

17.7.1.b Circulation

This is where we look at how people move around inside the event. How they get from the point of entrance to where they will enjoy the event. That can be a chair in and auditorium, a booth at an exhibition or a table at a dinner. It also looks at how they access Food and Beverage, buy merchandise or find the toilets.

17.7.1.c Egress

This may seem similar to Ingress but there are a number of differences. First of all there is less interference from the event organiser, there is no need to inspect tickets for example. The big difference is that Egress happens all at the same time. Where arrivals may be spread out over a set amount of time, Egress will all happen at the same time and that can cause additional pressure points.

17.7.2 Controls

Following the same structure of hierarchy of risk control, the DIM side of the matrix looks at what measures can be put in place. For each of the three stage outlined above, we now need to look at how we manage those stages.

17.7.2.a Design

In this step we look at the lay-out of the venue or site, taking into consideration all the obstructions put in place for the event. The main objective is to eliminate the risks as far as reasonably possible. Creating nice, clear paths for people to find their way to the event, or at least as close as possible. And again, this may start well outside the venue or site if we expect queueing outside the boundaries. Ingress Design is one of the crucial stages of how the general public will experience the event. Get it right and things will be easier from there on, get it wrong and you have to deal with an unhappy and maybe even hostile crowd.

17.7.2.b Information

The downfall of many ‘crowd management’ plans, inconsistent, inaccurate or invisible information. For a crowd to behave in the way the crowd manager intends it is important that they feel they are in control of their situation. Being in control means knowing how to find their way around the site or venue. Signage plays a big role in this sharing of information. The current tendency of putting maps or plans on-line to reduce signage costs is often counterproductive. People trying to find their way around will often move against the flow of people causing congestion and disgruntlement.

17.7.2.c Management

This is where we look at administrative controls. In the first two steps we looked at how we can create an environment where people can move around safely. This step we look at what policies and procedures we must have in place to deal with crowd safety, the information our staff needs to know and controls we roll out to rectify something that didn’t go exactly to plan.

17.7.3 Matrix

For each of the three stage outlined above, we now need to look at how we manage those stages.

Using the matrix shown, each stage is reviewed against the controls. This is done for each area of the event such as ‘crowd movement’, ‘traffic movement’, ‘Food & Beverage’, etc. This is done for both normal and emergency situations.

The information gathered here will then form the basis of the crowd management plan for the event.

DIM-ICE matrix


17.7.4 ‘When things go wrong’

Think about how your activity could be disrupted and what new hazards could arise as a result of a disruption. An emergency, such as a serious fire, may call for an evacuation, thus introducing new hazards. Even a minor disruption, such as a train delay or cancellation, could turn into a significant hazard.

Identify the scenarios which could disrupt your activity, such as:

  • emergency situations (eg fire, bomb threat, structural collapse, toxic release etc);
  • accident, eg traffic accident, outside or within the venue;
  • closure of part of the venue;
  • closure of a nearby or related venue (eg the closure of an adjacent train station);
  • delay or cancellation, eg late kick-off in a football match;
  • disruption to the arrival/departure profile, eg severe traffic congestion on a main approach road;
  • loss of services, eg power cut;
  • public disorder;
  • system or equipment failure, eg jammed door or gate, escalator stops; or
  • weather, eg a sudden change of weather and adverse weather conditions such as too hot/cold, heavy rainfall/snowfall, high winds etc.