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August 15, 2017

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How to improve visitor safety at leisure events and venues

As a result of the terrible events in London and Manchester earlier this year, tourist attractions and entertainment venues up and down the UK have been put under the spotlight regarding security and evacuation procedures. On top of this, concert arenas, sports stadiums and leisure sites will need to prepare for increased capacities and the potential issues associated with crowding over the summer months.

Here Joanne Turner provides facility managers with insight on how to improve visitor accessibility and safety for members of the public, including those with disabilities, ensuring the customer journey provides a positive and safe overall experience.

Visitors have had to endure longer entry queues and waiting times at several UK events this summer, as venues have increased their security measures in response to recent terrorist attacks. Large crowds at any form of event are potentially a target, so naturally, extra precautions have to be taken.

But unfortunately this often leads to disruption, outspoken grievances and in extreme cases, even personal injuries.

For example, fans recently took to social media after poor queuing experiences at The Stone Roses gig at Hampden Park in Glasgow, while the owner of Festival Republic made a public apology after several people suffered injuries in a queue crush at Ireland’s Longitude festival in July.

However, there have been some recent success stories in queue management, with ticket agent Gigantic decreasing waiting times by an impressive 90 per cent last year. This was achieved by issuing an e-ticket containing a unique barcode giving customers a choice of one of four entrances to get into the event.

Different variables

Public safety and the management of masses of people are two very different variables to consider. Private security staff are not always equipped to effectively deal with large crowds, so the necessary training and equipment needs to be aligned with the crowd management solutions in place. Opening a multi-lane queue system upon entry to a queue or attraction will allow guests to be evenly distributed. This is tremendous in terms of queuing psychology for visitors as lines are perceived to be shorter, improving the waiting experience.

Other safety issues like uneven flooring or obstructions cannot always be easily eliminated, but they can be substantially reduced at comparatively little cost, especially with various government grants available. However, avoiding such hazards needs to be made easy for everyone, including those with sight or mobility problems.

According to Attitude is Everything, a charity working to improve access to live music for disabled and deaf music fans, there is a growing international movement towards accessibility. Given that the number of deaf and disabled concertgoers rose by 26 per cent in 2015, and that the ‘purple pound’s’ collective spending power is now worth around £250 billion, facility managers need to make sure all needs are properly catered for.

Disabled people and physical obstacles

Disabled people are often intimidated in public places due to the number of physical obstacles they could potentially encounter, which is magnified even more when venues are overly crowded.

Where an area is cordoned off, whether it be at a festival, VIP area or sports stadium, there is a danger that the marker itself could become an obstruction.

Deploying low-profile bases on queue management systems means that wheelchair-users can pass over the unit without obstruction, even when space is limited. Managers should seek out products with bevelled edges that measure only a few millimetres in height, as the low edges will reduce the risk of trips and falls.

Regular risk assessments

By carrying out regular, detailed risk assessments, and by implementing the latest queueing solutions, this will help staff facilitate people in a safe and efficient manner, especially in high footfall areas. With 1.7 billion journeys made annually on the UK rail network, this advice also applies to key transport hubs where just as many complications and safety implications come into play, especially when major events are taking place, or during peak periods of the year such as the summer holidays or Christmas.

Creating an open plan layout with queue barriers can ensure the main access routes remain open, while enabling ease of customer movement for those who may be unfamiliar to specific train stations or airports. Wayfinding and signposts should also be logical, accessible and clearly displayed to enhance crowd control and queue management.

An example of this can be seen at the Emirates Air Line cable car, a popular London-based tourist attraction and mode of transport, which runs between Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Victoria Dock. It has safely connected over 8 million visitors to major destinations such as The O2 and ExCeL London, where a perimeter of 150 barriers have been installed around the entrance, guiding visitors towards the card readers.

While safety is, and should always be, the most paramount concern for facility managers, the commercial benefits of a smooth and efficient customer journey shouldn’t be underestimated. Ensuring a positive visitor experience is maintained from the moment an individual arrives to when they leave an event or venue is critical to maximising customer retention levels, repeat purchases and ultimately, business success.

Joanne Turner is group head of marketing at queue management specialist Tensator

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