by: Lisa DuBrock and Don Byrne, Contributing Writers

Over the past six months businesses and communities have been forced to deal with an interesting variety of challenges from underwear bombers and exploding volcanoes to an oil spill that threatens to devastate small coastal towns over a four state area. Now another small community – Mt. Prospect, Illinois — is faced with yet another new challenge – American Idol!

Mt. Prospect is home to Lee DeWyze who will be returning to the Chicago area on Friday May 14th. Starting with an appearance on “Good Day Chicago”, Mr. DeWyze will spend the day giving local interviews, visiting an AT &T store and speaking at schools. The day will end with a motorcade beginning in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, finishing at the Arlington Park Racetrack in Arlington Heights, IL, where DeWyze will be part of a free concert. 

How should a working community (est. average family income is $67, 946), with slightly over 53,000 people be prepared for the celebrity challenge of American Idol? Is there a crowd control element that needs to be addressed? These are just some of  the questions asked of our team of preparedness and crisis management  experts. The following “American Idol Fans – Crowd Management Checklist” was the result.

We wish Mr DeWyze, Mt. Prospect, and everyone involved with this event a safe and enjoyable time!

American Idol Fans – Crowd Management Checklist

Event Planning
A safe and secure event begins with good planning. Questions to be asked at the outset include:

What are the core activities that comprise the overall event and what are the safety and security implications of each? Here are some examples:

  • Is the Chain of Command, especially across different departments and agencies (fire, police, event management, etc.) clear and documented?
  • Are the duties and responsibilities of each group clear?
  • Is there a system in place that allows event managers to communicate with each other?
  • Is there a well publicized and detailed timetable of the various activities including their location, how to travel to and from the event, and a discussion of what to do if weather or other factors cause a serious delay or cancellation? This is especially important if refunding of ticket purchases may be involved.
  • Is there sufficient support equipment available to service the needs of the anticipated crowd?
  • Will the Media be given special access and setup space for the event? If so, how are their power requirements going to be met and is there a secure area for mobile TV and Radio station equipment?

Event Location and Travel Routes

Will there be a parade or motorcade? (Mt Prospect plans a motorcade.) If so, arrangements must be made to re-route business traffic that would normally use the roads in and around the parade route. Notice must be given to these businesses so as not to disrupt the supply chain of goods to and from local businesses. Other considerations:

  • How will access be provided to emergency vehicles if they are needed?
  • Will concession stand vendors (e.g., those serving food) have special ingress and egress?
  • How will any performers be moved to and from the event? Car, van, bus, helicopter, etc.?
  • Where will the performers be housed? When will they arrive and depart – all this information needs to be in the hands of the event planners so notice can be given to the police department and other security groups.
  • Parking facilities should be clearly labeled and if these are not directly adjacent to the parade/motorcade route, then shuttle transportation should be available.
  • What type of crowd is expected? Will the event attract families with young children and seniors expected; or are teenagers, motorcycle enthusiasts, or anarchists protesting the G8 while discussing the latest repartee between Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell – expected? In the former case, perhaps additional handicap and special parking space should be, additional restroom facilities provided, and concession stands alerted to the make-up of the crowd so they can provision their kiosks appropriately.
  • Will alcohol be permitted and sold at the event?
  • If there is a parade/motorcade, where will it end? This is an important consideration because people may need transportation back to their parking locations? If the crowd doesn’t immediately disperse are there food, drink, and entertainment facilities that can occupy them?
  • Are there “feeder” events earlier in the day that will set the tone for the final activities? If so, are these ones that are likely to get the crowd’s adrenaline pumping or will the mood be mellow? The attitude of a crowd after a football game with a rival team is much different than after a flower show or Oldies Concert! 

Physical Surroundings and Weather Conditions

The setting has much to do with establishing the character of the event. For example, will the event(s) be held indoors or outside? Are tickets required or is this a free event? What are the expected weather conditions? All these factors will impact the size of the crowd, their mood, and how long they will linger after the event finishes. Here are some additional items to consider in the context of the venue and weather conditions.

  • If the event is being held in-doors, how will crowd movement be managed? Will people be expected to exit from the same direction they entered or will they be routed in a different way to their vehicles/transportation? In either case, good signage is a must!
  • Does the setting have any type of public address system for making announcements to the crowd? One key lesson learned when dealing with large scale events is that keeping the crowd advised of delays and the reason for delays helps control tempers and the frustration that builds in the absence of information. Such announcements also help squelch rumors, which can ignite unwanted behavior. 

Security and Safety

While local police officials have overall responsibility for the security of the event, many events will involve the use of untrained or slightly trained security personnel. Here are some things to consider when planning for the safety and security of all attendees.

  • The visible presence of police and security personnel can do much to set the tone of the event. Stationing police in full riot gear regalia around the periphery of the event sends a very different message to the crowd than having volunteers in brightly colored T-Shirts or jackets emblazoned with the words Event Management walking around the area.
  • Will private security be present? If so their plans should be shared with the local police and all activities coordinated. This information-sharing arrangement should be part of the permit process and contract procedures agreed to by the local authorities, the venue provider, and the event promoter. If performers are involved who have their own security, the plans for moving these individuals to and from the event must be coordinated with local authorities.
  • Will there be a crowd-screening process? Some level of screening will take place if tickets are required but even at open events, some review of the crowd to weed out people who are intoxicated, inappropriately dressed, or display other provocative behavior, should be considered. In all cases, if intervention is called for the goals should be to isolate and remove those involved quickly and with as little disruption as possible from public view.
  • Local ordinances (example: “No open container alcohol permitted!”) and codes of conduct (“No bare feet.”) should be prominently posted along with other safety codes.
  • The integrity and privacy of neighboring property should be respected. 

Roles of the Performer and Promoter

Each performer should be briefed on his or her role in contributing to a safe and secure event. This responsibility should be made clear in the contract between the venue and the promoter who then has responsibility to convey this information to the performer(s). 

While we can’t predict who the next American Idol will be, we can say with confidence that if the guidelines above are followed, whoever wins will be able to focus on performing and not worry about concert safety or security!

Source of information on Lee DeWyse’s trip to the Chicagoland area:

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