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When the crowds come back

As lockdown restrictions are eased and people return to their normal lives, there will be a need for risk managers to analyse how the population is likely to behave and prepare accordingly. So it’s time to get the right training.

Henry Ford said: “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”

Spring is here, and, in the UK, we are about to come out of the third national lockdown. The good news is that there is a promise that the crowds are coming back later this year. Sports crowds, event crowds, festival crowds, theatre crowds, high street crowds. This is great news for all the businesses that have been “on hold” for the last year. The bad news is that the workforce, the supply chain, the high street, transport and all the peripheral support services that surround the planning and provision for crowds have been decimated. It is a very different world now and the things we were used to before the pandemic have changed, perhaps forever. To move forward, to prepare for the restart, you need to consider upskilling now.

Upskilling will be critical to your successful restart and to a greater understanding of challenge for business risks and building resilience. Staff training has always been good business practice; for team building, to supporting your business decisions, to underpin your confidence in your forward planning. Risk and safety are generally perceived not to add to the bottom line, but in my work as an expert witness, the lack of a risk-aware organisational culture, of safety and other deficiencies, and appropriate training, has proved to be the biggest failure of organisations. The cost of litigation due to those failures far exceeds the cost of training. It will be an uncertain future and the IIRSM is here to help you navigate your way through these exceptional times.

Risk analysis is a broad topic. For example, risk assessment for places of public assembly covers a wide range of disciplines, financial, structural, supply chain management, human factors and many more. These are all the dimensions of assessing the viability, profitability and safety of a wide range of tourism, events and hospitality. Some of these industries basically shut down over the last year, and now there is a need to reboot. However, restarting in this new world will require new approaches to risk analysis. For example, one of the new elements in crowd safety and risk analysis will be the potential for sudden, very large crowds to accumulate in places of public assembly. The addition of Martyn’s Law will change ingress dynamics, staffing and hence training requirements. Closely coupled to this is the fact that, after so many months in lockdown, it could be a mad rush to be part of the crowd again. What will happen when the crowds come back? How might crowd behaviour have changed? When the crowds come back it could put a sudden strain on your infrastructure which needs to be planned and managed safely. Training and upskilling will prevent your event becoming the next Fyre Festival.

Quality of training is also an important consideration. We’ve seen a rise in low level Zoom-based training; opportunists trying to offer programmes which have internally generated certificates. These typically have commercial value, for the training company, but little value to the learner. In the real world, if a course isn’t accredited or approved by a recognised institute, they may not provide any corporate protection if things go wrong.

These are some of the many reasons why upskilling is important in today’s changing world. Whether you are in transport, hospitality, tourism, and events (large or small), operating on the high street, or in any place of public assembly, the wide range of courses available from the IIRSM should be on your list of things to do, before the crowds come back.

G. Keith Still is a visiting Professor of Crowd Science at the University of Suffolk and works with Breda University of Applied Science in Holland (Minor in Minor Crowd Safety in Hubs and Events . His background in production and operations management specifically supply chain management and risk analysis, was the foundation for his career. He runs an online training company ( and for the last 30 years, he has specialised in crowd safety and crowd risk analysis.

Crowd Science courses are IIRSM approved, accredited via Highfield, and we’ve developed training and upskilling programmes from Level 2 through to Level 7 (MSc).