When most people think of crowd managers, they probably think of large assembly venues, such as stadiums (or stadia, if you prefer), arenas, exhibition halls, theaters, and so forth. However, since the 2006 edition (following the Station Nightclub fire), NFPA 101 has required at least one trained crowd manager in ALL assembly occupancies. (The occupant load threshold was previously 1000.) I believe this requirement is largely overlooked, because when I mention it in NFPA’s Life Safety Code Essentials seminar, I usually get the deer-in-the-headlights look from the class. As a reminder, here’s the Code’s definition of assembly occupancy:
An occupancy (1) used for a gathering of 50 or more persons for deliberation, worship, entertainment, eating, drinking, amusement, awaiting transportation, or similar uses; or (2) used as a special amusement building, regardless of occupant load.
Restaurant with seating for 50 or more? Needs a crowd manager. Office building or hospital with a cafeteria or meeting/conference space for 50 or more? Needs a crowd manager. University lecture hall with 50 or more seats? Needs a crowd manager. Fast-food restaurant with a children’s play structure that meets the definition of special amusement building regardless of occupant load? Needs a crowd manager. (I think you get the point.) Where the occupant load exceeds 250, additional crowd managers are required at a ratio of one crowd manager for every 250 occupants.
What about a church with seating for 50 or more? The Code exempts assembly occupancies used exclusively for religious worship from the crowd manager requirements unless the occupant load exceeds 500 because, well, I don’t really know why. (I don’t write the Code, folks. As an NFPA staff member, I’m one of about 300 people in the world who can’t submit proposed revisions.) I suppose the justification was the nature of the occupancy and associated life safety risk doesn’t justify requiring crowd managers. You can judge for yourself.
The Code spells out in Chapters 12 and 13 the duties and responsibilities of crowd managers. Training is also required. Several years ago, NFPA worked with the International Association of Venue Managers on the development of an online trained crowd manager program. You can check it out at www.iaamtraining.com. Other organizations provide training as well. Check with your AHJ to determine what is acceptable to them. There’s a lot to it, as described in Annex A of the Code:
A.126.96.36.199 Crowd managers and crowd manager supervisors need to clearly understand the required duties and responsibilities specific to the venue’s emergency plan. The crowd management training program should include a clear appreciation of crowd dynamics factors including space, energy, time, and information, as well as specific crowd management techniques, such as metering. Training should involve specific actions necessary during normal and emergency operations, and include an assessment of people-handling capabilities of a space prior to its use, the identification of hazards, an evaluation of projected levels of occupancy, the adequacy of means of ingress and egress and identification of ingress and egress barriers, the processing procedures such as ticket collection, and the expected types of human behavior. Training should also involve the different types of emergency evacuations and, where required by the emergency plan, relocation and shelter-in-place operations, and the challenges associated with each.
The crowd manager does not have to be a dedicated position. For example, in a movie theater, perhaps the ticket-takers and ushers receive crowd manager training and perform the necessary duties during an emergency. Or maybe it’s the security personnel at a baseball stadium. Or perhaps it’s the building services staff at an office building. The Code doesn’t specify who fills the role, as long as the required number of crowd managers are present when the assembly venue is occupied and they have received training acceptable to the AHJ.
If you’re responsible for life safety in any occupancy meeting these criteria, you need to be thinking about your crowd management strategy. Maybe your jurisdiction doesn’t adopt the Life Safety Code. But it really doesn’t matter, because if you don’t have trained crowd managers and something happens, and someone gets hurt, you can bet an attorney will wave a copy of the Life Safety Code, which is a nationally recognized, consensus-based standard, in front of a jury to show that you’re liable. Evaluate your potential exposure, and maybe save a few lives by implementing the Code’s crowd manager provisions.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, stay safe!
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