Published: Oct 16, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Oct 16, 2012 05:12 PM
Chapel Hill may be a small community, but we are often tasked with managing crowd events on a grand scale.
After UNCs Tar Heels NCAA victory win on April 6, 2009, Chapel Hill fans exploded joyfully out of restaurants and bars, dormitories and the Dean Smith Center. Ten minutes before the win, Chapel Hill police officers, with the assistance of Public Works officials, swiftly moved into action, closing downtown streets to vehicular traffic. As television choppers swirled overhead, students built small bonfires in the street. At the peak of the evening, the crowd was estimated at 35,000. This scene has been replayed many times during celebrations of UNC mens basketball major victories.
Another large crowd event that were all familiar with is Halloween, which attracted as many as 80,000 people in 2007 before the town launched a campaign to alter the size and character of the 2008 event. These efforts continue as we plan for Halloween 2012.
Such an enormous number of people confined in a congested half-mile stretch of Franklin Street present a number of public safety concerns. Officials worry about personal and property crime, crowd panic, alcohol poisoning and related injuries.
Key crowd management strategies we use include the following:
• Develop a detailed multi-agency plan and seek broad community involvement.
• Conduct an aggressive public information campaign, communicating with students, university leaders, merchants, downtown residents, and others. Utilize social media networks to help disseminate message.
• Use unique safety preparation measures such as: grease light poles with vegetable spray (prevents climbing and paint from sticking); wet down the streets and trash receptacles to assist safety and cleanup efforts; empty newspaper racks; perform fire surveillance at locations where flammables are hoarded; limit sales of light blue paint.
• Train police officers to be positive, stay calm and avoid negative encounters.
• Remove all vehicles from the event area. Place parking monitors in surrounding neighborhoods to discourage illegal parking and disruption of neighborhoods.
• Implement traffic-management plans to reduce ingress and encourage egress from downtown and also minimize gridlock.
• Monitor media reports and engage the media during the event.
• Signal when the party is over by sending in the clean-up crews, sweepers and water trucks. Use UNC emergency contact system and public address systems to help guide or direct crowds during an emergency or when the event is ending.
• Measure success and lessons learned each time and adjust for future events.
To manage large crowd celebrations, the town coordinates a workforce of up to 700 people, including law enforcement officers, fire and emergency medical service personnel, parking monitors, public works, and parks and recreation crew members.
Large-scale events impact the entire community. The partnership among the town, the university, student government, downtown businesses, and the community enables us to meet the expressed community interest of celebrating together in a way that improves safety, security and enjoyment.
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