Use Vehicle Access Control Tools for Crowd Surges

Use Vehicle Access Control Tools for Crowd Surges

The invention of the automobile made land travel faster and easier. The next step was to make it more organized and efficient, a task that is never completed. Traffic management is the arrangement, control, guidance and organization of motorized and non-motorized vehicles on the road—those that are stationary and those that are moving, as well as pedestrians. Traffic laws and signals bring order to the roads and, thus, can be seen as the primary rudiments of traffic management. However, traffic management is generally understood as handling traffic flow and volume throughout the day.

What are the Goals of Traffic Management?

The primary goal of campus traffic management is to make the movement of goods and persons as efficient, orderly and safe as possible. This applies to everyone who uses the roads, not only operators of motor vehicles but also pedestrians and cyclists. For example, redirecting traffic from major roads during peak hours may help overall movement be safer and more efficient.

Traffic access control products are intended primarily for vehicle control. Nevertheless, they may have a role to play in crowd management by helping to ensure that only legitimate attendees get into a particular event, keeping attendance numbers predictable.

The number-one security measure that should be put into place is securing the perimeter of your location or event and not allowing a vehicle-borne threat access to these individuals. Traffic management doesn’t only pertain to the roads and the travelers on them. Most campus streets have areas adjacent to them where people live, work, shop, play and travel. Another goal is to enhance the quality of these local environments.

Some Applications of Traffic Management

Vehicle-access-control products can address traffic management issues with either fixed or mobile barriers. Fixed barriers are completely stationary and used in places where motor vehicles are never allowed to go. Mobile barriers can be raised or lowered to allow access to certain vehicles but not others, or to prevent them from entering during particular times of the day.

Some traffic challenges require permanent solutions. Examples of permanent solutions to traffic management problems include restricting vehicle access to pedestrian-only areas; preventing trespassing on a commercial property outside of business hours; or controlling access to a toll road or private parking lot, allowing only authorized users.

You may require a more permanent solution in a campus' urban area, where you cannot dig a deep foundation because of buried utility lines. Shallow foundation barriers and bollards require a foundation of only 14 inches but provide protection comparable to those that extend four feet underground. As a bonus, many of the models can be customized to match one's exterior décor. More than 50 types of traffic control devices can meet your unique needs.

Protecting campus perimeters of facilities is no small responsibility. Keeping pedestrians safe, protecting structures from accidental or intentional automobile crashes and force protection (keeping employees and visitors from harm) have always been campus safety concerns. A wide variety of campuses find peace of mind through the use of barriers, barricades and bollards for vehicle-based physical access control at their perimeters. Solutions include beam barricades and high-security, shallow-foundation barriers.

Temporary, Portable Traffic Access Control

Some traffic management applications are only needed on a short-lived basis. For example, when there is on-campus road construction, it is necessary to slow down traffic to avoid accidents and keep passing cars out of the area where the work is being done. Temporary traffic management is also necessary to manage the increased flow of traffic during a special event, such as a festival or concert.

For instance, at a stadium, traffic may need rerouting for sporting weekends. These locations are best protected with crash-rated portable barriers that erect in 15 minutes and are then removed once the event is over. These mobile deployable vehicle crash barriers carry a M40 rating, stopping 7.5-ton vehicles traveling 40 miles per hour.

Penn State University uses seven such barriers for home football games and special events. PSU quickly deploys these barriers at strategic sites around the facility. After the event, they are swiftly knocked down and towed to another location.

There are also portable bollards that work in conjunction with the above barrier or as a standalone option to cover even larger openings. The portable bollards carry M30 and M50 ratings and can be put into place with their custom mover or via a forklift. Easy setup and high-level vehicle-threat protection add up to a winning combination for public events.

Controlling Crowd Surges

As the COVID-19 pandemic wanes with more widespread vaccination, people are increasingly able to gather in large crowds for special events. Unfortunately, big events pose their own safety risks, such as a crowd surge. Protecting these people, along with security and event personnel, will be a major undertaking and require a number of security measures to ensure their safety.

On Nov. 5, 2021, a crowd surge occurred during a concert at the Astroworld music festival in Houston, Texas. An estimated 50,000 spectators attended, many rushing the stage at the appearance of rapper and festival founder Travis Scott. In the press of bodies, hundreds of people suffered injuries, some of them serious. The latest update shows that 10 people have died as a result of injuries sustained in the crush of fans at the concert.

The potential for a crowd surge exists any time a large number of people gather together in one place. While crowd density is a contributing factor, there is usually some sort of inciting event that acts as a catalyst to get large numbers of people moving in the same direction at the same time. Sometimes the crowd is trying to get away from an actual or perceived threat, such as a person with an unauthorized firearm or a severe thunderstorm. A crowd surge can also occur when a large group of people moves toward something en masse. This appears to be the cause behind the Astroworld disaster.

Portable barriers can be configured in such a way to separate the crowd into smaller, more manageable groups. They can also help to direct the crowd in a certain direction to allow for safer, more effective movement and to create clear paths for first responders to navigate during an emergency. Part of the problem at Astroworld appears to be that the crowd was too dense to allow the ambulance to reach injured spectators easily.

Important for Crowd Surges: The Configuration of the Barriers

Effective designs can be a powerful crowd management tool, but a poorly thought-out configuration can lead to more injuries due to members of the crowd becoming trapped against the barriers. The barricades should be configured to allow a route of egress. It may be helpful to have barriers that can be raised or lowered as needed to allow for an emergency exit.

Protecting perimeters of campus facilities from vehicular harm is a major duty. Likewise, shielding the people within the location from themselves is as important. A proper access control plan and the tools to carry it out are a major component of a security director's job.

This article originally appeared in the January / February 2022 issue of Campus Security Today.

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