A crowd of people in motion in a large indoor public space.

Security Cameras Commercial Security Systems Access Control

How Crowd Management Technologies Can Help Assess Appropriate Security Needs

Published 12/13/2023 by General Security


Ensuring crowd safety is critical within public venues, retail shops, restaurants, and other commercial spaces. Doing so effectively helps you avert suspicious and unlawful activities, and protect your employees, customers, and guests.

Advanced smart technologies such as Alarm.com Business Activity Analytics (BAA) deploy virtual ground zones for real-time capacity tracking and people counting. Experienced and reputable service providers such as General Security specialize in implementing the most effective systems to maximize the benefits of this essential safety and security component.

Here’s a helpful outline of crowd-gathering threats, security concerns, and crowd-management tools.

Understanding Crowd Gathering Rules & Safety Threats

Did you know? There aren’t any federal laws stipulating crowd safety standards.

However, the National Fire Protection Fire Association (NFPA) outlines building safety recommendations via its 101 Life Safety Code. Such strategies include one crowd manager for every 250 occupants and crowd density limitations for larger spaces.

While there are no federal laws concerning crowd safety, there are some federal guidelines in place designed to keep your employees and customers safe. In the United States, these recommendations are created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

Crowd-gathering rules are typically enforced by local jurisdictions, including law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and fire marshalls. However, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government can restrict the sizes of social gatherings under the auspices of a public health emergency. 

Nonetheless, crowd-gathering guidelines are also intended to limit work-related hazards and protect anybody who enters your business. They are especially relevant on busy retail days, such as holidays, weekends, special promotions, and large events. 

That’s when it becomes the most challenging to abide by OSHA guidelines and other crowd-gathering rules. There will be more people to manage. Plus, you may be burdened by having to staff the proper number of employees to safely manage customers. You want to facilitate as many customers and transactions as possible while complying with safety regulations. 

You can use this information to more efficiently allocate resources, train staff, and coordinate with external agencies such as law enforcement, fire department, or health authorities.

The NFPA code advises installation of clearly marked and illuminated quick exits, and evacuation route maps within common areas, stairwells, and elevators. Employees must also be familiar with emergency protocols.

Per the federal “ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments,” pre-emergency planning should be inclusive of disabled employees. You can best prepare for busy periods or special events by having a plan in place.

This plan should include:

  • Increasing staff numbers in particular areas of your business
  • Providing team members with proper training on security and managing large groups of customers
  • Confirming with your local fire department or fire marshall what the legal occupancy requirements are 
  • Utilizing clear signage to direct high foot traffic flow
  • Outlining emergency protocols that will prevent harm to employees and customers. 

After all, crowds of people can easily become dangerous when combustible social conditions are present. Large groups can end up crushing people, damaging your assets, undermining fire safety, and even turning violent at the drop of a smartphone. A person who is usually calm, judicious, and collected, can quickly become erratic, irritable, anxious, and unpredictable in a large gathering.

Poor crowd management not only makes your staff and customers vulnerable to physical injuries and psychological trauma but can result in catastrophic legal liabilities if you’re not fire code compliant.

Fortunately, integrating smart technologies can help improve crowd control management and safety. Such advancements include security cameras with video analytics, motion detection, and virtual tripwires for occupancy tracking and people-counting, heat mapping, crowd gathering, and queue monitoring. 

Large Crowds Create Security Concerns

While pertinent to crowd-gathering rules, these technologies can also aid you with identifying security risks and possibly even in apprehending suspects.

Larger crowds in your retail store or commercial enterprise also expose your business to increased threats from vandalism, theft, and fraud—especially when you are understaffed or ill-prepared for a sudden influx of customers onto your sales floor. 

Shrink is a severe challenge for retailers.

In fact, retailers across the United States lost $112.1 billion due to shrink last year, according to the 2023 Retail Security Survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, detailing retail security and organized retail crime. 

On the plus side, however, the same technology used to ensure crowd gathering rules compliance can be leveraged to address your security needs, as well.

Crowd Management Technologies & Tools

Risk assessment and planning should be conducted for daily operations and special events. This includes expected occupancy, venue size, type, potential hazards, and other historical data to identify potential hazards.

Such insights are accessible through Alarm.com BAA, detailed below.

Occupancy & People Counting

Manually counting the people is not only labor intensive, but it’s error-prone. Alternatively, businesses are turning to smart technology to do the work for them.

Previously only affordable for larger enterprises, automated occupancy tracking and people counting are now within reach for small and medium-sized businesses looking to abide by crowd-gathering rules.

To achieve this, multi-directional counting is conducted using video cameras and smart technology. For instance, a virtual tapwire can be assigned to a particular area in your business, counting how many people cross the invisible line from a single direction. Or you can monitor how many people are in a defined area at any given point and receive notifications when too many people gather in one space.

Just as having too many people gathered in an area can violate fire and safety codes, it can also increase security threats and opportunities for theft. While tracking customers for crowd-gathering concerns, you can also use the same technology to assess how many staff or security personnel a particular area might need. 

This type of business analytics will help you forecast staffing needs into the future, minimizing the instances you’re likely to find yourself understaffed or under-protected.

Heat Mapping

This technology monitors and records crowd movements and patterns—translating such data into colors based on intensities to help gauge customer behaviors, interests, and navigation. It also helps identify areas requiring additional investigation.

Queue Monitoring

This technology utilizes virtual zones to help determine wait times within hospitals and other settings. Tracking it will help you improve customer service.

Access Control Systems

Limiting the number of people who can enter your premises helps you manage crowds, ensuring occupancy levels don’t surpass the legal threshold determined by your local fire marshall. This is often achieved using a commercial access control system, enabling you to regulate clearance, access, and authorization for specific personnel, including employees, contractors, clients, and others.

This gives you a solid sense of who and how many people are on your premises at any given time. 

Commercial access control not only helps you manage the number of people in your building, but is a common tool for thwarting trespassers, thefts, and other criminal activities. This is achieved using a combination of keycards, card readers, keypads, and locks, and can be enhanced to include intercom systems and security cameras.

A sophisticated access control solution will integrate 1080p or 720p security cameras, intercom entrance systems, and burglar alarms with other technologies. 

By safeguarding egresses, storage areas, parking areas, stairways, and sales floors, you can clamp down on unauthorized persons who may cause your business to become crowd-gathering non-compliant and deter potential thefts.

Crowd Management Use Cases

Several industries can benefit from Alarm.com BAA crowd-control technologies.

Event Venues

Occupancy and people counting technologies provide important insights about audience sizes and behaviors to event organizers and management—enhancing crowd control, improving safety, and ensuring adherence to critical fire and safety codes.

Hospitals & Medical Facilities

Real-time analytics regarding wait times at hospital emergency rooms or other walk-in clinics help ensure patient safety, triage, and compliance with regulations and other requirements.

Retail Shops & Supermarkets

Heat mapping calculates how much time customers spend at specific locations, helps thwart suspicious and unlawful activities, and assists in detecting theft and identifying perpetrators.

Effective Crowd Management

Integrating smart technologies with crowd management strategies provides protection and invaluable data analytics. When considering doing so for your commercial property, it’s best to work with a reputable service provider, such as General Security.

General Security provides business analytics and security solutions for all commercial property types. Request a free quote today!

Request a Quote with General Security

Enjoy This Article?

Share with your friends and family