Location Based Messaging for Events and Venue Crisis and Incident Management

A meeting in 1961

A recent article in the MIT review describes a meeting in 1961 between the then chair of the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) and the executives running the Television stations. At the time, TV was about 10 years old and already a billion-dollar business. The FCC chairman essentially lectured the execs describing the responsibility they had in this new mass media platform. Admonishing them for serving up what he called “pernicious shlock” to the public. His visionary solution was to ensure TV had competition. Thus, bringing about what exists today – thousands of Television stations and tens of thousands of channels to watch.

Caught up in the din of daily Facebook controversies, it's easy to forget that none of us -- not even Facebook -- have any idea what it truly means to have a quarter of humanity plugged into a single product, governed by a single set of rules and norms, uploading deeply personal information to a single database, making a single company the gateway between ourselves and the advertisers who want us to buy stuff. (SMH)

We are about 12 years into the social media phenomenon and one can draw a distinct correlation. There are several differences, however the same issue exists where you can find mostly pernicious schlock served up with far more targeted relevance to the consumer. The word consumer is not used lightly in this case. Just as the TV execs correctly saw their viewers as consumers - primed for exposure to advertising and thereby facilitating a multi-billion-dollar advertising business - the same exists with the social media platforms. These are advertising platforms. They make money from exposing their users to products and services.

Today, a terrorist event is caught on phone cameras, and streamed to social media platforms in real time. There is no need to tune in to TV or radio to see or hear what happened. Television is likely to be second or third in the queue to serve up what has happened and often its reporting what has been published on social media anyway. Online newspapers are competing with everyone else with a Twitter or Facebook account. Print newspapers are now simply relegated to editorialise the event, maybe tell a few stories from a victim’s perspective and eventually provide some factual context of the perpetrators. Social Media is not designed to publish the facts – its raw emotion and based on an individual’s subjective perspective.

Institutions such as Law enforcement agencies tasked with Citizen and public wellbeing are now reaching for social media to post vital information. This is occurring within minutes of an incident. Broadcasting on these global platforms means the news is being sent out globally. Both Twitter and Facebook are almost certainly analysing their user generated content and are obviously algorithmically weighting a catastrophe. Bad news still sells.

Look at the “Tweet”

One only needs to analyse the tweet released by the Greater Manchester Police Dept in the immediate minutes after the attack on the Manchester Arena. What is clear is the tweet was thoughtful. Probably released by experts in that department who are mindful of the message and how its interpreted. What is not clear is if their message was heard, heeded or simply introduced a subject for a conflicting narrative? The immediate 4 replies to the tweet are listed here and click the link for a full screen shot.

Cities, Law Enforcement, Crisis and Event Management teams around the World should be asking the questions:

“What are the alternatives to Facebook and Twitter?” and

“How do we control the narrative when disseminating vital information?”

Recent attacks at the Bataclan in Paris and the Manchester Arena, highlight the vulnerability of stadiums as a target.

It’s becoming more evident that management of crowded venues or special events will require a much more robust plan to manage both a threat, and an incident.

It’s almost certain fans and patrons attending events are not thinking about what to do if something happens – if asked to evacuate. Patrons are probably entering venues without basic information for example:

  • • Where the nearest exits are
  • • What do in in the event of an incident
  • • Where to evacuate to
  • • Who to notify

Yet people with smart phones are easily contactable.

Venues such as the Manchester Arena would have a Command centre where their venue is visible through video feeds and their staff are easily contactable. Their patrons however would only be manageable by loud speakers and maybe signs. What is clear is more can be done to send information to patrons attending events or even nearby the venue.

A geo-fenced location could be easily established where management can see and send citizens within that area messages. The geo-fence could be set to a limited area around a stadium as an example.

A Geo-location messaging platform will provide venue and event management a new way to communicate with patrons.

Here is an example of the messaging that could be sent to Citizens and patrons in the area.

Message 1 – trigger: upon entering geofence

Push Message (PM): Welcome to Manchester Arena. We value your safety so please take a moment to familiarise yourself with the exits (user swipes)

Detailed Message (DM): Take a moment and check your ticket. This tells you what section you are in and then the nearest exits that would apply. Remember to check your phone and listen to instructions if ordered to evacuate. Enjoy the concert.

Image: Detailed layout of exits of venue

Message 2 – trigger: upon dwelling in geofence for +10minutes

PM: Report anything suspicious. If you see something share something

DM: There are personal and security staff all around and if you see anyone acting suspiciously or a bag left unattended, please notify us. Here is a picture of the security staff so you can easily identify them:

Image: Security Personnel

Message 3 – trigger: upon exiting venue

PM: Hope you enjoyed the concert! Exit quickly and calmly. Do not stay near the exits.

DM: We value your safety so head to your transport providers quickly and calmly. The image here shows you the transport options for Taxis, Trains and Buses. If someone is picking you up, check where you are and confirm the exit details. Have a safe journey home and Thank you for coming to XXX Stadium.

Image: Detailed map image of transport options and locations

Location based messaging is poised to take its place in the next generation of communication tools. It took 12 Years for 2 billion of us to sign up to Facebook and share our private and personal details. Location based messaging is concerned with where you are – not who you are.

Organizations tasked with management of people, concerned for their well-being and safety can now look around and confirm:

Yes – there is an alternative to Facebook!