IS there a point when measures to protect your personal safety become such a hindrance that you’re happy to simply take the risk?
It’s a growing debate in the UK as towns and cities, looking to protect the public from violent attacks, turn to physical (and very visible) barriers. The historic tourist city of York is one of the latest authorities to install a range of counter-terror measures at entrances to major shopping streets during the festive period.
They’re not easy on the eye but you can’t criticise councils or organisers of major public gatherings, particularly in light of recent events, for wanting to ensure the safety of visitors.
In the run up to Christmas, every town and city can expect a huge upturn in footfall. Add regular shoppers to people heading to Christmas markets, parties and festive events, along with dark afternoons and you have a potentially ‘soft target’ for those with sinister motives.
As ever, common sense and personal responsibility are the best place to start. With the festive event season now well underway, I spoke to Harrogate Convention Centre’s new Head of Services, Sam Henderson, to provide us with his five tips on keeping yourself safe in the crowd.
1. Plan your journey
A big event means crowds, so go with the flow and stick around other people if you’re heading out on foot. Avoid short cuts down dimly-lit side streets and stick to recognisable areas.
2. Report something suspicious
Reporting something suspicious to the police or an event team member is not being a nuisance. Again it’s down to your instincts and common sense. If you feel uneasy about it then report it. The authorities will be very happy you did. Head to act.campaign.gov.uk/ for some handy advice on recognising and reporting something suspicious
3. Get your bearings
So you’ve arrived at the event, there are people everywhere and it’s heaving. Whether it’s indoors or out, the first thing to do is get your bearings. Scope the area for exits, arrange a meet-up point in case one of your group gets separated, and make sure you know where the toilets are. You’ll thank yourself later.
4. Be aware of what's around you
Big crowds mean pickpockets and opportunist thieves. Be sensible, always be aware of what’s going on around you. Keep wallets, purses and phones in your inside pockets and if you’re carrying a bag keep it fastened up and position it at as near to the front of your body as possible.
5. Don’t be the one to cause a panic
Large gatherings, especially when you throw in alcohol, are a major logistical operation for the emergency services. Follow the rules. If rucksacks aren’t allowed in a venue then don’t bring one. Check the list of do’s and don’ts on the event website or your ticket before you set off. And absolutely do not bring toy guns or anything which resembles a weapon, to an event. Yes it does happen.
Photo by Daniil Silantev on Unsplash