Security guards on King’s Day Emmen face a major challenge

More than 60,000 visitors are expected during the King’s Day celebrations in Emmen. In terms of security and crowd control, there is a lot involved to ensure this runs smoothly.

In the Netherlands, two companies, Event Safety Institute and Crowdprofessionals, are tried and tested when it comes to this. For example, they were present at the King’s Days in Groningen, Maastricht and last year in Rotterdam. They are not involved in King’s Day in Emmen, but they know the ins and outs.

For an event such as King’s Day, an extensive security operation must be set up. That asks quite a bit from a municipality, says Syan Schaap of the Event Safety Institute. And that challenge is increasing. According to Schaap, this is due to two developments. Firstly, the threat level has increased over the past ten years. In addition, residents are increasingly critical of nuisance and speak out about it more often.

For the increased threat level, Schaap thinks of the increased polarization in society. On King’s Day, this is in most cases manifested by the presence of, for example, demonstrators who are against the royal family. According to him, it is therefore always good to enter into discussions with these groups in advance to prevent unrest and unexpected actions.

Internationally, a number of attacks took place between 2015 and 2018 in cities such as Paris, Nice, London and Berlin. “In the Netherlands, things are still relatively bad. But it does pose a question to municipalities on a day like King’s Day: how big should we go with anti-terrorist measures? One mayor wants to cover every risk as much as possible and pulls out all the stops. Another does not.”

In any case, during King’s Day a set of security measures will have to be taken by the police. “And the mayor must go along with this, because it is part of the national King’s Day.”

There is little guidance for municipalities in determining the correct measures. Nowhere in the Netherlands is there a ready-made manual for organizing a safe King’s Day. The government and the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security do not hand them out, says Schaap. They only provide advice in the event of a specific threat.

Schaap expects that at least reinforced oval-shaped posts with barriers will appear in Emmen. A standard event since Queen’s Day in 2009, when a car drove into the public.

Schaap: “The National Police purchased these materials after that event. They are posts that can withstand a heavy blow, such as that of an oncoming truck. They always appear at national events such as King’s Day and Budget Day. Also in Emmen.” It has quite an impact on public space and its users. This brings Schaap to the second development.

Citizens have become more assertive and are increasingly speaking out against the nuisance they experience due to events. There is a lot going on in every church these days. “If part of the city keeps being locked down as a result, this will affect the accessibility for the residents there.” A one-day event will not surprisingly generate more resistance. But if more and more of them happen, it will, says Schaap.

These are developments that put pressure on a celebration like King’s Day. “If tensions increase further, the measures will have to become increasingly drastic. Such as screening people before they are allowed to enter the grounds. But in that case, an event like King’s Day loses its character as a popular festival. Uncle Jan and Aunt Annie will then not be able to more likely to walk to the route from home. Do you want to do that?”

In addition to security, managing the public is also an important task, says Frank Wijnveld of Crowdprofessionals, who is also Schaap’s partner.

The starting point is the route that the king and his family will take. The route must be cast in concrete, because deviations from it are not allowed. “Because everything is checked and secured in advance. In addition, it comes down to mapping all the flows of people. Based on this, it is determined what the best distribution is and what the most suitable locations for the viewing areas are.

According to Wijnveld, King’s Day differs from other events because of the mixed audience it attracts. “There are elderly people, young people and families among them. We personally recommend a crowd of three rows deep. This limits crowding. “At the final party, in this case on the Raadhuisplein, it is an idea to slowly close off side streets towards the square. as the crowds swell in the square. This prevents a run. We have done this ourselves in Groningen, Maastricht and Rotterdam.”

It takes quite a few employees to manage that crowd. In addition to the usual police deployment, Wijnveld estimates that at an event like this King’s Day you will soon need between 100 and 140 security personnel. “But I am not completely familiar with the layout of the city. To be honest, I only know the FC Emmen stadium.”