The O2 Arena, London

Client: The O2 Arena
Type of works: supply and implementation of CST's StewardCall comms system.

Keeping the excited crowds safe at London's top rock venue, The O2 Arena, home to a bevvy of entertainment, including the likes of Greenday and Madonna, is a huge issue. At the touch of a button, London-based Call-Systems Technology (CST) recently installed its StewardCall communications system, a high-tech product which can keep the hundreds of stewards, supervisors and managers in constant contact with each other, so they can keep the crowds under control.

Based around pagers and special transmitters linked to a sophisticated software package, StewardCall went live at The O2 in March 2009 and it has made an immediate impact. "Communications have improved dramatically," says Steve Gotkine, Head of Venue Operations. "As well as enhancing crowd management, it has helped in several other areas, too – from lone worker safety to improved service for customers and VIPs."

Before the system went live, the biggest safety issue The O2 had was communications. "Two-way radio just wasn't working as well as we'd like," says Gotkine. "We had hundreds of users generating a huge amount of radio traffic, so people couldn't actually use the radios properly because there wasn't enough frequency space for them."

What was required was a practical and efficient way for the steward, security, cleaning, medical and management teams to stay in contact with each other.

The StewardCall system at The O2 means staff carry a StewardCall transmitter which has four buttons – pressing each button sends an instant message to the relevant personnel, to summon a supervisor, medical help, security or cleaning staff. The transmitter's buttons are allocated slightly differently, depending on the member of staff's role. For example, stewards have a button allocated to summoning a cleaning team, while supervisors have an acknowledge button, which is used to check that everyone is ready and in position, for example before opening doors to a major show.

Staff also carry a pager, which can be used to receive messages.

Simplicity is at the heart of the StewardCall system. "One of the great things about the system is it's so straightforward," says Gotkine. "The guys from CST came to hold our hands for the first few events, but pretty soon they weren't really required. Now we use the system all the time."

One important benefit is that stewards can now be much more visible at big events like the Greenday concerts. "Before, stewards would have to wait outside the auditorium, on the concourses, so that they could be easily contacted. Often, with the problems of radio traffic, we'd use the tannoy to alert them to any issues. With StewardCall, they can be in the event itself, since we can contact them easily by pager. Customers are safer, because they can see stewards and can get hold of them quickly if they need to."

The engine-room of CST’s StewardCall system is the Genesis software. It allows personnel to access and send messages to staff with pagers, via PC terminals based around the venue.

Genesis also logs all the calls and gives Gotkine and his colleagues instant knowledge of every situation, even allowing them to see the state of affairs live throughout The O2. "I have information flowing on screen to show me how many people are in the building, what incidents are occurring, everything," says Gotkine.

"StewardCall helps with event planning, because we can look at all previous event logs to plan upcoming ones. For example, I might have scheduled, say, five security response teams for a rock show. Checking the StewardCall log of security incidents for previous rock shows will tell me if that's enough, too few or too many, and I can adjust my plans accordingly," he adds.

"StewardCall is making a huge contribution to our safety management."

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