Wallenda Walk Raises Crowd Control Concerns

Nik Wallenda Tightrope Walk

Guinness World Record setter Nik Wallenda is the seventh generation of the legendary Great Wallendas, a German family of daredevils who won worldwide recognition through their sky high performances with circus greats like the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus.

His latest stunt – a tightrope walk across Niagara Falls – has recently been approved by the Niagara Falls City Council by a vote of 4-1, and the tentative date is set for June 15, 2012. The performance will be featured in “Life on a Wire,” a Discovery Channel series expected to begin airing later this year.

According to Wallenda, walking across the 160-foot gorge has been a dream of his since he was 6 years old. He plans on walking across a custom made 2-inch wire, which will dip down toward the falls and then back up out of the mist. In other words, he’ll be walking downhill for the first half of his stunt, and uphill for the latter half.

Authorities are expecting about 120,000 people in attendance to view the walk, and according to the Thorold Niagara News, first responders are more concerned about keeping the crowd safe than they are about Wallenda who has his own emergency crew.

“Our biggest concern is going to be crowd control,” Niagara Parks Police Chief Doug Kane said. They’re going to have over 100,000 people gathered around a 160-foot gorge, so keeping people back is of utmost concern – an international concern in fact, because  people will be viewing from both the Canadian and the US sides of the Falls.

Their plan is to use crowd control barriers to keep people back. This will not only keep people from pushing up against the rock wall that borders the gorge, but will also provide a passageway for first responders to get through in case an emergency occurs.

Authorities say they plan on setting up a command post where all of the emergency crews will be headquartered. Freestanding room dividers are a wonderful tool for a scenario like this, as they will keep people out, and also provide privacy if need be in an emergency situation.

The Parks commission is also expecting a significant media turnout, and as of right now, there appears to be no plan for keeping the media in a concentrated area. One effectual method for doing this would be to utilize belts and stanchions and keep the media coverage aggregated.

This is a very exciting event, not just for the Niagara Parks and local residents, but for the entire watching world. One of the main concerns is that Wallenda could get hurt. But he has his safety in his own hands, or maybe I should say – in his own feet, while local authorities, the parks commission, and emergency responders have the safety of the spectators in their hands.

To ensure that June 15 will be a safe, fun day for all of the people planning to attend, local authorities should be fully prepared by utilizing the proper crowd control equipment in the right places.