Christine Upham, Senior Manager, Audience Services at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, designed a simple yet ingenious way to ensure that the many ushers in its large space always know their role in an emergency situation. Download these samples of her usher badges; she explains what issue this solution solved:
“I started at the Center before the opening in 1986. I saw right away that having 28 doors would require an awful lot of ushers for each performance.
“There are 4 seating areas and 5 levels for patrons to enter, there are two seating areas for the Orchestra section, one on each side. There are 28 doors and each door would require 1 – 4 ushers, depending on how many patrons were expected to go through each door.
“Then I had to determine the evacuation process for each floor and door. Because the auditorium and emergency exit doors are not all at the back of each section, they go around and down many flights of stairs, we needed to make sure that the patrons were directed to the nearest exit quickly and safely. We decided that for most doors we would need to have someone lead the patrons to and down the nearest exit, someone to stay inside to direct the patrons to the exit and close the doors as they leave, someone in the lobby to point the patrons in the right direction, and someone in the vestibule to direct them out and down instead of going back to the lobby. Some of the door assignments have duties to perform during intermission, these are also printed on the badge.
“The usher that is given the duty to lead the patrons will also have the duty to stand in front of the exit before the show, during intermission and after the performance to make sure that patrons do not go through the door and find out that the door locks behind them.
“We have four positions where the ushers duty for the performance is to stay in one location and remind patrons to watch their step and hold onto the hand rail. We noticed a pattern of trips and falls in some areas of the auditorium. When we put an usher at each of these locations the incidents went down by 95%.
“I knew that it would be very difficult for the ushers to remember what to do at all of the doors, so I came up with the Usher Badge, which is a business card with just the logo and USHER on the front and put the instructions on the back. Then we laminate it, punch a hole and put a clip on it.
“We had many ushers complain that not all of their fellow ushers were helping to seat patrons and check for lost items at the end of the performance. I added the rows they were to seat patrons and check for lost items at the end of the performance.
“When each usher comes in, they are assigned to a floor. When they get to the floor, the head usher assigns them to a door. The door assignment depends on the abilities of the volunteer. If the usher cannot walk quickly down the stairs, they would be given the stay and direct patrons duty instead of being the leader. The ushers are instructed to go to their door before the lobby opens and make sure that they understand the emergency procedure. The head usher and usher captain is available to help anyone who needs clarification of the instructions.
“During the Emergency Training session we take the new ushers on a tour of our facility. We take them to all of the floors and the doors and read the evacuation procedure for each door. We give a demonstration on where to go and what to do in the event of an emergency.”