A key Iowa official says the overnight chaos at a Colorado movie theater highlights “the importance of having trained crowd managers.” State Fire Marshal Ray Reynolds says the deadly shooting spree at a showing of the Batman movie shows fire exits are used for more than just fires.

“When you listen to the news accounts out in Colorado of just pandemonium and people running for any exit they could find, it (reinforces) the importance of having trained staff on site,” Reynolds says.

Iowa law already requires venues where a thousand or more can gather to have at least one trained crowd manager on site.

“In many cases where there are disasters, the most common element is nobody stands up to take charge and get people safely to a point,” Reynolds says. “For instance, at the Beverly Hills Supper Club when a patron stood up on the stage and said, ‘Hey, this place is on fire. You need to leave,’ that significantly contributed to saving a number of people’s lives.”

That 1977 fire is the third-deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history. Last week the National Association of State Fire Marshals formally endorsed a crowd manager training program.

“It’s about all situations,” Reynolds says, “from disorderly patrons to deteriorating weather conditions to small fires that are growing rapidly large.”

It costs about $20 to take the on-line course and the state fire marshal says bartenders, ticket-takers and others who work at events where crowds gather would benefit from the training.

“If you look at RAGBRAI coming across the state where thousands of people are in fenced-in areas, all it takes is for something to go wrong and not have people react that could contribute to a lot of injuries,” Reynolds says. “So what we’re trying to do is push out a message that now is the right time to take this training.”

Officials expect over 20,000 people to gather in Sioux Center on Sunday for the kick-off of The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.

Here’s a link to the crowd manager training program Reynolds recommends. He says it’s well worth the peace of mind for the owner of a crowded venue to know his employees are trained in how to deal with an evacuation, if one is necessary.