You’ve seen them at banks, amusement parks, airports, and countless other locations. They help keep lines organized and direct foot traffic in other places. We’re talking, of course, about stanchions—those posts with ropes, chains, or belts in between. There are many varieties of crowd control stanchions, but one of the most popular ones these days is the retractable belt stanchion. They make it easy to reorganize the flow of the line depending on how long it is or to open and close certain areas without having to move heavy poles.

But when did retractable belt stanchions first appear on the scene, and how did they get started? Keep reading to learn a little more about this history of these crowd control tools.

The Study of Crowd Control

Of course, the retractable belt stanchion wouldn’t exist without the various barricades that came before it. This includes stationary stanchions, metal barricades, and even the wooden sawhorses used as barricades in the olden days. The need to direct foot traffic and manage lines is an ancient one. But it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th Century that modern “queueing theory” began to be studied and published.

While it may seem simple, queueing theory is much like studying flows of vehicular traffic, and it can get quite complex. Determining the best way to line people up and move them through the line is a central part of this, and being able to reorganize the line when needed can help. That’s where those retractable belt barriers can come in.

Inspiration from the Seat Belt

While it’s difficult to place the exact date of when the first retractable belt stanchion was designed, the inspiration behind it is well known. This type of stanchion actually takes its design from the safety belts used in vehicles. Just as the seat belt retracts into its casing when released, the nylon belt used on these stanchions retracts into the pole when not in use. To use it, all you have to do is pull on the buckle portion of the belt, extend it to the next pole or to the wall attachment, and slide or click it into place.

By combining the design of a seat belt with the standard stanchions already in use, this style of stanchion makes it easy to redirect a line, close off an entrance, or otherwise alter your crowd control in a moment, without worrying about moving heavy stanchion poles or barricades around.

Pros and Cons

If you’re deciding whether or not retractable belt barriers are the right option for your event or facility, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of them. As already mentioned, the greatest pro of this style of stanchion is it’s able to quickly and easily change the flow of the line or other aspects of crowd control. If this is something you need to do fairly often, they’re worth the investment.

However, retractable belt stanchions are much more likely to be played with than others. (Admit it, you had fun pulling and releasing those belts as a kid yourself.) This means they can get dirty much more quickly; however, they’re very durable, so you shouldn’t have to worry about them wearing out from the additional manhandling.

If you’re not sure if retractable belt barriers are the right option for you, contact Crowd Control Center. We’ll help you choose the best barrier type for your needs.