Round the clock security

Problems are Holger Pinske’s everyday life, solving them is his passion. At the International Youth Convention, they have so far kept within reasonable bounds. A look into the IYC management and control centre.

More than 30,000 people are expected to attend the International Youth Convention until Sunday. “It is normal that things do not go one hundred per cent and without problems,” says Pinske. But he is not worried: “There is a solution for everything.” And that’s exactly his job.

For three years, Pinske has been preparing for the International Youth Convention 2019. He has put together a team of experienced, mostly New Apostolic staff—police officers, firefighters, security staff, and other experts, some of whom he already knew from the European Youth Day 2009. They are all used to dealing with crisis situations. This also applies to Holger Pinske: in real life, the 56-year-old manager heads the Control Centre of the Krefeld Criminal Investigation Department. “You develop a routine for certain procedures,” Pinske says. But the challenge for him lies in unpredictable situations: coping with crises in the shortest possible time or de-escalating tricky situations, should they arise.

Tightened security

The staff of the control centre has everything in view—partly in the truest sense of the word: cameras transmit pictures from the underground station and from the exhibition halls to the control centre. It is connected by radio and telephone with the helpers working in the halls below, as well as with the public transport provider Rheinbahn and the Düsseldorf Police. In case of an emergency, they can react quickly. “If, for example, the halls become too crowded, we give instructions from here, saying that no more people will be allowed in,” says Holger Pinske.

And, of course, there are security requirements when so many people come together. “Since the European Youth Day in 2009, these regulations have been tightened up considerably,” says Pinske. His staff is larger this time compared to the EYC ten years ago. The core staff consists of more than 50 people; at the busiest times, up to a hundred people volunteer in the offices.

Working with the police and fire brigade

There are three areas in the control centre: one is the central control room, which is manned 24 hours a day. Here, all calls of the IYC hotline come together. Many questions can quickly be answered by the employees themselves on the phone. If things are getting more complex, they know whom they must turn to in order to help the callers.

The office next door, area two, resembles a hidden object game: desk next to desk, laptop to laptop, cables all over, screens and flipcharts everywhere. “Employees from all areas who are responsible for the organisation of the IYC are working here,” explains Pinske. Everything comes together at this location and. In order to provide everyone with the information they need for their work, there is an up-to-date status report once an hour.

Manfred Bruns is, along with Holger Pinske and his deputy Mathias Mörretz, one of the most important men in the control centre: the former deputy head of the Wuppertal Criminal Investigation Department is the official IYC event manager and, at the same time, the link between the New Apostolic Church as organiser of the IYC and official institutions such as the City of Düsseldorf and the Düsseldorf Exhibition Centre administration, the police and fire brigade, or rescue services. Employees of all mentioned organisations and authorities have their working space in area three of the control centre. Pinske calls this place the “external contact office”: “These colleagues don't care about what we do at the IYC. They merely monitor that we comply with all requirements and, if necessary, inform us if this is not the case.” The IYC is anything but routine

For the employees of the control centre, it is not possible to take part in the multiple events of the youth convention. They work shifts, some of them are on 24-hour standby. This is necessary because the International Youth Convention is an extraordinary event, even for the staff of the Düsseldorf Exhibition Centre: “Football matches and concerts often take place,” explains Manfred Bruns. “But the fact that almost 30,000 people are constantly moving around between the exhibition centre and the Arena, is something that normally does not happen. You have to be prepared for that.”

Holger Pinske will only be able to observe the IYC 2019 backstage: “I didn't come here with the aim of attending many events. It’s a shame, but nevertheless, I feel the atmosphere,” he said. And he remembers one thing from the European Youth Day 2009: “When young people are up in the middle of the night and sing together, it’s really enormous.” At best, Pinske will only see something like this from his camp bed that he has set up in his office in the control centre. He gets four or five hours of sleep a night in his office. Not much. “But I didn't come here to sleep,” he says.

Article info


Nicole Prestle, Andreas Rother
International Youth Convention 2019 (IYC)