Crucial Tips to Keep Our Creative Community Safe
The nation is mourning the loss of all the creative lights who died in the tragic Oakland warehouse fire during an electronic show this past weekend. Art spaces are incredible places for self-expression and connection, and are vital for the creatives in our extended, festival-related community. But while some venues are well run and safe, others may have all the red flags for being unsafe places to gather. However, there are lessons that can be learned so others don’t suffer the same fate.
One of the main challenges for any event is that many venues have risks or hazards that may not be immediately obvious to attendees. This is true of large, open-air festivals, established concert venues, nightclubs or smaller, improvised venues (permitted or not). So even if you say to yourself, “I never go to underground parties” these tips can help when the situation you’re in goes from calm to chaos.
Before you end up in the middle of a crowd, before something goes wrong, you need to develop the habit of being tuned in to your surroundings. This is called situational awareness; it’s a relaxed state of mind that allows you to recognize any unusual circumstances, hazards, and early stages of situations before they end up evolving into big trouble. Like any other skill, it requires practice, and the best time to use these skills is before problems emerge. When done right, this awareness can change the way you experience the everyday world, potentially saving your life and minimizing the chance you might be caught by surprise. Here is how you do it:
- Be observant
- Note the unusual
- Consider options
- Take action
- Keep moving
Make a Plan
Take a few moments with your friends to make a plan before heading into the noise and crowds of any event. Make sure you have all your friends’ cell phone numbers, and decide in advance where you’ll meet up in case you get separated.
People tend to confirm problems/trouble several different ways before taking action. After sensing clues of a potential fire, such as hearing the fire alarm or smelling smoke, people often ignore these initial signs or spend time investigating, seeking information about the nature and seriousness of the situation, which creates a delay before starting evacuating [First International Symposium on Human Behavior in Fire, 1998, University of Ulster, Belfast, United Kingdom]. Doing this in fast-moving and dangerous situations increases your risk of injury or death. Be prepared to leave immediately at the first sight of trouble.
Make an Exit Strategy
Regardless of the kind of venue you’re at, whether it's large or small, be sure when you arrive to look for at least two exits that are clearly marked, not blocked, and with a clear path to them. If you find yourself in a space that’s crowded and with only one exit? Leave the area and find a safer place to party.
Red Marks the Spot
Learn where first aid is located at your event before someone gets sick or hurt so you know how get help quickly if you need it.
It doesn’t matter if you’re at an outdoor or indoor event, power failures due to technical problems, severe weather, or fires can plunge you into darkness. You can use your cellphone to provide some light, but carry a compact LED flashlight on your keychain or in your pocket so you can safely exit by lighting your way. After all, how many times has your phone died in the middle of a festival? A dedicated flashlight solves that problem and it’s useful for all sorts of other situations.
If you notice something that seems wrong, dangerous, or not being taken care of, let staff know. It might sound trite, but you may very well save someone else from injury or death.
Watch and share this crucial Party Fire Safety video, made by Michael Morgenstern and the Bay Area community.
Joseph Pred is an emergency and risk manager who has worked everything from underground warehouse events to some of the world's largest and most complex festivals, including Burning Man and Glastonbury. He also served as a Commissioner for San Francisco’s Entertainment Commission and regularly speaks at conferences on matters of public safety, risk, and temporary mass gatherings.
Read more about preparing for emergencies in Joseph’s book The Emergency Survival Manual.