When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong…

Everyone likes to think that they do a good job, at their job. I’d say that 80% of people do a good job, at their  job. For most, minor mistakes on the job are easily corrected or deleted or can be explained away. In the field of security, minor mistakes can very often take on a life of their own and begin to snowball into bigger problems. And large mistakes can end in disaster, whether liability, injury, or damage to property.

In earlier posts, we discussed Use of Force, Situational Awareness, The Buddy System, and their importance to Security Staffers. We also watched a clip of what I consider to be improper Use of Force. Well, we are now going to return to said clip and break it down even further in a little segment called:

When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong (props to Dave Chappelle for the title).

In this segment, we will examine all the mistakes made by Security. You probably want to open the clip in another window for easier viewing.

The Premise: Drunk Patron on the sidewalk, harassing Security.

The Question: What is one to do?

The Clip:

Before we even get into the breakdown, let’s discuss Security wearing any type of dangly party necklace. Don’t do it. Way too easy for someone to grab and use against you. One might snap, but 3-5 necklaces will choke you out.

Minute 2:56 – 3:05

1) Bouncer #1(B1) leaves his post to confront the Patron (P). Why? Let him rant and rave. He’ll (probably) eventually wander off.

2) B1 turns to look at B2 just before he lunges in for the choke. HUGE MISTAKE. Though it may not seem like very long (.5 seconds?) it is plenty of time for P to get in a cheap shot. Plenty of time.

I won’t even go into the applied choke as it is just plain stupid.

Minutes 3:15 – 3:30

3) Why is B2 holding a cellphone? He should be either: helping subdue P (again, this is dependent on what started the altercation. In this case, B1 started it), looking for trouble/P’s friends, or using the phone to call the Police. Not trying to subdue someone while holding a sweet Blackberry. (Failure of Buddy System)

Minutes 3:31 – 3:50

4) B2 WALKS AWAY (?!?!?!?!) – Now, I understand that the bar is busy and you have to watch the door. But you have your co-worker on the ground in an altercation with a Patron, and you are just hanging out in the doorway. Regardless of how “in control” the situation might look, it is anything but. A crowd is building, your fellow staffer is on the ground, and you’re chilling in the doorway. Stupid. (Failure of Situational Awareness)

Minute 4:30

5) B2 finally realizes that people are a bit upset and starts to keep an eye on Patrons exiting the bar…

Minute 4:45

6) …but fails to intervene when an Angry Patron gets directly in the face of B1. As a matter of fact, it takes him another 15 seconds to get involved, telling Angry Patron to relax…before walking away AGAIN. (Failure of Buddy System)

Minutes 5:05 – 5:35

7) Now we have an escalating situation: Angry Patrons getting into arguments over an altercation they are not directly involved in. B2 now has the task of watching the door and calming a building confrontation…oh yeah, and B1 is still on the ground.

Minute 5:36

8 ) B2 gets waaaaaay too up close and personal with Angry Patron. Not only is his body language aggressive as he approaches, but he leaves himself no room to defend himself. (Failure of Situational Awareness)

Minute 6:01

9) Total Loss of Situational Control. B2 gets pushed by Angry Patron, B1 is still on the ground, the crowd is growing, no one is happy. (Failure of Situational Awareness)

Minute 6:35 – 6:45

10) B2 is  now directly engaged with Angry Patron, leaving Good Samaritan Fella to help B1 with the now choked out P1. Starting to get a bit hectic, eh? (Failure of Buddy System)

Minute 6:50

11) B2 walks away and turns his back to Angry Patron, finally coming over to check on B1. (Failure of Situational Awareness)

Minute 7:30 – End

12) At some point in here Bouncer 3 appears. 5 MINUTES AFTER THE INITIATION OF THE ALTERCATION. 5 minutes might as well be a year. (Failure of Buddy System)

I understand that altercations are dynamic situations, adrenaline causes tunnel vision, and general confusion can be, well, generally confusing. But a thoughtful approach to any situation is always beneficial. By taking your time to assess (a few seconds is PLENTY) you can save yourself from escalation, injury, and liability.

I was involved in a similar altercation a few years a back with a fellow doorman I’ll call “Chief” (especially because he hates it). Me and another bouncer had to take an aggressive Patron to the ground. “Chief” did the following:

1) Called the police

2) Gave us space to deal with the Patron by creating distance between ourselves and the crowd

3) Calmed the agitated friends of the Patron

He did it all in a cool, collected manner. This usually attained by years of experience and tons of practice, but that does not mean that you can’t start learning NOW. Pay attention to altercations and you and your staff’s reactions to them, have them watch video like this and break them down, and discuss all incidents at the end of the night so that you can all gain a better understanding of how to better do your job and make sure that when you Keep It Real, it Doesn’t Go Wrong.

Feel free to chime in with any other pointers or suggestions, the crew in this video obviously needs them.

’til next time….

We need backup!

Everybody needs a friend. And if you work in any business that involves keeping people (including yourself) safe, a friend can be a literal lifesaver. Pilots have wingmen, soldiers have squad mates, police officers have partners, and nightclub security has other bouncers. Obviously, comparing work  in a nightclub to an experience in battle is a bit of a stretch, but it works in a pinch. If you want to have a lasting (or even brief) career in nightclub security, you need to know that there is someone on staff that will help you in your time of need.

Each position on the security staff in a nightclub needs a backup of some kind, whether it be a fellow Roamer or a Static Post watching out for you. And knowing how to provide proper backup is key.

FRONT DOOR – The majority of doormen have one basic purpose: to check IDs and keep drunks out. The Doorman’s “backup” can be anyone from the security guard posted at the head/mid point/tail of the line (Line Walker) to the bouncer working the exit lane of the club (Door Outs). Regardless of position, their duties are as follows in regards to backing up the Doorman:

1) Maintain traffic flow – Should the Doorman be involved in a long discussion with a Patron, the backup needs to make sure that the line is moving, people have IDs out prior to arriving at the door, Patrons are informed of unacceptable dress code before waiting through an entire line, and that the line is orderly. They can also walk the line to get people into place and make any announcements that the Doorman can’t (i.e. “We’re at capacity folks, there’s going to be a bit of a wait.”)

2) Physical security – Any interactions in which the Doorman is involved should be watched if possible. A large group of intoxicated men, individuals not complying with dress code, argumentative patrons; all need to be kept an eye on in order to prevent any possible confrontations or altercations.

3) Running interference – Should the Doorman not want to deal with a belligerent customer, or should a patron be ejected, it is up to the backup to step in and try to help diffuse the situation. Oftentimes, the appearance of a staffer not originally involved in the altercation/confrontation can help to draw attention away from the troublemaker’s intended target (be they another staffer or another patron)

It is important to note that the backup roles at the Front Door work both ways. Each individual (Doorman, Door Outs, Line Walker, VIP Host) should be prepared to act as backup for their co-worker should it be necessary.

ON THE FLOOR – The dynamic inside the nightclub is a bit more fluid, and as such the positional responsibilities vary between Static Posts and Roamers.

1) Roamers – Should be always be traveling in pairs in larger nightclubs. They are often the first to the scene of an altercation or incident and therefore need immediate backup. This backup is provided in the form of their roaming partner. When Roamers hear of an incident, they must first assess the situation. This can be done with a quick glance. A well trained roaming pair can have one Roamer assess, while the other calls in the details.

Upon arrival at an incident, Roamer 1 is tasked with securing the area (which depending on the circumstance can mean picking up glass, moving chairs, or clearing onlookers) while Roamer 2 deal directly with the issue at hand. Should the incident be an altercation, both Roamers (if they are not outnumbered) must do their best to separate the involved parties. If Roamer 1 is dealing with an intoxicated Patron, it is up to Roamer 2 to assess their surroundings. Does the Patron have any friends nearby that might pose a threat? Are there any individuals crowding the area (which might make extracting the Patron more difficult)? Roamer 2 also acts as the main source of communication to the rest of the Staff and the Manager, thereby leaving Roamer 1’s hands and attention free to deal with the incident.

(Please remember that Roamer 2 should always stand off to one side of the involved parties NOT directly in front of/behind the trouble makers.)

2) Static Posts – These individuals are what I like to consider the entire nightclub’s “backup”. Why? Well, they (hopefully) have a clear line of sight to EVERYTHING that is happening on the dance floor/patio/lounge. The information they are able to impart to the other staffers in the event of an incident can be essential. Static Posts are able to spot trouble before it occurs and can direct their Roamers to the source of the incident. By remaining “static” these Staffers are like a helicopter during police chases: giving information without direct interaction but with a 360 degree range of sight.

It is important, then, for Static Posts to speak clearly and succinctly when calling in any incidents, altercations, or events that need looking into. They should be able to give clear directions and descriptions to the Roamers in order to make the problem Patron or area easily identifiable.

Next time we’ll look at what a complete collapse of The Buddy System, Situational Awareness, and unnecessary Use of Force brings about (and how to about it).

I lied.

Today’s post was supposed to be about the importance of the buddy system. But after an amusing conversation with a bouncer friend of mine, I decided to mix it up a bit. This post is for the folks on the other side of the rope: the patrons. It will give you a bit of insight as to the way a bouncer’s mind works and how you should behave while in a nightclub (or while trying to get in). And, as always, it’s written with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

If you find yourself described anywhere in this post you need to re-assess your approach to nighttime entertainment or stop going out altogether.

So, without further ado:


1) My name is not Chief, Boss, Buddy, Pal, Champ, Dude,  Man, or Bro. Don’t know my name? Ask. Or use the same name that we use when addressing you: Sir, Ma’am, or Miss.

2) I am not your friend, buddy, or  pal. So don’t act like we spend time together on the weekends or see each other on a non-club, social basis. Unless we actually do, in which case you can come up and slap me on the back to say hello. Making believe that you know me will only get you embarrassed. And yes, I will ask you in front of your friends what my name is.

3) Don’t cut in line. It’s rude, it’s obnoxious, it is one of the greatest fight instigators in nightclubs, and it will get you sent back to the end of the line. You learned this one in elementary school, right?

4) Ladies, put your boobs away. Flashing cleavage or actual breasts to get into a club is classless, demeaning to you, and absolutely unnecessary. Believe it or not, most doormen have significant others, so boobs are something they see on a regular basis at home. And no, yours aren’t so special that you need to show them to the staff. Besides which, you’ve just let every lurpy guy in line know that you are willing to do some interesting things to get your way. Not smart or safe.

5) Guys, you are not the coolest guy in town because you “know the doorman”. You are, however, a tool who spends way too much time in the same club, every weekend, and still can’t manage to pull chicks. It might have something to do with the fact that you are spending way too much time in the same club, every weekend. Try staying home and reading a book once in a while or going to a movie. They’re fun too.

6) Yes, I know it’s a fake ID. No, really. I can tell by the green photo background, the uneven type, and the misspelled “Califrnia”. It’s either that or the fact that when I bent the ID in half, the laminate cracked in half and your photo slid out.

7) I will catch you lying if you use someone else’s ID. If it’s not the height discrepancy (5’9″ tall means 5’9″ without heels on), it will be the weight (trust me, you do NOT weigh 115 lbs.), the eye color (brown, not blue), or the fact that you don’t know the capitol of whatever state your cousin who looks vaguely like you lives in. (HINT: The capitol of Idaho is NOT Des Moines, that’s in Iowa)

8 ) If the club sucks and we’re jerks for kicking you out, why do you insist on standing on the sidewalk pouting and trying to get back in?

9) I don’t want to fight you. Period. There can only be one of two outcomes: hospital or jail. I don’t want to go to either one.

10) Yes, you probably can kick my ass. But I’m not sure about how you will fare when the 5 to 15 other guys on staff come over the rope.

11) Yes, you really are that drunk and can’t come in. Either that or the entire world has tilted off-axis and you’re the only one who’s noticed.

12) If you ignore me on the street, I will ignore you in the line. Courtesy and kindness go a long way. It’s o.k. to say hello to me in the street and introduce me to your friends. Ignoring me and then trying to get ahead of the line later that week will only end in rejection.

13) Please, Thank You, and Excuse Me go a long way. You’ll amazed at how much better the treatment is when you use these words.

14) No, I don’t know who you are. If I did, we would have exchanged mutual greetings, right?

15) I also “…know the manager.” But when he hears my side of the story, he’ll probably back me up and you’ll still get kicked out or not let back in.

16) I realize that you spent $1250 on a booth and bottle service. But now that you’ve thrown up on yourself, your friend grabbed the cocktail waitress’s behind, and your girlfriend is being carried out the door, it’s time to leave.

17) If we threw you out last week, we’re not letting you in this week..or the week after…or the week after that.

18) Motorboating the cocktail waitress, grabbing the go-go dancer’s behind, and goosing the bartender are three of the fastest ways to get ejected and arrested. If you’re lucky, none of them is currently dating the Head of Security.

19) Tips are always appreciated. But so are smiles, respectful nods, and a nice, “How are you tonight?”

20) Next time you think, “Security takes their jobs too seriously”, remember it is that attention to their job that made the evening you just enjoyed without getting knifed, thrown up on, or sexually harassed by some creep, possible.

21) “It’s time to leave.” Means just that. If this is said in conjunction with “Last Call”, feel free to finish you drink and depart. If said in any other context, my advice to you is to grab your things and go.

22) Don’t ask us to call the police to “..resolve this issue.” At the very least it will result in your ejection from the bar. Worst case scenario: Go Directly To Jail, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200.

23) Saying “You’re a real jerk/a**hole/douchebag” to a doorman is the equivalent of saying, “Please remember my face and don’t ever let me in again.”

24) I am not refusing you service based on your ethnicity, race, or religious beliefs. I am, however, refusing to let you in based on your basic inability to follow the dress code. What part of tuck in your shirt and pull up your pants do you NOT understand?

25) The words, “Oh yeah? Well, I’m never coming back here again!” are music to a doorman’s ears.

As you can tell, the majority of the items listed above deal with common courtesy and respect for your fellow human being. Security is there to ensure that you have a pleasant evening. Sometimes we come across as gruff or even mean but believe me, we try our best to stay on an even keel. Unfortunately, while you are behaving yourself and having a good time, someone else is blowing it for the rest of the party. And it is our job to take care of them so that you can continue your good time.

Have a great weekend!

I’m not as think as you drunk I am…

As a nightclub security staffer, you see intoxicated patrons on a regular basis.

A very regular basis.

Like, an every night regular basis.

But very few people (nightclub professional or not) know the science behind Blood Alcohol Content. So let’s do a quick (and slightly scientific) review.

When you ingest alcohol about 20% is absorbed in the stomach and 80% through the small intestine. Blood vessels in both carry the alcohol into the body’s bloodstream. Enzymes in the liver then metabolize the alcohol and begin the process of breaking it down. Your liver can typically process only one ounce of liquor an hour – the equivalent of one drink. When an individual drinks more than this, their body simply cannot break the alcohol down fast enough and as a result alcohol builds up in their bloodstream. This leads to various degrees of inebriation and is why people who drink a large volume of alcohol in a short time span remain drunk for an extended period of time.

How fast alcohol is absorbed into the system is decided by several factors:

  • The concentration of alcohol in the beverage – The greater the concentration, the faster the absorption.
  • The type of drink – Carbonated beverages tend to speed up the absorption of alcohol.
  • Whether the stomach is full or empty – Food slows down alcohol absorption.

These last sentences are particularly important bouncers and doormen. When you see an individual stumbling, unable to stand, having difficulty focusing, or slurring their words, their BAC has very often not peaked yet. Which means they are about to be even more drunk! It is essential that these individuals are prevented from entering your establishment. By admitting said patron into your bar and giving them more alcohol, you are “overserving” which is a big legal no-no!

If these patrons are already in your bar, or have become this drunk, it is imperative that you watch them (to prevent them from hurting themselves or others), watch after them (by finding their friends and telling the bartender to cut them off), or provide them with the necessary assistance to leave the premises and get home in one piece. This is accomplished by calling a cab (don’t forget the name of the cab company and the driver’s business card!), placing them in the care of a sober friend, or calling Law Enforcement.

So what about BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) and its effects? Here is a breakdown (the titles are mine):

Slightly Tipsy (or Let’s Get This Party Started!)

0.02-0.06 BAC: No loss of coordination, slight euphoria and loss of shyness. Depressant effects are not apparent. Mildly relaxed and maybe a little lightheaded. Feeling of well-being, relaxation, lower inhibitions, sensation of warmth. Euphoria. Some minor impairment of reasoning and memory, lowering of caution. Your behavior may become exaggerated and emotions intensified (Good emotions are better, bad emotions are worse)

Buzzed (or Yeah, shots!)

0.07-0.09 BAC: Slight impairment of balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing. Euphoria. Judgment and self-control are reduced, and caution, reason and memory are impaired, .08 is legally impaired and it is illegal to drive at this level. You will probably believe that you are functioning better than you really are.

Drunk to Sloppy Drunk to “You’re My Best Friend” Drunk

0.10-0.19 BAC: Significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgment. Speech may be slurred; balance, vision, reaction time and hearing will be impaired. Euphoria. Dysphoria predominates (sadness, anxiety, irritability, or restlessness), nausea may appear.

Spring Break Drunk

0.20-0.25 BAC: Feeling dazed, confused or otherwise disoriented. May need help to stand or walk. If you injure yourself you may not feel the pain. Some people experience nausea and vomiting at this level. The gag reflex is impaired and you can choke if you do vomit. Blackouts are likely at this level so you may not remember what has happened. All mental, physical and sensory functions are severely impaired. Increased risk of asphyxiation from choking on vomit and of seriously injuring yourself by falls or other accidents.

“Somebody Call 911” Drunk

0.30-.35 BAC: STUPOR. You have little comprehension of where you are. You may pass out suddenly and be difficult to awaken. Coma is possible. This is the level of surgical anesthesia.

“Yeah, Mrs. Johnson? Jimmy’s in the Hospital” Drunk

.40 BAC and up: Onset of coma, and possible death due to respiratory arrest.

While it is easy to joke about these levels of intoxication, it is important to realize that we are dealing with potentially life-threatening circumstances. Nightclub security staff should ALWAYS be prepared to call for help from trained medical professionals or Law Enforcement should they find themselves unable to deal with a particularly intoxicated patron. A severely inebriated individual is not only a danger to themselves, but may be a danger to others.

Make it a point to learn these levels of intoxication. A good exercise to practice is “Watching the Progression”. Pick a group of individuals as they enter the bar, watch them over the course of the next few hours, and try to decide on a course of action. Do you notice a behavior change? How does their behavior change? Do some individuals seem to fare better than others? Is it time to get them water? Cut them off? Call a cab?

Observation will get you very far in this business. Spotting an individual on their way to serious intoxication will not only make your job easier, it will prevent seriously liability. And if you have a good team of observers, very little will go by unnoticed. But I’ll save that for next time!

Situational Awareness 2.0

Our previous discussion included a definition of Situational Awareness, how to practice it while on the job, and how to keep on your toes (i.e. playing the “What if…” game) during long, boring shifts. While all this is well and good, it is important to note that obsessive concern about one’s environment, safety, and security can be just as dangerous as lax behavior, if not more so.  Why?

Your body’s “fight or flight” response is there to help you in unexpected, emergency situations: a child jumping in front of your car, someone grabbing you from behind, fire breaking out in a movie theater. But a steady stream of stress and adrenalin can lead to burnout, both physical and mental. And it is very difficult to be cognizant of what is going on around you when you are burned out. Anyone working in a high risk, stressful environment can attest to this.

How then does one attain a comfortable level of Situational Awareness? By practicing what is referred to as “relaxed awareness”. You can remain in this mental state indefinitely without the strain of being on constant alert. It will allow you to enjoy your job (and your life) while still remaining aware of your surrounding. As a matter of fact, being in a state of relaxed awareness makes it easier to transition to four-alarm, sirens flashing, heightened awareness. If something unusual occurs you can heighten your awareness while making a determination of threat level. Then you can take action or stand down and relax again.

Some of you might say, “Relaxed awareness is an oxymoron. It is not possible to be both relaxed and aware at the same time!” Wrong. The next time you get in your car and go for a spin, take note of your mental state. Chances are you are calm, cool, and collected. If you aren’t, you probably shouldn’t be behind the wheel. You will notice that you take casual glances at your side and rear view mirrors, pay attention to possible hazards in the road, and watch your speedometer. All of this is done in a state of…relaxed awareness! Over the years, you have learned to seek out and identify possible threats while staying in a relaxed state. Those working in security should attempt to achieve this relaxed state while working the floor, but they can only do so if they know what to look for and practice, practice, practice. Kind of like when you got your learner’s permit to drive.

So what are you looking for while working your bar shift? Let’s do a positional breakdown:

Doorman – You are the first line of defense and as such bear the brunt of the responsibility to keep the troublemakers, drunks, and under-agers out of the bar.

  • How are people walking before they arrive? Stumbling, swaying, unable to stand? You should be watching people before they even arrive to your door!
  • When people show you their ID, do they look you in the eye? Do they act insulted if you ask them for ID? Do they try to hide in the middle of their group of friends and attempt to get by you without handing you an ID?
  • Is the patron rude, snide, or contentious upon arrival?
  • Are they carrying large bags or backpacks?
  • Are people following dress code? Any unusual lumps or bumps in their clothing? Is the clip in their pocket a knife?
  • How crowded is your doorway? Are people blocking the sidewalk or doorway?
  • Are patrons from inside the bar attempting to bring drinks outside or blocking the doorway on their way out?
  • When leaving the bar, are patrons visibly intoxicated? Are sober men (or women) trying to get the intoxicated person they are with out the door? Do they know this person?

Remember you are just as responsible for people leaving the bar, as you are people in the bar! It is important for the doorman to watch the sidewalk, doorway, and immediate entry way to maintain proper traffic flow and get people in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Floorman/Static Posts – Your primary responsibility is to watch the crowd. In a perfect world you are positioned on a box or slightly raised platform to give you a nice view of the floor.

  • How are patrons walking? Swaying, stumbling, falling? Are men pushing, shoving, or jostling their way through the crowd?
  • Are groups of men clustering together? Are they shooting glances at other groups of men or gesturing to them? Are they encroaching on the personal space of groups of women?
  • Are any patrons (men or women) having conversations with very little personal space and a lot of gesticulation or angry body language?
  • Are there any men standing by themselves in corners or darker areas of the bar? Are any single men trailing after single women or cornering women?
  • Is there any roughhousing between men or groups of men on the floor?

You can spot a bad attitude from across a room. Scowling, furrowed brows, walking with elbows jutted out…all telltale signs of a bad attitude.

Roamers – You are the “cop on the beat”. You’re paying attention to the floor and maintaining traffic flow and order.

  • Are your hallways, walkways, and doorways clear, and is traffic flowing?
  • Are exit doors closed?
  • How are people acting in the restroom line? Are there men lurking by the women’s restroom?
  • Are there empty glasses and bottles on tables?
  • Are there any patrons swaying, holding themselves up, or holding their friends up?
  • Is there any roughhousing or early signs of altercations between individuals or groups?

Roamers’ best bet is to walk, walk, walk and watch for signs of bad behavior!

The key to achieving a state of “Relaxed Awareness” is to go over these items over, and over, and over again, until they become second nature. Once they become second nature, it will become easier for you to spot trouble before it occurs and act accordingly.

And what better way to spot trouble than know the Levels of Intoxication? You’ll have to wait til next time for that.

Situational Awareness

How many times have you heard the following phrases?

“I never saw him coming.”

“That car pulled out of nowhere.”

“The fight just broke out. I have no idea how it started.”

In our everyday lives, things occur around us at a rapid pace. We are constantly bombarded by stimuli in our environment: cars, televisions, people, phones. The list is literally infinite. Yet, while some people seem to be well-attuned to their environment, many seem absolutely oblivious. Like that guy with his shopping cart stopped directly in the center of the supermarket aisle, reading the contents of the bag of chips he’s about to buy and not realizing that you are trying to get past him.

What is the supermarket guy lacking? What are many people lacking in today’s world?

Situational awareness.

Situational awareness is “…the process of recognizing a threat at an early stage and taking measures to avoid it.” While the term itself if most commonly used in law enforcement and military community, everyday people exercise situational awareness in their daily lives. Driving, walking down the street, watching your kids, all involve some form of situational awareness. For those in the field of security, having good situational awareness is not only extremely useful, it can quite possibly save a life. Maybe your own!

Contrary to popular belief, being observant of one’s surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations is more of an attitude or mindset than it is a skill. And because of this, it can be adopted and employed by anyone! With a little bit of practice, it becomes quite easy to spot potential threats (even minor ones) and react to them before they develop into dangerous situations.

How does one develop and maintain situational awareness?

First, one must realize that a threat exists. Tuning out your surroundings reduces your chances of quickly recognizing a threat and avoiding it. Nightclub security can improve their situational awareness by simply paying attention. Not to the cocktail waitress and not to the go-go dancer. Pay attention to your job.

1) When you arrive to begin your shift, talk to the Head of Security and ask if there are any situations or individuals that should be paid attention to. How crowded is the club? Are there individuals who are showing signs of increased intoxication? Are there any individuals or groups that are acting (or beginning to act) aggressive?

2) After speaking to the Head of Security, do a quick walk through of the establishment. Are there tables or chairs that might constitute a blocking or tripping hazard? Any glasses or bottles that might fall off walls, chairs, or tables and break? Are all exit ways clear of blockages and are the doors closed to prevent illegal entry?

Paying attention to your surroundings will not only make you aware of potential hazards, it will place you in the proper mindset to begin your shift.

Maintaining situation awareness can be a bit more difficult. Everyone has had the experience of driving to a location and arriving without really remembering the trip. This “zoning out” tends to occur because we know the route we are traveling, become complacent, and let our mind drift. However, a cautious driver rarely “zones out”. They are constantly watching their route, checking their mirrors, and paying attention. As a bouncer, you maintain a level of awareness by engaging in the same type of behaviors. Here are some things to keep you on toes:

1) You should be constantly scanning your environment and looking for problem areas and patrons. Is that hallway getting congested? Why are those guys talking so loudly and gesturing at each other? Is that woman stumbling, or did she slip on something?

2) Conversations with co-workers should be kept to a minimum. Not only does a long conversation distract you from the job at hand, it will make your manager wonder why you are talking and not picking up the broken glass in Cabana 4. That is not to say that you can’t talk to your fellow staffers. But is does mean that one of you should be scanning the crowd while the other talks.

3) Conversations with patrons should be brief. Let the patron know that you are paying attention, but that you are also trying to do your job. It is fine to scan the crowd while talking to someone. Never should you feel uncomfortable telling a patron, “I’d love to talk more, but I really need to watch what’s going on right now.” An easy fix to this “conversation trap” is to turn so that the patron is not directly in front of you, but rather to your side. This way, you can talk to the patron and still watch the crowd. However, if you are dealing directly with an altercation or a serious situation ALWAYS pay attention to the situation at hand not what is going on across the club.


Let’s not fool ourselves, it can get slow and boring some nights on the floor or in the door. This is not the time to get complacent or drift off into daydream land. As a matter of fact, it is often at these times that some of the worst incidences occur. Why? Because no one is paying attention.

A good game to play if you should find yourself getting bored while standing in the back hallway is “What If?” What if a fire broke out right now? What if that woman fell and twisted her ankle? What if those four guys started fighting? Not only will you keep yourself occupied trying to figure out responses, you could come up with some new solutions to any number of problems!

We will continue to examine Situational Awareness next time with a few examples in which Lack of Awareness could have lead to serious disaster. Until then, heads up!

Self Defense and Use of Force

Anytime I get involved in a conversation regarding nightclub security consulting, one question always comes up:

“So…you teach bouncers how to beat people up?” Then the person laughs and says, “Just kidding.”…and proceeds to ask a ton of questions about how to beat people up. Or how many fights I’ve been in. Or what is the worst fight I’ve ever seen.

The boring (and unfortunate) facts point in the other direction. It is our job as security bloggers and nightclub consulting folks to teach bouncers how to NOT beat anyone up. Why? Uhm, well for one, it’s illegal to beat people up. And for two, it is the bouncer’s job to prevent people from getting beat up, prevent people from beating on other people, and avoid getting beat up by people themselves.

Most security staffers are curious as to what they are allowed to do verbally or physically when involved in a hostile situation. The answer is both simple and complex. Here is the simple part: SELF DEFENSE. And here is the complex part: SELF DEFENSE. How can something be both simple and complex? Well, the words themselves are pretty straight forward, but it is the interpretation and application of the words that is complex.

So let’s begin with a definition:


Pretty. Straight. Forward. You can protect yourself against unlawful bodily harm with a reasonable amount of force. That’s it.

In our first post, we discussed improper Use of Force. The improper Use of Force related to a bouncer applying a choke and throwing a patron. Let’s use the Use of Force model and apply it to Self Defense in a real world scenario:

You’re standing on the Dance Floor when a Patron bumps into you. Being the professional that you are, you apologize with a smile. The Patron says something rude about your mother’s bathing habits and shoves your shoulder.

What is the correct response?

A) You tell the Patron that shoving isn’t necessary and ask if everything is alright.

B) You call the Patron an asshat, shove them back, and walk away.

C) You grab the Patron by the arm, inform them that their prolonged attendance in your club is no longer desired, and escort them to the door.

D) You grab the nearest bottle, break it over their head, place them in a sleeper hold, and drag them out the door unconscious.

If you answered B or D, you need to find a new line of work and polish your conflict resolution skills. If you answered A or C you are at least on the right path. While B is an equal Use of Force, you have now continued to escalate the situation and are ignoring a potential threat by walking away. D is not only a ridiculous Use of Force, but will probably lead to Assault charges. Why? Because you did not defend yourself within the stated legal parameters. When physical touching has occurred, security may use necessary force to remove the Patron from the establishment, but may NEVER use excessive force. A shove does not dictate a chokehold.

And this is where the complexity of SELF DEFENSE rears its ugly head. If a situation arises in which you are forced to defend yourself physically, it is up to YOU to gauge your response. There may be witnesses or even videotape, but the burden of proof will come down to how YOU REACTED to the perceived threat. And in this day and age, we all know that even the most minor of improprieties can lead to lawsuits.

If a patron pushes you, that does not warrant a punch or choke. If they are coming at you with a broken bottle and screaming, “I’m going to kill you!” protecting yourself to the best of your abilities is the order of the day. IF your reaction would make a bystander react negatively, chances are it’s the wrong reaction. That means that you might need to get used to the idea of taking the occasional shove or even slap to the face.

The best form of Self Defense that you have is YOUR MOUTH. De-escalating a situation through the use of your verbal skills will not only prevent altercations but it will prevent lawsuits. Very rarely will you be sued for telling someone to settle down. However, punching someone in the face to keep them quiet will lead to litigation. Guaranteed. Think of this realistically: You are sober. They are drunk. Your reaction times and decision-making skills are (hopefully) superior to theirs. Use your brain and not your fists.

But hey, how’d you get yourself in this crazy situation in the first place?

Tune in next time for…SITUATIONAL AWARENESS!!!