Happy New Year!

Goodbye, 2015. And hello, 2016! We hope that your year ended well and that the year to come is a healthy and prosperous one.

While we would usually not look back, I find it fitting that this New Year’s Eve video is currently making the rounds. Many of my formative years working Security were spent in the doorway of a nightclub. Looking back on some of those adventures, I only wish that I’d been able to record the interactions that took place. I have to hand it to this bouncer for taking the initiative and doing that very thing. Not only that, but he does his job well and – as far as I can tell – makes it home safely at the end of the night.

For those of you who wonder what it is like to be a bouncer in a club or who don’t realize the constant stream of characters that they have to deal with on a regular basis, here you go. For those of you who look at nightclub security staff with disdain, this might help to give you an idea of the work that they do EVERY NIGHT, and why the job is far more difficult than it appears. Remember, security staffers are people too; so please treat them with some respect!

Another night on the Door

Violent incidents in Nightclub settings

This video was posted in a forum that I belong to and I thought it would be a great tool for examining violent incidents. I hate to armchair quarterback these situations, especially when all of the information is not readily available – or in this case – visible. But I think that there are basic rules in this situation that have either been broken or at the very least, ignored.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

1) Lack of access/traffic flow control – Hard to tell which part of the club this occurs in, but it seems to be either a side room or an entry foyer. Either way there is far too much foot traffic for there NOT to be a Security Staffer posted either in the room itself or in the doorway (at the right). This would alleviate bunching, overcrowding, and facilitate quick access to any trouble that occurs within the space. Control the space and you can control the issues within it or keep them from occurring. Bathrooms and hallways should always have a staffer positioned within or nearby.

2) Lack of definable uniforms – Who is security? Who is not security? Any person on staff should be in a clearly marked shirt (SECURITY) or wearing some type of uniform to designate their standing as a Staffer. Otherwise, you are just another big guy jumping into the melee.

RESPONSE

The Plus 1 Rule – Always have ONE more Staffer involve in any type of disturbance than the number of individuals involved. 1 patron ejection = 2 Security Staff, 2 people fighing = 3 Staffers, etc. There is not much manpower response to a brewing brawl in this situation. By my count, there are 2 security staffers and 6 people in a small room. Not good odds.

The initial response by the bouncer to grab the person with the bottle is technically correct, but not in this situation. Jumping into the fray without backup and without a cursory glance as to what is going on is a recipe for disaster. Once the backup arrives, the two Staffers start to remove the “aggressor” which is again technically the correct thing to do..but they do it while completely ignoring the building fight behind them. This is where things get progressively more questionable. It is hard to tell if they can’t get out the door and why they have stopped. Is there no room to move the man out the left door? Why not eject out the right door? Not enough info to work on here. At the very least, they should be removing themselves from the room until they have the manpower to take on the people fighting.

When it becomes obvious that a weapon is involved, this should (and it looks like it does) become an “All Hands” situation: every available Staffer heads to the incident area, Front Door goes into lockdown, LEOs are contacted, and the area is cleared of bystanders if possible. I work under the philosophy that if you have “lost the floor” i.e. mass brawl, jumping in actually does more damage than good. Let them fight it out while you protect any bystanders that may be in the way until things gets to a manageable point.
POST INCIDENT

Again, it is hard to tell the size and layout of this establishment, but at the very least the Bar and room where the stabbing occurred should be cleared and locked down. First Aid should be rendered immediately to the stabbing victim while other Staffers detain anyone directly involved in the fight (especially the individual with the weapon) and try to find witnesses. Then write up an Incident Report to make sure things are still fresh in your mind. Should this incident carry forward to a trial, that Incident Report will be VERY important.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES

Controlling access to entry/watching the line – No more that 3-5 individuals should be allowed in the door at a time, hopefully spaced out to prevent bunching. What is the demeanor of the people in the line? Intoxicated? Aggressive? There should be a Staffer monitoring the line and the sidewalk. Doorman has ultimate say in who comes in and should not – with very few exceptions – be overridden by Management or Head of Security. He/She is the keeper of your door for a reason. And yes, they have the right to refuse service. Many clubs will not let in groups of 4+ men unless they are interspersed with women.

Weapons checks – Every individual entering should be searched for weapons, either by pat down or wand. Dress code can facilitate this: no untucked shirts or overly baggy clothing that can hide knives, guns, blackjacks, etc. This goes for women as well via bag checks.

Gear – Flashlights, radios, stab vests (depending on establishment), and uniforms should be MANDATORY for EACH member of your Security Staff. If your Staff are missing one or more of these items they are a liability and a potential target.

Communication – Does your team talk throughout the night? If there is an issue, do you communicate it to your entire staff? Is everyone on the same radio channel or do different zones have different channels? Does your team know how to properly use their radios?

Training – Do you have set policies and procedures for incidents or situations that may occur? Does your staff know these policies and procedures? Does your staff know how to handle ejections? Intoxicated or aggressive individuals? Fights? Melees? Do you train your staff in ejection, escort, and self protection techniques?

Your team should be holding end of shift debriefs that cover any incidents and individuals that caused problems. This way, you are all on the same page and know what happened throughout the night, throughout the establishment. Training and communication go a long way to keeping your Staffers from becoming statistics. Stay smart and stay SAFE.

When things go wrong…

“In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test.

In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”

Since the beginning, the goal of this blog has been to inform and educate. Every post – even the humorous ones – seeks to shed a little light on the mindset and planning that go into working as a Security Staffer, Security Manager, or Bar/Nightclub/Restaurant Owner. To that end, the majority of the posts have dealt with the positives or at least prepping for the negatives in order to prevent or avoid them. This time around, the approach is a little different. We’re going to tackle – in a manner of speaking – the negatives. Those nights on which NOTHING seems to go right.

No matter what your line of work, you will experience a bad day. It may be an angry patron or manager or a disgruntled co-worker that just made things unbearable. Maybe all the credit card machines die right in the middle of a huge holiday season shopping rush. Maybe a bus full of tourists stops in front of your ice cream stand at the very moment your co-worker is at lunch, the manager is out sick, and you are the only one behind the counter. You get the idea: work days aren’t always picture perfect. 

BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER

Most people would approach bad days in this manner: What went wrong and how do we fix it? It is a great approach but I believe that the rectification of any problem needs to start before the problem occurs. Actually, I would suggest that problem days should be approached BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER they occur. I’m sure that some of you are scratching your heads and thinking, “How the heck do I solve a problem BEFORE it occurs!?” Bear with me for a second.

PPPPPPP

The letters above are not a typo. They are an acronym known as “the 7 Ps”, and they stand for “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”. In other words, preparing for the worst will help you deal with the worst when it occurs. In most cases, poor planning and poor preparation will directly result in “a bad day at the office.” Did you only schedule four Staffers on a three day weekend when your club is historically known to be over capacity? Did you place an inexperienced ID checker at the door during College Night? The reason that you should use Checklists, run Scenarios, discuss Ejections, and double check your Scheduling is to MINIMIZE the potential for things to go wrong.

That is not to say that planning in advance will prevent problems from occurring. German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke stated, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” and he was pretty much spot on. Because no matter how well you plan, something can always go wrong. Fully staffed on a holiday weekend? Guess what, your Head of Security just got food poisoning. About to eject a Patron? Oh, you didn’t realize that he and his friends are UFC fighters? Have the Front Door under control? Wait, where did those 3 party buses full of drunken football fans come from? What to do, what to do?

STOP

If you do find yourself in the middle of a no good, very bad day….STOP. That’s right. STOP. Stop what you are doing and take a deep breath. As an old instructor of mine said, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” Don’t run around in a panic. Don’t start screaming at the Staff. Definitely don’t starting swinging at the UFC guys. STOP. Evaluate the situation. Decide on a plan of attack. Rushing to fix a problem may in many cases make things WORSE. A pause in the action to regroup, rethink, and then approach the problem with a fresh head will very rarely make things worse. Try the new approach and see what happens, you might be surprised at how well it works.

Just remember that sometimes, no matter what you do, no matter how well you’ve planned, no matter how patiently you’ve reassessed your position, the problem can’t, won’t, or doesn’t resolve itself. You know what? THAT’S ALRIGHT. It is not going to be fun dealing with the ongoing problem or the aftermath, but that is part of working any job. Just as long as you have put your best foot forward and at least attempted to resolve the issue! Sometimes that horse is too far down the road to stop. Wait for it to come back and deal with it on the back end.

LESSON LEARNED?

If something has gone wrong in spite of your planning, you’ve approached the fix calmly and patiently, and things still completely collapsed – or resolved themselves – sit back over the next few days and process it all. First off, it is alright to be disappointed in yourself, your staff, the computers, whatever. Things happen and not always good things. You can’t win every battle. Remember, if challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be challenges. It is how you approach your mistakes and your failures that will help to define you and make you a better employee, manager, owner, and yes…a better person. 

Think back on your planning. Is there something you would have changed with the benefit of hindsight? Ask your manager if they have suggestions. Get together with your Staffers and discuss the problems and how they could have been either anticipated or dealt with in a more efficient manner. Part of being a great boss is being a great mentor. Let your employees know where they (or you!) have failed and what they (or you!) can do to improve the next time around. When life give you a test and you fail – or barely pass – don’t fixate on the outcome, focus on the solution and move forward. 

Until next time….

Bar and Nightclub Employee Safety

Working in an environment where alcohol is distributed to large group of people carries with it inherent risks. Between physical altercations, broken glass, bodily fluids (blood, vomit, saliva, etc.), slips, and falls, there is a higher than normal chance that you will be injured on the job if you are not paying close attention to your surroundings.

This week, we’re going to focus on how to keep yourself, your co-workers, your Patrons, and your establishment much, much safer.

FIRST AID TRAINING AND FIRST AID KITS

First and foremost, do you have First Aid/CPR training? If your answer is no, follow this link immediately and sign up for a course, preferably the most advanced course possible. Why? For one, it could save the life of someone you love. People have heart attacks, choke on food, and injure themselves, EVERYDAY. No harm in taking a few hours out of your life to help save a life. In addition, you are learning a valuable skill that can come in handy in any number of settings, including your work place.

Second, do you have a First Aid kit on your worksite? You should – by law. As a matter of fact, you should have multiple First Aid kits to be extra safe. I have never worked in an entertainment venue where there was not a minor injury from broken glass. Know where your kits are located and keep them stocked with fresh supplies.

FIRE DRILL!

How many of you know the location(s) of your Fire Extinguisher(s)? Better yet, how many of you have performed a Fire Drill in your establishment? Call a Staff meeting and let everyone know where the First Aid kits/Fire Extinguishers are and how to use them (the Fire Extinguishers). A mock drill to evacuate your building in case of fire/gas leak/melee is never a bad idea. Know your exits and evacuation routes BEFORE you need to use them. Have a good evacuation plan and know how to communicate with your Staff during and after an evacuation. And no, yelling “FIRE!” is not a good idea.

EMERGENCY LIGHTS

You can buy cheap Emergency Lights just about anywhere. A small investment on the front end can save you millions – not to mention lives. Exit signs are great, but well-lit Exits are even better! Buy some Emergency Lights for your entire venue. Believe it or not, the power does go out on occasion!

STAFF ESCORTS

The safety and security of your Patrons is paramount, but your Staff should also feel secure. Implementing an “escort” policy is an excellent idea for any establishment. No server, cocktail waitress, hostess, VIP host should ever leave the premises without an escort to their car. And this is regardless of how they may feel about it. The establishments in which I work DO NOT ALLOW female Staffers to walk to their cars unescorted.

In addition, Security Staff should always exit the venue at the end of the night in groups of two or three to guarantee their safety upon departure. Assaults on Security are not unheard of after-hours. A moment or two to get your colleague to the car will make everyone feel more secure and protect them from possible attacks. Remember the Buddy System?

Take some time to go over safety procedures with your employees. It could save your life.

Until next time…