Weapons in Nightclubs

Safety is one of the greatest concerns you have as a Security Staffer. Working in a dimly lit, noisy environment, full of semi- to heavily intoxicated individuals of every possible background should be enough to make anyone sweat a little. Add to that the reality of your job being to limit liability in said environment and you can see why not many people work in the field for very long. We have written in much detail about the dangers of the job and what you as a professional can do to mitigate the risks. But one subject has not been broached until now:

WEAPONS

I’m not talking about weapons being carried by Patrons, but weapons being carried by people on Staff.

Before I get too deep into the subject, let me say this: everyone has their own opinions about carrying weapons – regardless of type – and the use of said weapons in a dangerous situation. When I say “weapons” I mean any tool that can be used in an offensive or defensive capacity, whether it be a flashlight or a gun. I am not here to advocate one way or another. I am here to point out the dangers of possessing/carrying a weapon from a LIABILITY standpoint, and things that you should take into account should you decide to carry a weapon.

Every city, county, and state in the Union has their own laws governing the carry, possession, and use of weapons while on the job. Before you consider whether or not to carry a weapon, you MUST research the laws and ordinances in your city/county/state. Just because a Manager or another Security Staffer says, “Oh, that’s alright everyone here carries xxxxxx” DOES NOT make it legal. You could be setting yourself up for serious trouble should you break the law in this respect. Do your research and if you are not comfortable with your understanding of the law, either ask an attorney or DON’T CARRY A WEAPON.

Should you decide to carry a weapon, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:

WHY?

Are you carrying to make yourself feel safer or does the job call for you to be armed? If the job calls for you to be armed, are you comfortable working in an environment that necessitates a weapon? Chances are if the environment calls for weapons, it is a step above your basic bar and grill. Or maybe it is just a matter of fact that weapons are carried by the Staff in this particular establishment. Either way, why are YOU carrying a weapon?

WHO?

Are the people around you also armed, and if so, do you feel comfortable being around them? You might have serious reservations about some of your co-workers carrying any type of weapon. If this is the case, you may want to reconsider your place of employment.

WHAT?

There is a big difference between carrying a heavy flashlight and mace and carrying a handgun. What are the Polices and Procedures when weapons are carried by the Staff?What type of weapon is required for the job? Are you providing said weapon or is your employer? If your employer is providing the weapon, what type of insurance are they carrying? What type of insurance are YOU carrying? Remember, we are talking about liability here. Who has the coverage should something go wrong?

WHERE?

If your employer is providing the weapon, where is it being stored? Are the weapons accessible to the public or just the Staff? Will you be carrying the weapon with you at all times or checking it in and out of somewhere? Are you bringing the weapon with you, and if so where can you store it?

HOW?

How is the weapon to be used? Most important, do you actually know HOW to use the weapon? A lot of people carry knives, batons, or handguns for security work with only the minimum necessary training. I would HIGHLY suggest that if you are one of these people, you start to train constantly, consistently, and under duress. Whacking a tree in your back yard, shooting at the range, and playing with your knife in your bedroom are far different than accessing and using your weapon while under pressure in an adrenalized state. Learn to use what you carry.

WHEN and WHY?

When do you imagine that you would need to use your weapon? Without venturing too far into the Use of Force continuum, at which point would you be comfortable using a weapon? There are very few situations in which use of a weapon is needed or called for in a nightclub environment. That just the plain facts. As a matter of fact, I would proffer that if you need to use your weapon, something has gone horribly wrong or you have not done your job correctly. Can things go horribly wrong? Absolutely. But I am betting that with good Situational Awareness, a little Verbal Judo, and a bit of Scenario training, you can be prepared to meet 99% of situations with a clear head and without using force OR a weapon. Heaven forbid you access and use you weapon, only to have something like this happen.

I want to make it clear that I am also writing to those of you who carry a knife or pocket stick or tasers or whatever. Should you use a weapon, there WILL be an investigation. And even if the law falls on your side, that doesn’t mean the damages you caused by using the weapon won’t be sought after in a civil case. You should very seriously consider the questions above should you decide to work while armed as well as the possible consequences should something “go south”

Don’t get me wrong, there are many instances in which self-defense is called for, even demanded. But you’re always going to have a hard time defending your use of a weapon against a civilian, regardless of danger level. Remember, you are not an officer of the law, you are a hired security guard and the rules are VERY different.

Until next time…

Nightclub Security Uniforms

I’ve covered a variety of different topics when it comes to Security Staffers: Attitude and Approach, Ejections, even Bouncer Fails. However, I realized – upon entering an entertainment venue recently and not being able to spot their Security immediately – that I haven’t touched on the reasons why your Security should be in uniform. So, here goes…

UNIFORM: u·ni·form [yoo-nuh-fawrm] noun

1. an identifying outfit or style of dress worn by the members of a given profession, organization, or rank.

You will notice that one of the first words in the definition is “identifying”. How many times have you been in an establishment (restaurant, bar, retail outlet) and been able to spot an individual who works for said establishment? I’m guessing it is around 95% of the time. Why? They were probably wearing a uniform. Some item of clothing that set them apart from the Patrons or even the other Employees. How often have you entered an establishment and not been able to spot the employee? Better (or worse) yet, have you ever been asked if you worked somewhere, because someone else couldn’t find an employee and you happened to be standing there?

Having a Uniform or Employee Dress Code is one of the most important things that you can do for your Patrons. It allows Patrons to spot your Employees quickly should they need immediate assistance. It also allows other Employees to identify and spot on another, especially in a dark, crowded room. But having your Security Staff in uniform has other benefits as well:

Uniformity/Neatness of appearance – Something about being in a uniform increases one’s sense of pride and belonging. Uniforms set individuals apart from “the masses” and makes them part of “a team”. It also makes one take pride in the “uniform” and can help the Head of Security/Manager spot any slips in Security’s dress code. Having a dress code and uniform will also increase neatness by your team, as no one wants to be the “sloppy” one on shift.*

Vibe of club – The way your Security Staff dress – even in different parts of a venue – can set the tone and vibe of your establishment. Some establishments prefer a casual look for their entire Staff, while others prefer their entire Staff be in formal wear. If it is your intention to put your Security Staff in formal wear, it is important that you look into your state and local regulations and laws. There is always a possibility that they MAY NOT be able to be in formal attire.

One trend that I have noticed is entertainment venues putting their “Front Men” (e.g. Doorman, VIP Host, Door Outs) in suits, while the rest of Security is in more casual clothes. This is only a problem if your Front Door Staff are not noticeably different from one another – meaning that they should all have a uniform “look”, even if they are all in suits. This can mean all black suits, all red ties, all blue dress shirts, SOMETHING to make it obvious that they are all part of the same team.

I should say that “uniform” can mean different things to different people. My one suggestion would be that EVERYONE on your Staff be forced to wear the same outfit with SOME TYPE OF IDENTIFIER. This can be a “Security” badge or shirt, a “Security” pin, or even a “Security” hat. But it has to be something that identifies that individual as “Security”. I have seen situations escalate very quickly in the wrong direction due to misunderstanding as to who is or is not “Security”. Having Security Staff in uniform should make it obvious who they are to the casual observer.

Until next time…

Flashlights

Nightlife entertainment venues tend to be dark. Some darker than others, but almost all fall into the “Gee, I can’t see very well in here” category. And, as such, it is necessary for anyone working in these darkened environments to have some means of navigation and illumination. While well-lit walkways and stairwells are great, there is one piece of equipment that will never fail:

FLASHLIGHTS

Yep, the old tried and true flashlight. It has many uses and just as many misuses. So sit back, relax, and let’s discuss proper flashlight use and etiquette.

LIGHTING YOUR WAY – The flashlight’s main purpose is to do just that: help you see where you are going. Unfortunately, many Security Staffers don’t understand that lighting your way does not mean shining your flashlight directly the face of the people standing in front of you. Should you need to get through a crowd of people, a nice loud “Excuse me”, coupled with your flashlight held above your head, slightly in front of you, and pointed STRAIGHT DOWN will suffice.

LIGHTING SOMEONE ELSE’S WAY – Should you need to point someone towards an exit or need to light that stairwell so they don’t fall, shine your flashlight at about knee to waist height. Anything else tends to lead to involuntarily flashing people in the face. And don’t forget to point (with your entire hand, not a finger) the Patron in the proper direction.

DIRECTING TRAFFIC/HIGHLIGHTING OBSTACLES – Should you need to keep people moving, constantly sweep the flashing light in the direction of traffic flow. In this case, a flashlight held at about shoulder height, pointed straight down is the way to go. If you need to point out obstructions or hazards, stand directly next to the obstacle/hazard and shine your light on it. Don’t forget to mention the hazard to people as they approach.

BLAST ‘EM – Situations do occur in which shining a flashlight directly at or onto someone is necessary.

  • Fights/Altercations – Shine your light directly onto whatever the situation may be. If the rest of the Staff have been keeping their flashlights low as in the examples above, the sudden beam of light shining onto an altercation will immediately draw attention to it. Keep your light on the situation as it occurs.
  • Distraction/Blinding – A good blast of light in the face of an unruly or aggressive Patron can buy you a few seconds of time. Some flashlights have strobe effects which are equally disrupting.
  • Pointing out a troublemaker – Sometimes an unruly Patron may get away from your grasp. In this case, instead of running up behind them and throwing a tackle, shine your light on the Patron while trailing them and calling for back up.
TURN IT OFF
In closing, always remember to TURN OFF your flashlight when you aren’t using it. Nothing is as annoying as a flashlight in a Staffer’s back pocket illuminating the world behind them as they walk around, oblivious. Besides, it wastes batteries.
Until next time…

A Nightclub Doorman’s Gear….

The job of the Doorman is not easy to begin with, but if you are working without the necessary tools it can be downright horrible. While there is basic gear that every Security Staffer needs, the Front Door is an area with particular needs. Between the Doorman, Door Outs, and possibly a VIP Host, there are a range of responsibilities and equipment to help and make your job easier. So here is another entry in our series on Nightclub Equipment.

STANCHIONS

Most every club should have a stanchion or “rope” system in place. On the most basic level it is a way to keep people in line and designate where they need to go in order to enter the club. In larger establishments, ropes can be used to separate general admission from VIP and direct flow of traffic as people enter or exit. Whatever the purpose, purchasing ropes will improve your life. Where to buy them? How about a Google search?

CLICKERS (Tally Counters)

One of the more overlooked pieces of gear at the Front Door, “clickers” can save you from the heartache and frustration of being over-capacity and verify your in-door totals for the night. When used in conjunction with a Nightly Report, they can also track your business over the course of an evening.

CLIPBOARDS

This one is just too obvious. VIP lists, Guest lists, Promotional lists, holders for Nightly Reports; whatever the use, a clipboard or two is always necessary at the front door.

PENS, PENCILS, HIGHLIGHTERS

Kind of hard to write without these, yes?

FLASHLIGHTS & BATTERIES

Always have spare flashlights and batteries….please. Without fail, you will have a flashlight crap out on you during a shift. And it is pretty darn hard to find a replacement at 12:30 a.m. Trust me, I’ve tried.

DOORMATS

Entrance Mats and Runners are another piece of equipment that I often notice are missing from establishments. Again, on the most basic level, they make your place of business more attractive. But more importantly, they cover you from slip and fall liability…literally! Place these at your Entrance and your Entry Lines. A solid investment, always.

ID BOOKS

Believe it or not, you haven’t come close to seeing every ID every created from every part of the world. No, really, you haven’t. And sometimes you might even be wrong about an ID you’ve seen a million times. Yes, really, you have. Cover your back, or at least show that you’ve put  in the effort buy purchasing some ID guides.

These come in very handy if you have foreign exchange students in a college town or a influx of out-of-towners during the Summer/Holiday season.

RADIOS

I’ve discussed the importance of communication on numerous occasions. Everyone should be on a radio and using them with some regularity. If you don’t have radios in your establishment by now, you are just a disaster waiting to happen

ID SLEUTH/SCANNERS

ID Scanners are used by many Nightclub Doormen and they find them to be incredible helpful. They can (often) register fake IDs, head count, and even to note individuals who have been 86’ed by your place of business. On the downside, they can slow down your line, aren’t always accurate, and can lead to laziness on the part of your ID checker. Ultimately, I am about 50/50 on the use of scanners, but the choice is yours.

My preference is to use a device such as The ID Sleuth (which I reviewed). It is portable, easy to use, and costs a fraction of an ID Scanner.

Pretty basic, easy-to-fill list, isn’t it? Most establishment should be able to acquire most of the items in this post. Do it, it will make your Doorman’s job much, much easier.

Until next time…

The Bat Cave…or the Security Equipment Room

The Coat Check. The Box Office. The Manager’s Office. The Liquor Cage.

Chances are  you know where each of these locations are in your place of work. But how many of you know where the Security Equipment Room is in your Bar/Nightclub? Chances are you have no idea where it is…because it may not even exist. Many Bars/Nightclubs/Restaurants give their Security Staff a box, or a shelf, or maybe a locker or two in which to store their equipment. In reality, it is just as important for the Security Staff to have an Equipment Room as it is for the Manager to have an office. An Equipment Room is at its bare minimum just that: an Equipment Room.

A separate room will give your Head of Security/Manager a place to hold meetings or have conversations where it is quiet and private. Any disciplinary measures or questions from Staff can be addressed away from the paying Patrons and any and all paperwork can be worked on away from the noise of the crowd. And honestly, it is nice for your Security Staff to be able to take a break from the craziness outside that doesn’t involve walking down the street to the coffee shop or sitting at the back of the Bar!

In a perfect world, your Equipment Room would contain a clock, a phone/fax, a computer (linked in to your CCTV system, scheduling, and payroll software), a filing cabinet for paperwork, a few lockers (possibly a coat rack), storage bins or shelves, and plenty of space for 2-3 individuals to prep for their shift. But we don’t live in a perfect world, so a good starting point would be some shelves and a coat rack.

Your team’s gear should also be held in this room:

  • Radios, earpieces, and chargers – Plugged in and ready to go…ALWAYS. And please don’t forget extra batteries and earpieces.
  • Flashlights – It still amazes me how many Security Staffers work without flashlights and how many establishments don’t have enough flashlights for their Staff. Again, extra batteries are never a bad idea.
  • Paperwork and logs – Checklists, Nightly Reports, Incident Reports, Applications, Disciplinary forms. All should be kept in this room. All relevant Personnel Paperwork may be kept in the Manager’s office, but it is fine to keep it here IF it is in a locked, secure cabinet!
  • First Aid Kit – There should be several in your establishment, but a large kit in this room.
  • Office supplies – Pens, paper, pencils, stapler, tape, etc. You never know when you need to whip up a sign or grab an extra pen.
  • I.D. Checking Guides and other relevant books
  • Box of Ear Plugs/Box of Latex Gloves – For safety and hygiene.
  • Spare clothing – 2-3 extra sport coats, t-shirts, or whatever your Staff need to wear for a shift. Staff may need to change out of their original clothing for any number of reasons! And there should always be extra clothing for them to wear.

There are a ton of other items that could go on the list, but these basics will get you pretty far. Your Equipment Room need not be The Bat Cave, but a Security Staff needs its own space to be able to do things without getting in the way. Keys for entry to the Equipment Room should be limited to H.O.S. and Manager for safety’s sake and remember to always lock the door when you leave.

Keep your Staff happy, and they will keep your Establishment and its Patrons safe.

Until next time….

Product Review: The ID Sleuth

As promised, I will be posting product reviews here on the Tao on a regular basis. These reviews will hopefully guide you to equipment that you or your establishment may find helpful in the reduction of liability and improve your customer service. So without further ado…

THE ID SLEUTH

For a little over a year now, Shaun Lager (a Nightclub Industry veteran) has given me glimpses of a prototype he has been working on. I was impressed and intrigued by the initial models and asked him to let me know when the final product was ready. Well, it’s ready and it is a winner.

THE ID SLEUTH

THE ID SLEUTH is the first of its kind: a self-lighting, handheld, ID checking device. The frame is made of a tough polymer, which surrounds a 2x magnifying window with a 4x magnifying bubble.  Two small buttons set into the frame are used to activate one of two sets of lights: 2 LEDs or 4 UVs.

Front View with Magnifier and Power Buttons

Rear View showing LEDs and UV lights

To use the ID SLEUTH, you place an identification card 2-3 inches beneath the magnifying lens and press the button to turn on the LEDs. The LEDs put out a clear, bright light, easily illuminating any nicks, scratches, or alterations that may have been made to the identification.  The magnifier gives you an enhanced view of the ID, and the 4X bubble allows you to zoom-in on any questionable marks or imperfections. Once you’ve checked the identification for imperfections, the magic really starts.

LED lights in action

When you turn on the UV lights, the ID holograms – which adorn everything from Driver’s Licenses to Passports these days – pop into view. This is a huge plus, as most fake ID’s do not have holograms, and the fakes that do are easily trumped by solid UV lighting.

UV Lights and Holograms

Over the course of a weekend, myself and 3 other doormen used the ID SLEUTH. The initial reaction from both Doormen and Patrons was, “What is that!?” The ID SLEUTH worked like a charm. We were able to detect 2 fake IDs immediately and deterred a couple from trying to enter when they saw us using the device. One of the benefits of a visible, hand held device is its deterrence factor. Underage Patrons are far more hesitant to approach the Front Door if they see the Doorman holding a futuristic-looking ID machine.

When a young woman dropped her ID, the LEDs did an excellent job of substituting as a flashlight. It was fun spotting ID holograms from different states and hearing people’s reactions as well. The ID SLEUTH worked fine after being dropped and we noticed no loss of light quality or power over the course of its approximately 12 hours of use . By the end of the weekend, using the ID SLEUTH had become second nature. One of the doormen even asked if he could keep it!

Not much bigger than a Droid!

The ID SLEUTH is lightweight, measures 5 1/8”L x 3 1/2 W x 1”H,  and fits right in the palm of your hand. It also comes with a wrist strap or can be attached to an included suction cup stand for placement on a wall or table. And get this: the ID SLEUTH takes rechargeable RCR123A LI-ION batteries. I’ve also been told that the frame will be customizable so that you can put your establishment’s name on the front.

Those with small hands will find the ID SLEUTH a little bulky, but when compared to a large ID scanner, it is miniature. The only downside is the lack of a belt clip or holster,  but these issues are easily overcome by using the stand.

The ID SLEUTH has everything you need to check an identification in one basic, easy to use, cool-looking package. This device would be beneficial to any individual or establishment needing to quickly and easily verify any form of identification and I highly recommend it.

PROS:

Simple, sturdy design

Easy to use

Rechargeable batteries

Visual deterrent

CONS:

Bulky for individuals with small hands

No belt clip or holster

PRICE:            $99

WEBSITE: www.theidsleuth.com