Pre-Attack Indicators

While we do post about the ridiculous on occassion, for the most part we try to keep things (semi) serious on this blog. Humor is necessary, but the reality is that working Security in any type of setting is dangerous. Add alcohol to the mix (no pun intended) and the potential for violence and danger increases. I’d like to touch on a subject that is often overlooked by many when discussing violence: the physical signs that an individual will exhibit prior to attacking.

If you look back through the various posts I have written Use of Force, the focus tends to be on what you as individual or your Staff should be doing to mitigate violent reactions. But how do you know whether or not an individual is about to be violent? Is there a way to tell? As a matter of fact, yes. But first you need to understand the “Why” of how a body under stress – in this case, adrenaline – works.

FIGHT OR FLIGHT

We’ve all heard the saying “fight or flight” and it is exactly what it sounds like. When your body is dumping adrenaline into your system, whether you are amped and want to attack (fight) or scared and want to run (flight), there are physiological changes that your body will experience:

  • Time Distortion — Time slows or speeds up.
  • Depth perception/Visual Distortion — Things appear closer or larger than they are.
  • Tunnel Vision — Peripheral vision will crop away and all you see is the perceived threat.
  • Auditory Exclusion — Partial or total loss of hearing.
  • Pain Tolerance — While damage may still be done, you won’t necessarily feel it. Many people die of their injuries AFTER a violent confrontation due to the fact that they don’t feel anything during the confrontation.
  • Speed and Strength Increase — Known as the “mother lifting the car off the baby” symptom. Yes, it is possible. But no one ever discusses the fact that there are usually physical injuries that accompany these acts. Remember pain tolerance?
  • Fine Motor Movement Decay — This is also known as loss of fine motor skills. You probably won’t be able to tie your shoes, much less dial a cell phone.
  • Changes in blood flow/heartbeat – This is due to the body wanting to divert blood where it is most needed to oxygenate your body.
  • Changes in respiratory rate — From fast, sharp inhales to hyperventilation, your body will do it.
  • Unconscious Muscle Tension — Clenching or relaxation of  muscles.
  • Mono-emotion/Emotional Detachment — Anger, Fear, Happiness, Sadness. One emotion will block out the others. It is possible that there will be NO emotion attached to what you are doing.
  • Bladder/Bowel Release — This is your body removing what it feels is “excess” in order for you to fight or run.

These effects will be seen in EVERYONE in some way, regardless of how experienced they are with working in an adrenal state. So how can we spot someone in an adrenal state, with violent intentions? Actually, it is pretty easy if you know what to look for in the moment.

The first thing to consider is what circumstances lead to this individual being angry or agitated? Did you just break up a fight? Has a couple been arguing loudly? Was a Patron just ejected from the bar? Is it the way you have been interacting with them? Any of these could lead to an angry action or reaction towards you.

PRE-ATTACK INDICATORS

Muscle Contraction: Remember that unconscious muscle tension? Well, this is where you will see it. Clenching of the jaw, baring of the teeth, clenching and unclenching of the fists, tensing of the neck muscles, puffing of the chest, even tightening or shrugging of the shoulders. All of these are possible indicators that the body is preparing for an assault.

Blinking eyes: Most people blink an average of about 20 times per minute, or every 3 seconds. However, under the effects of adrenaline this can leap to double or triple that rate (40 to 60 times per minute). Have you ever heard of the “thousand yard stare?” This can happen if the body takes the opposite adrenal approach and slows its blinking rate to 2-4 blinks per minute. It’s as if the individual is looking “through” you.

Blading: There are different names for this body movement: “the fighting stance,” “boxer’s stance”, “squaring up”, but they all indicate that an attack is imminent.  The stance is demonstrated by a shift in weight, with the strong side (or leg) usually place behind the aggressor. If you see this, prepare yourself for physical interaction.

Targeting:  Some people know this as “sizing up an opponent”. While the individual may indeed be checking what size you are, they are more than likely trying to decide which part of you to attack first. An individual preparing to attack will “target” a particular part of your body: chin, throat, eyes, etc.  If they are fixating on a part of your body – or on your weapon – be prepared.

Scanning: Scanning means the person in front of you is looking at everything but you. There is usually little to no direct eye contact. Why? Well, they are looking at their environment: scanning it for escape routes, witnesses, his buddies (or backup), or your co-workers. They are preparing to attack you and get out – or figuring out whether or not it is safe to do so.

Flanking: This is movement by multiple individuals in order to attain the best possible position for an attack. While you are distracted by the individual in front of you, his compatriots are coming around your side. Even more reason for you to be aware and to have back up!

One thing to keep in mind is that the majority of these displays are sub-conscious, meaning that the individual exhibiting them may not be aware of that fact that they are doing so. When dealing with an individual in an agitated state, keep your cool, keep you distance, call for back up, and PAY ATTENTION!   Buying yourself just a little time with an agitated individual may just keep you out of the hospital…or worse.

Until next time…

Bouncer Fails…at everything

Every once in a while, I come across some material that is so beyond the pale as to be almost unbelievable. As a matter of fact, when I first watched the video I am referencing, I thought it was a set up, a fake. And part of me still hopes that it is. But the part of me that has to deal with Security Staff on a regular basis – especially poorly trained Security Staffers with the wrong idea of how to do their jobs – knows that this is all too real.

WARNING: This video is graphic and violent.

Usually when I post a video, I try to break it down and analyze it. Not in this case. What happens here is an assault, plain and simple. And if you watch the video carefully, it is a premeditated assault.

Please read our posts Just Walk Away and To Fight or Not To Fight. As one of my mentors says, “Don’t be this guy.”

Until next time…

Bouncer Fails

Every month I like to do a little Googling of the word “Bouncer” and see what comes up. The results are usually some type of fight video or altercation between a Bouncer and a Patron. And in about 50% of the cases, the Security Staff are too hands on. If you read my last post, I made a big deal out of “being nice”. When you watch a lot of these videos, you can see that the Staffers are either not being nice or they are allowing the customers to get the better of them.

What I mean is that the Patrons keep pushing the Staffer’s buttons until the Staffer “snaps” and get “hands on”. Basically, the individual running the door runs out of patience or they let their emotions get the better of them. Either way, it’s a huge problem. Ultimately, your job in Security is to protect people, not put them in harm’s way or cause the harm yourself.

In the following video, I see an example of a complete loss of composure by the Doorman, accompanied by some very serious lapses in situational awareness by all of the Security Staffers involved. First, let’s look at the video*:

(Be forewarned, the language is NSFW)

Not pretty is it? I see an intoxicated Patron (yes, he’s annoying, but that’s besides the point) being pushed around for no discernible reason. So let’s break it down a bit:

00:00 – 00:34     Just Another Night?

The Patrons are drunk and there is some kind of dispute trying to be resolved. So far, nothing out of the unusual. BUT…

FAIL #1 – The Staffer in the black jacket has his hands in his pockets. Why? The worst thing you can do in any situation involving a possibly dangerous or suspect individual is talk to them with your hands in your pockets. You’re asking to get hit.

00:35 – 00:51     The Trouble Starts 

The Patron approaches an individual who I assume to be the Manager. The Staffers intervene, which is understandable, but their pushing of the Patron is waaaaaaaay over the line. Not only that, but when the Patron returns, they just stand there, not creating any type of safe zone around themselves, even going so far as to let the Patron bend down and pick something up off the ground.

FAIL #2 – The Patron could have very easily used this as a distraction to grab a weapon (in his off hand) OR  jump right up with a head butt or attack on either Staffer. Bad Situational Awareness. Is the Patron verbally abusive? Yes. But hey, everyone has been cursed at. Suck it up.

00:52 – 01:10     Things Fall Apart 

Is it necessary for both Staffers to push back the Patron? I would argue no. At this point, the Staffers have escalated the situation.

FAIL #3 – The Patrons are now heated and they are coming back for more. Why does the Staffer in the Black Coat place his hands behind his back? And why do they let the Patrons approach them again without some type of verbal warning to back off.

01:11 – 01:25     Disasters, Inc.

What a mess. Red Coat Staffer actually removes his hat and tells the Patron, “I’m going to give it to you.” Wow.

FAIL #4 – An implied threat of violence accompanied by the act of preparing an attack (hat removal). We just drifted from stupid behavior into possible assault territory.

01:26 – 01:45     How Can We Possibly Make This Situation Worse?

Red Coat pushes the Patron (again), and actually starts instigate a fight, to the point of having to be held back by his partner. And the Staffer in the Black Coat keeps his hands occupied (with a hat), turns his back on his buddy (to put down the hat), and puts his hands back in his coat.

01:46 – The End     Epic Failure

Red Coat is obviously trying to get into a fight at this point. Multiple pushes on the Patron, multiple failures in situational awareness and body positioning, and basically breaking every rule in the book in terms of procedure when dealing with intoxicated individuals.It gets bad enough that they need to bring back up from inside.

Videos like this serve to demonstrate how a situation can turn bad very quickly, especially when accompanied by severe lapses in judgement. Remember it is up to you as a Security Staffer to dictate the conversation and guide yourself, your fellow employees, and yes – even intoxicated Patrons – into the zone of safe conflict resolution.

  • Calm your Patrons down – Use phrases like, “Slow down.” or “Let’s talk this out.”
  • Remove yourself from the situation – If a Patron is angry at you, leave the scene and have someone else deal with it. It doesn’t make you a coward, it makes you smart and keeps you out of trouble.
  • Keep your head and hands up – Always. No matter how safe you feel, anything is possible.

Don’t be like these Staffers. Be intelligent about your approach, patient in your attitude, and DON’T FAIL.

Until next time…

*(as always, any and all video is the property of the YouTube poster and I make no claims as to its authenticity or the actual actions depicted)

To Fight or Not To Fight?

Actually, the answer to this particular question is simple: you should never fight. I suppose some clarification is needed. If you as a Security Staffer instigate a fight or start a fight yourself, you’ve failed at your job. There is no reason why you should get a Patron so upset that they take a swing at you and vice-versa.

But this does raise an interesting conundrum: if you are never supposed to get into a fight, do you need really need to know HOW to fight?

There are two answers: Yes and No.

Now that you are thoroughly confused, let’s break things down a bit.

NO, YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW HOW TO FIGHT

We’ll start with the answer that most Security Staffers will scoff at. “That’s ridiculous!”, they’ll say, “If I can’t fight, what’s the point of working Security?” To begin with, if you are interested in working Nightclub Security to get into fights, you’re not a particularly smart individual. Fighting will not only get you and your workplace sued, but could result in serious injury to Patrons, and yes, you. Don’t believe me? Google “Bouncer arrested”  or “Bounder sued” and enjoy one of the millions of links that pops up.

Unfortunately, most Security Staffers have a fairly high opinion of themselves in regards to fighting. Guess what? You are neither Mohammed Ali nor Bruce Lee. You don’t have the strength of Mike Tyson or speed of Georges St. Pierre. And that is just a fact. Regardless of your “fighting skills” (insert eye-roll here), reality and the law of averages are continuously working against you in a fight. The person you are fighting could have friends, you could slip and fall, or surprise, surprise: you decide to pick a fight with a trained fighter.

I’ll take a moment to relay story. Several years ago, a BJJ brown belt entered a local bar. After a few drinks, he got into a war of words with another patron and they “took it outside”. Well, the brown belt took his adversary to the ground and applied a nice rear naked choke…only to be kicked in the head by his adversary’s three friends. He was then beaten unconscious and ended up in the hospital. So much for fighting skills. This story is not meant to disparage BJJ or even infer that the man fighting wasn’t well-trained. But it does illustrate that there are many other factors at work during a confrontation.

What will cover your behind 95% of the time as a Security Staffer will be your observational abilities, critical thinking, and non-violent conflict resolution skills. If you can’t notice an intoxicated Patron, decide if an individual needs to be asked to leave, or break up a fight in the initial stages, you need to bone up on your skills! First and foremost, spend more time with more senior Security Staffers. See how they relate to Patrons, ask them how they handle altercations, and have them critique you when you are on the job.

I highly recommend the book: ‘Verbal Judo: The GentleArt of Persuasion’ to anyone working Security. Dr. Thompson does a great job of breaking down how to remain calm in a tense situation, defusing anger from others, and give small tricks to “derail” angry individuals. A good read and incredibly helpful.

And finally, assess why you work in the field of Nightclub Security. IF you do it for the fights, I wish you luck, because it is going to run out sooner or later.

If you are a good talker, a good observer, and a good conflict resolver, there is a very good chance that you will  never have to raise a fist in anger or in defense. Any Nightclub Security Staffer worth his salt knows that avoiding conflict is the only way to get home in one piece.

YES, EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW HOW TO FIGHT…

On the other side of the coin is the reality of the Nightclub workplace. Patrons get intoxicated, tempers flare, and fights start. Alcohol’s effect on people is totally unpredictable. The two best friends who were doing shots together 30 minutes ago are suddenly punching each other. A girlfriend has gotten angry at her boyfriend and slapped him in the face. Someone has bumped someone else and fists start flying.  It happens and usually YOU are in the middle of it.

Everyone needs to know how to defend themselves. Period. Whether you are a 10 year school girl or an 80 year old man, you should know some basic defensive moves. In an earlier post we discussed the Best Martial Arts for Bouncers, and the conclusion was: choose what works for you. As my martial arts instructor once told me, “The best defense in a fight is a good pair of running shoes and an exit.”

No matter how good you are at talking, sooner or later you will have to insert yourself into an altercation. Whether breaking up a fight or separating two individuals who are about to throw down, you need to know how to physically intervene in these situations. More often than not, when a fight is broken up the combatants continue to swing and will turn on YOU. And it is a this point that your ability to protect yourself will come into play and could save your life.

Security Staffers do need to know how to defend themselves. Notice I said defend and not fight. Fighting involves two participants generally both agreeing to go toe to toe with one hoping for a victory. There is no reason for you as a Security Staffer to willingly enter (or start) a physical altercation. Even in cases where you need to break up a fight, you should be separating and restraining the combatants, not throwing blows. But you do need to protect yourself from the blows that may come your way. Just remember that the second you start swinging your fists, you become the aggressor and that is a problem.

So as you can see, there is no cut and dry answer to the question of whether or not one should know how to fight. In a perfect world, all conflicts and issues would be resolved with a calm demeanor and a little conversation. But the Nightclub environment with its mix of alcohol, adrenaline, intoxication, and testosterone can produce physical altercations. Know how to observe and talk, but be prepared to defend yourself at all times.

Until next time, stay safe.

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….