Patron Ejections and Escorts

Over the past few years, I have written more than a few posts on Bar fights, Ejections, over-intoxicated Patrons, and how to How to Minizmize Nightclub Ejections. I wanted to take some time in this post to breakdown ejections a bit more and give you and your crew some more material to ponder.

It is important to remember that many of the Patron ejections you will deal with are cases of over-intoxication. Some of these individuals may be compliant, while others…not so much. Remember, regardless of the level of resistance on the part of the Patron, it is very important that you as a Security Staffer use the minimum amount of force necessary to get them out the door. More resistance on the part of the Patron does not necessarily equal more force on the part of the Staff.

Let’s take a moment to look over what an “escort formation” should look like:

^^^^^ Direction of the Ejection ^^^^^

X (Lead)

3′-5′ spacing

P (Patron)

X (Escort)To the rear and side of Patron, at arm’s length distance

 3′-5′ spacing

X (Follow)

The first position is held by your “Lead”. This Staffer is tasked with two basic assignments: to light the way and to clear the path. You may have noticed that when Patrons are enjoying themselves in an establishment, they can be fairly oblivious to what is going on around them, especially if the bar/club is noisy and crowded. The “Lead” needs to announce – loudly – that they need a clear path! “Coming through, heads up, look out folks, etc.” The wording doesn’t necessarily matter but you need to let people know that you are heading their way.

The Lead should also be no more than 5 feet in front of the “Escort”. This will allow for room to maneuver should the Escort need to restrain the Patron and will cut down on the possibility of the crowd sneaking in-between the Lead and the Escort. In addition to their announcements, the Lead should use a flashlight to light the way and to let people know they are headed in their direction.

The Escort is the key part of the ejection equation. More than likely they are the one who has talked to the Patron being asked to leave and may be supporting them (if they are unable to walk) or restraining them (if they are combative). Their entire focus of attention should be the Patron. The Escort should be walking just behind and to the side of the Patron. If the Escort is not supporting the Patron in any fashion they should be no farther than arm’s length away.

DO NOT stand directly behind the Patron while escorting them out. Should they stop short, turn suddenly, or become violent, a position directly to their rear is not easily defensible. Standing at an offset angle behind the Patron will force them to adjust their stance/gait in order to get to you. This, in turn, will give you the benefit of off-balancing of them AND of protecting yourself from wild swings, elbows, or headbutts.

The “Follow” position is often the most overlooked part of this equation. Their main job is to communicate to the rest of Staff and the Front Door that an ejection is taking place. The phrase, “One coming out, Front/Side/Back Door!” works perfectly and lets the Staff know which exit should be prepared to receive the Patron. The Follow must also deal with those individuals who are interfering with or impeding the Ejection. 95% of the time, when you are ejecting a Patron, their friends want to get involved. If you are lucky, they are just concerned with their friend’s safety. If you are unlucky, they may try to physically interfere with the process. While this is a concern for the entire escort team, it falls on the Follow to provide the physical barrier between the Friends and the Patron/Escort. If necessary, the Follow can call for back-up to help with the ejection process or the Patron’s friends.

Besides providing a physical barrier, part of the Follow’s job is to keep eyes on the crowd as the escort formation moves through it. People reaching out, trying to slip into the escort formation,  or trying to interfere with the Escort: all of this should be handled by the Follow. This means that they are also within 3-5 feet of the Escort at all times. I also suggest the Follow shine their light directly on the back of the Patron’s head. Why? Should the Patron turn, they will get a good dose of unexpected light in their eyes. Will this prevent all problems? No. But it can give you and the team an extra couple of seconds to deal with the Patron while they blink in the light.

During the entire ejection process, the escort team should be talking to each other, moving, and maintaining situational awareness. DO NOT STOP. Stopping provides the Patron more time to argue, allows their friends to catch up, allows the crowd to get involved, and most importantly: impedes your forward progress!

Get moving, stay moving, pay attention, and get out the door.

Until next time…

Bouncer Fails…

Not every night that you work the Door is going to be slow and lazy. More often than not you will encounter a situation that tests your limits or forces you to act quickly and decisively. And once in a rare while you will be placed in a possibly life-threatening situation. There are a myriad of scenarios that can occur during the course of your shift, but your approach to each should be consistent, patient, and attentive.

This video clip is an excellent example of how lax attention can have a possibly deadly outcome. We could break the video down second by second, but instead we can look at the major mistakes made.

Mistake #1 – Lack of Distance

From the very beginning, the Doorman is too close to the Patron. Any Patron, regardless of state of sobriety or perceived intent, should be kept at least arm’s distance from you at all times. Many Security Staffers close the gap through what might be considered “posturing”. They think that getting up close might intimidate the person they are dealing with. In reality, this may be seen as an aggressive move and can lead to unnecessary escalation. It also puts you as a Staffer in a serious danger zone.

Creating space between you and a Patron allows you room to move, a clearer view of the Patron’s entire body, and an opening to defend yourself. It also lets the Patron know that you are not crowding them or getting into their personal space, which can help to relax them if they are getting worked up.

Mistake #2 – Busy hands

You should never have your hands occupied with anything other than what you need to do your job while talking to a Patron. Cellphones, cigarettes, cups… not acceptable. These are distractions and occupy important space – namely your hand(s). Should you have to defend yourself, grab something, or move someone, it will be very difficult with something in your hands.

The Doorman not only smokes a cigarette during this entire encounter, but he even places one hand in his pocket while smoking! How does he expect to defend himself?

Mistake #3 – Forgetting the Buddy System

While not always possible, it is HIGHLY recommended that you be in the presence of another Staffer during any encounter you have with a Patron. This not only ensures that you have physical backup should things turn ugly, but also provides you with a witness should anything go awry. There is a reason that every field of Security prefers to work with multiple Staffers: SAFETY IN NUMBERS. You should always have +1 person in relation to the situation you are dealing with. 1 Patron = 2 Staffers, 2 Patrons = 3 Staffers, etc.

When the Doorman’s “backup” finally does arrive, he spends his time dealing with another customer and not trying to figure out what is going on in the situation to his immediate left. As a matter of fact, the distraction that he causes in dealing with the 2nd Patron allows the 1st Patron to pull his knife and stab both himself and the Doorman.

Mistake #4 – Lack of Situational Awareness

You need to be aware of your surroundings, who is in them, and what they are doing AT ALL TIMES. That does not mean that you have to engage everyone and everything. But it does mean that you need to be paying attention. ALWAYS. This Doorman not only fails to keep correct distance and has his hands busy, but he TURNS AWAY from the individual he is addressing. In addition, although the main “threat” the Doorman is dealing with is directly in front of him, he turns to deal with other Patrons twice. Never turn away from an individual. Never. Especially one who is intoxicated and attempting to gain access to your establishment.

The fact that the Doorman does not want this particular Patron in the club means that he should focus his attention on the Patron. Period. While minor distractions can and will occur, the Patron in front of you is your point of focus. Ask yourself, “Why won’t he back up when asked?” “Why does this Patron have a hand in his pocket?” Simple questions that should be running through your head at all times.

Keep in mind that being Situationally Aware is NOT the same as being paranoid. If you are paying fearful attention to something that does not exist, you are being paranoid. Acknowledging what is going on around you without attaching some type of negative connotation to it is being aware.

Stay aware and stay safe.

Until next time…

Scenario training

In light of the the recent tragedy in Aurora, CO, I think it is important to revisit the idea of Scenario Training. I will simply redirect you all to this link for more information.

Some food for thought:

1) Does your Security Staff keep all Exits clear AT ALL TIMES?
2) Do all of your Security Staffers have working flashlights/radios?
3) Are your Exit Doors locked to prevent illegal entry?
4) Do you have Emergency Lighting in your locations in case of loss of power?
5) Does your Security Staff know the location of your Fire Extinguishers?
6) Have you ever gone over Evacuations in case of a Fire/Earthquake/Gas Leak?
7) Has your Security Staff discussed procedures for dealing with Armed Patrons?

As our world becomes more dangerous and unpredictable, it is imperative for us as citizens to be vigilant and prepared for any eventuality.

Until next time…

Spotting Intoxicated Patrons

I was working in an establishment recently that was having some issues with their Staffers ejecting Patrons on too regular a basis. What does that mean, exactly? Well, in this particular instance, the Staffers were told to watch out for over-intoxicated individuals and escort them out of the building. The problem was that the Staffers did not have the experience necessary to accurately gauge many of the Patrons’ sobriety levels. Hence, many Patrons were being asked to leave when they were not overly intoxicated. This, in turn, caused problems at the Front Door as the freshly ejected Patrons were angry at being ejected, wanted their money back (having paid cover), or wanted to speak to a Manager to discuss their “early departure”.

How does one gauge intoxication levels? Is it possible to do with any accuracy? And how does a Staffer make the decision as to when a Patron should leave? Difficult questions to answer in an environment where the primary goal is to get people intoxicated!

First off, Staff and Management need to come to an understanding about what is considered an “acceptable” level of intoxication. In most establishments, the general rule is: “If you can’t stand, you need to leave.” Now, this can cause an number of issues since by the time most people have drank enough to not be able to stand, they are WAY past being overly-intoxicated. But having a baseline for acceptable conduct (both in terms of intoxication and general behavior) is a good place to start. I would suggest a discussion with your Manager or Head of Security to sort out your baseline.

Next let’s look at some signs of intoxication:

1. Loud speech.
2. Bravado, boasting.
3. Overly animated or entertaining.
4. Boisterous.
5. Overly friendly to other guests and employees.
6. Drinking alone.
7. Drinking too fast.
8. Ordering doubles.
9. Careless with money.
10. Urging other people to have another drink.
11. Annoying other guests and servers.
12. Complaining about drink prices.
13. Complaining about drink strength or preparation.
14. Argumentative.
15. Aggressive or belligerent.
16. Obnoxious or mean.
17. Making inappropriate comments about others.
18. Crude behavior.
19. Inappropriate sexual advances.
20. Foul language.
21. Making irrational statements.
22. Depressed or sullen.
23. Crying or moody.
24. Radical changes in behavior.
25. Speaking loudly, then quietly.
26. Drowsy.
27. Bloodshot, glassy eyes.
28. Slurred speech.
29. Difficulty remembering.
30. Slow response to questions.
31. Spilling drinks.
32. Rambling conversation, loss of train of thought.
33. Trouble making change.
34. Difficulty handling money, picking up change.
35. Lack of focus and eye contact.
36. Difficulty lighting a cigarette.
37. Lighting more than one cigarette at a time.
38. Letting a cigarette burn without smoking.
39. Clumsy, uncoordinated.
40. Difficulty standing up.
41. Unusual gait.
42. Stumbling.
43. Bumping into things.
44. Swaying, staggering.
45. Unable to sit straight in chair or on bar stool.
46. Can’t find mouth with glass.
47. Falling down.
48. Mussed hair.
49. Disheveled clothing.
50. Falling asleep.

I’ve included this loooooong list to point out how difficult it can be to spot intoxication. Because while it does include some behaviors that undeniably point to over-imbibing, there are a bunch of items on the list that can be caused by a lot of things BESIDES drinking too much. Being overly loud? Kind of hard to whisper in a dance club. Disheveled hair? Maybe that’s the current style. Complaining about drink prices? Maybe the Patron is a cheapskate.

I prefer to boil down the list to three basics: WALK, REFLEXES/COORDINATION, TALK

WALK

An easy test at the Front Door is to have them take a few steps and turn around. If they are reaching out for balance or unsteady on their feet, you have at least an inkling of whether you should procede with a mini-intoxication test. If you are watching an individual walk through a club, see if they are unsteady, running into things/people, or stumbling. That being said, some women are not used to walking in high heels. You should be watching to see if they are just unable to walk correctly (sometimes displayed by stomping or shuffling of the feet) or if they are actually swaying/stumbling.

REFLEXES/COORDINATION

Lack of reflexes and coordination are the easiest things to spot when it comes to over-intoxication. Excessive swaying, whether standing or seated, is a dead giveaway as is holding onto objects or other people for balance. At the Front Door, an easy test is to ask individuals for their ID. Are they having a hard time finding it or getting it out of their wallet/purse? Do they drop it? And if they do, can they pick it up? Once you have their ID in hand, hold it for a few seconds. Is the Patron swaying? If you are unsure of the Patron’s sobriety level, you can purposefully drop their ID, see if they reach to pick it up, and whether or not they can.

Indoors, watch for people leaning on objects and constantly shifting to maintain their balance. Keep an eye on couples. Is one partner supporting the other or actively holding them up? Are people moving exceptionally slow or knocking things over? Are Patrons holding theirs heads in their hands or nodding off? When you talk to them, are their eyes focused on you or wandering?

TALK

If you do approach an individual to talk to them, start with simple questions. Many people equate having a conversation with an intoxicated individual to speaking with a 5-year old. You should keep sentences short and direct. It is counterproductive to argue with or bully an intoxicated individual. Period.

An easy first question to ask is, “How are you doing tonight?” The general responses are in the affirmative “Great!”, confused “What?”, or argumentative/dismissive. If the answer is in the affirmative, have a basic conversation while watching for swaying, focus, etc. You can then make a judgement call on how to proceed. If the answer is slow, deliberate, confused or argumentative, it is a sign that the person may be intoxicated. Again, watch for swaying, focus, coordination but also keep an eye on their general demeanor.

If a Patron becomes defensive, your goal is to put them at ease. It is VERY important to NOT tell an individual that they are drunk. They WILL argue with you. You can say that you “…noticed them swaying and wanted to check that they were ok.”, or they where “…getting a little loud and we’ve had some complaints.”, or you noticed them falling asleep. You need an “in” to figure out up close and personal if this individual is sober, intoxicated, or over-intoxicated.

Take time to watch people throughout the night. How do they behave as the evening progresses and the drinks start flowing? One great way to train new Staffers is to “assign” them an individual or a couple to watch for the night. Ask the Staffer to let you know when he/she thinks the Patron(s) are intoxicated and why. Spotting and dealing with different levels of intoxication takes a lot of practice. The better your Staff is at seeing a situation before it becomes a problem, the safer your establishment becomes. And that is the ultimate goal.

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…

What’s The Scenario?

A local Head of Security and I were discussing a variety of topics the other day and the subject of training came up. And while many security teams in other fields – Executive Protection being one – practice scenarios on a regular basis (or at least they should), I have rarely seen a Nightclub Security Staff working any type of training drills. Some of my readers might argue that scenario training is unnecessary in a nightclub environment. “You see the same situations all the time, why train them?”

Easy answer: Proper Prior Planning Prevents P*ss Poor Performance

Any field of work that requires an immediate or urgent response should do some type of scenario training. Scenarios will show where there are gaps in response time, failures of action, failures of inaction, overreaction, and any other issues. Many people, when placed under some type of pressure, will freeze up. The pressure could be something as basic as your boss asking you an unexpected question or as terrifying as having to respond to a choking child. In an fluid environment, filled with intoxicated individuals, having the correct response can mean the difference between life, death, a lawsuit…or vomit on your shoes. Training can help to minimize dangers and shorten the response times to a variety of incidents.

A basic game of question and answer is a great start when building Scenario Training. Think up 3-5 scenarios that your crew might run into on a given night. During the night or at the pre/post shift meeting, throw out a scenario and ask what your Staff would do. You can ask them individually or have them brainstorm as a group. Then, break down and evaluate the answers. Point out conflicts with policy or procedure and ask for other options or solutions to the scenario. And always remember to give them what your response would be. You might be surprised to find that your crew has come up with responses you had not considered.

Another possibility would be to actually put your crew through some physical Scenarios. Place them in their respective positions, grab some extra Bar Staff, and act out the Scenarios you have imagined. The mere fact that your crew is being tested will usually bring up their heart rates and adrenaline level – even if they know it is only a Scenario. Run the Scenario multiple times with different people in each position. Observe their reactions, take notes, and review what just happened. Discuss aspects of Situational Awareness that they could use to their advantage.

Scenario evaluation should be an opportunity for you to positively reinforce your crew’s actions. If you find yourself constantly berating your Staffers, it might be a case of your original training not being up to par. Evaluate yourself and your skill set as well. Put yourself in the mix once in a while. Don’t ever think that because you are the one presenting the problems, your skill set is miles above that of your trainees. Again, you might be surprised what you discover about yourself..

The one type of training that I would avoid with Security Staffers is physical ejections. While it is necessary to discuss how to physically remove someone from an establishment, showing things like wrist locks, arm bars, and chokes WILL open you up to liability. The Use of Force continuum is one that should be discussed and re-enforced regularly, but there are plenty of ways to move a person besides being hands-on. Aside from the risk of liability, the mindset of some Security Staffers will prevent them from working an ejection Scenario safely. They will be more likely to act out against their other Staffers, “Oh yeah, well you’ll never take me down! Try it!”, and this can lead to sparring and other ridiculous behavior. These are training sessions, not tough guy sessions, and anyone that can’t work in an environment of learning is probably not someone you want working for you to begin with. Scenarios are used to train your brain, not your brawn.

Until next time…

Situational Awareness 3.0

In light of recent tragic events in Arizona, I thought it necessary to revisit Situational Awareness in regards to Personal and Nightclub Security. And while Security Staffers are not protecting government officials or acting in an Executive Protection capacity, it is important that we learn the skills of observation to keep ourselves and our patrons safe. And this counts for while in the club and while on the street in our “everyday lives”.

So a quick refresher:

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.

GENERAL RULES TO DEVELOP SITUATIONAL AWARENESS

1) Be Observant – That means pay attention! Whether it is to the car that is parked next to yours  in a dark parking lot or the intoxicated Patron stumbling towards you in the nightclub: WATCH, LOOK, and LISTEN. Individuals that mean you harm are usually so fixated on doing you harm, that they are unaware of  the signals they are putting out. They will cross the street to confront you, reach for a bottle on the bar to hit you, or look around while talking to you to see if they are being observed. Always be aware of not only the perceived threat, but of any possible threats in the near vicinity. In a nightclub setting this means watching to see who is watching you!

2) Be assertive! That means walking tall, talking firmly, and being prepared to REACT. When walking down the street or through the club, keep your head up, eyes scanning, and walk with purpose. Telling a person who is a perceived threat to “Back off!” will oftentimes throw them for a loop because A) their actions have been perceived to be threatening and they are used to the element of surprise and B) an assertive individual is NOT a victim. Once you have asserted yourself, DO NOT capitulate. If you tell someone to back off and they don’t, you now know what you are dealing with: an assailant. Maintain your composure and don’t back down. As Gavin de Becker says, “No matter how many times you say ‘No’, it only takes one ‘Yes’ to fuel an antagonist!'”

3) When you notice unusual behavior, REACT. If the group of young men cross the street towards you or blocks the sidewalk, cross the street the opposite way or head towards a lighted, populated area. If the drunk at the bar is wobbling on their feet, head towards them to keep them from falling over. Two Patrons arguing at the bar? Call for back-up and head towards the problem. Don’t let the situation pass without some sort of reaction, in the hopes that it is probably nothing or will resolve itself.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to pay attention to your intuition! If a situation feels wrong, it probably is. It is far better to get your signals mixed up and have to apologize for being rude than it is to end up in the hospital…or worse. In a situation that you can’t handle in the club? Call for back up. (In this case, why were you in the situation without back up to begin with?). On the street and being followed (or think you are)? Confront the follower or head to safety. If it feels bad, uncomfortable, unusual, or unsafe, don’t think, “Oh it’s probably nothing.” Instead, think of how you can avoid the situation, call for help, or leave the area.

We must also draw the distinction between being aware and being paranoid. Paranoia a thought process heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs concerning a perceived threat towards oneself. Situational Awareness is being aware of your surroundings and avoiding trouble. IT IS NOT LOOKING FOR TROUBLE! When you place yourself in a position where everything that you see is perceived as a threat you begin to cultivate a paranoid view of the world, which besides being unhealthy, can lead to serious misjudgment and errors in action. Your line of thinking should be “Why is that individual standing in the shadows?”, NOT “That individual is standing in the shadows, therefore he/she is obviously out to get me!”

Any decisions that you make regarding your surroundings, the individuals within them, and your response to these individuals or circumstances should be based on observed behaviors instead of conjecture. Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of observation before you make any type of decision as to action.

Pay attention and stay safe.

Until next time…