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…

The Dangerous Side of the Equation

It pains me whenever I read articles like this one:

http://www.kansas.com/2014/02/03/3265311/police-man-killed-in-club-shooting.html

First, the loss of life over what was probably a fairly minor incident is tragic. Second, it is a reminder of the dangers of working in entertainment venues. And third, it makes me wonder, “Could something different have been done to prevent the violent outcome?”

Working in any venue where alcohol is being served is inherently dangerous. Too often those new to the industry (and more than a few veterans), believe that dealing with intoxicated individuals is “no big deal” or even chuckle at the idea of “tossing out the drunks”. The REALITY of the job is far different. Intoxicated individuals are dangerous. They are a danger to themselves and to others, especially if they are highly intoxicated. The REALITY of intoxication is that it fundamentally changes the way people think. Besides the loss of motor skills and impairment of speech and balance, intoxication can significantly effect judgement, self- control,caution, and reason. These changes can in turn place intoxicated individuals and those around them in extremely dangerous and volatile situations. And you know who else can find themselves in those situations…?

SECURITY

I do not claim to know what happened in the tragic case above. But based on the regular appearance of stories like this in the news, a basic scenario can be formulated:

  1. Patron acts in non-accordance with venue rules
  2. Patron is asked to leave
  3. Patron resists attempts at removing them from premises
  4. Patron is removed from premises (possibly with unnecessary force)
  5. Patron/Security taunt one another after removal
  6. Patron attacks Security (or vice versa)
  7. Patron/Security is injured or killed

At every point of this scenario, there are a myriad of factors that need to be taken into account. And even when taking those factors into account, every action can span a myriad of other reactions! The bottom line for Security Staffers is very simple:

WHENEVER INTERACTING WITH AN INTOXICATED PATRON, YOU MUST ACT WITH PATIENCE AND PAY EXTREMELY CLOSE ATTENTION TO YOURSELF, THE PATRON, AND THE PATRON’S FRIENDS

Small missteps, the wrong tone of voice, and the wrong attitude (generally on the part of the Staffer) can lead to terrible situations. This can be in a situation as basic as asking someone to move so that you can get by with a stack of chairs or as serious as an ejection. A cool head can quite literally save your life. Things like having back-up, knowing how to deal with intoxicated Patrons, and yes even ejecting people, should NEVER be trivialized or approached with a nonchalant attitude. Watch out for yourself, your co-workers, and yes…the Patrons.

Until next time…

Wrist Locks and Submissions and Joint Manipulations…Oh my!

As our goal here at the Tao is to inform, we find it necessary to revisit certain subjects with some regularity. One of those subjects is Use of Force. While some might see this as proof that Nightclub Security are fixated on being violent, the opposite is true: our goal is to minimize the Use of Force or to remove it from the Ejection equation altogether. However, the reality of the Nightclubs (and their accompanying consumption of alcohol, hierarchical male behavior patterns, and no shortage of foolish behavior) is that this combination of factors unfortunately leads to incidences of physical contact between Staff and Patrons. To this end, it is necessary regularly address not only Use of Force, but its correct and incorrect applications.*

In 99% of the entertainment venues where we’ve consulted, we’ve heard someone say, “We wrapped the Patron up and escorted him out”. And 99% of the time the escorting was done with some type of lock or manipulation. The question of whether or not the Staff was correct in use of the lock will NOT be addressed here. But the reality of using these tactics will. There is a reason that locks and manipulations exist: they are helpful in subduing individuals who are dangerous, violent, or resisting you in some way. Unfortunately, the proper application of these locks and manipulations is oftentimes overlooked or just plain ignored.

WRIST LOCKS AIN’T EASY

Let’s start by removing the myth of the “easy” submission. The “real world” application of any type of lock, manipulation, or submission is far different than the application of the same in a controlled environment. Most martial artists are introduced to these techniques in class, with a compliant partner. But very few are asked to apply the same techniques against someone who DOES NOT want to be locked up or submitted. Keep in mind that no one wants to be submitted. There is a basic feeling that keeps people from being locked up…PAIN.  In most cases, grabbing an intoxicated Patron – without even attempting to apply a lock – will cause them to resist. Attempt to apply a lock or submission in this scenario…and more often than not it will fail due to resistance. In addition, should you be able to apply your technique, the second that the Patron in question feels PAIN, they will react by trying to get out of the lock or manipulation or submission as quickly as possible.

One of the potential problems which occurs is that the person attempting to apply the lock will OVERCOMPENSATE and use excessive force to set the lock and/or manipulation. Add to that the fact that alcohol dulls pain (in this case on the part of the Patron) and the end result is something getting torn, ripped, or broken. As a matter of fact, one of the most common injuries to martial artists in training are as a result of excessive force being applied in the attempt to submit! And these are individuals who are expecting to be submitted. So, do you avoid “over-excitement” in the application of any submission technique?

TRAINING

The only way to get better at something is to train. Period. Want to get better at submissions? Train. Want to perfect wrist locks? Train. Feel the need to develop a sweet armbar? Train. Training does a few things:

1) It helps you realize that the “real world” is different from dojo world. People resist and often in creative ways. How will you discover how to work the lock with them, against them, or even move on to another possible manipulation? By constant attempts at application. And by constant attempts at application UNDER PRESSURE. Training should be as realistic to the scenario as possible, while remaining safe. (We can discuss quality of training in another post)

2) Training helps you refine your technique. There is a reason that even professional fighters and martial artists have favorite holds: they work what works for them. Some techniques will work on some people better than others. And some techniques will work more comfortably for you than others. Only by working a variety of techniques against a variety of partners can you find what “works”

3) Working submissions regularly more importantly give you an idea of what the human body is capable of handling. Meaning that you will know how 95% of the population will move and react to having a lock applied. Human anatomy is fairly consistent. True, there are those among us with incredible flexibility and high pain tolerance. But most humans’ bodies don’t take a lot of pressure to feel pain or discomfort. With constant training, one can come to understand by “feel” when the body is reaching its discomfort areas. Which, in the long run, can keep you from “over excitement” when it comes time to apply a hold in the real world.

APPLICABILITY

So now you’ve trained and you understand that you can’t just “put someone in a wrist lock”. The next question you should ask yourself (and one you should continually ask yourself while working Security) is, “Do I have to apply the lock/hold/submission when escorting someone from an establishment?” Ultimately, this comes down to where you are in the Use of Force continuum. Have you exhausted all options prior to putting your hands on someone? As far as we are concerned, if you have gotten to the point where getting physical is necessary, you’ve already lost the battle. But the perfect world where everyone is sober, gets along, and follow directions does not exist. Which is why things like locks, holds, and submissions where invented in the first place!

Careful consideration should be given to Use of Force, regardless of the type of force. Unless you are properly trained in the use of locks, holds, and submissions, you should probably err on the side of caution and NOT use them. Even with proper training, a thoughtful examination of the scenario in which you find yourself should be undertaken before going “hands on.” In the long run, it will not only make you a safer employee, but a more knowledgeable and tolerant Security Staffer.

Until next time…

* We will ALWAYS state that use of control tactics opens you and your Staff to a world of possible liability. And in turn, this can lead to criminal and civil lawsuits. We DO NOT condone Use of Force and ALWAYS recommend using every other option available to you and your Staff prior to putting your hands on ANYONE. The Use of Force continuum exists for a reason, mainly to cover you and your Staff’s behinds. We cannot emphasis this enough: IF YOU OR YOUR STAFF USE FORCE IMPROPERLY OR USE IT IN THE WRONG SITUATION YOU WILL BE SUED.*

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…

Just walk away…

Every weekend, at least one person on a Security Staff gets yelled at. Sometimes by management, more than likely by a Patron. And every weekend, at least one Security Staffer will react in the wrong manner. The saying, “If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen” is an apt one for the field of Security, especially if one is working in a Nightclub or Bar. There will be numerous occasions during which you will be mistreated or taken for granted. And guess what? You have to take it.

I can already hear the detractors:

“No one talks to me that way!”

“Did you hear what he/she said?”

“I refuse to be disrespected.”

Well, believe it or not I am on your side. I don’t think anyone should be disrespected, talked down to, or insulted. But there are ways of dealing with individuals who behave badly that DO NOT involved getting physical – which is unfortunately how most Security Staffers react.

For example, if someone were to say something less than flattering about your mother/sister/grandmother/brother there are two things to consider…and no they are not how hard to hit the person and where will they fall after you’ve hit them.

1) Is what the person saying true? If it is true, then the announcement being made is probably common knowledge. And while possibly embarrassing, everyone already knows so it’s no big deal.

2) Is what the person saying a lie? If it is, then what do you care?

Now I am being a bit sarcastic and callous. But honestly, if 3rd grade insults still offend you, you need to seek employment in another field. Keep in mind that the person insulting you is upset (for any number of reasons), probably intoxicated (which in my book often leads to approximately 3rd grade behavior), and definitely not cognizant of the fact that yelling insults at a 250 lb. person who’s job it is to keep the peace is probably not the best of ideas.

So, what is one to do? How do you calm down or eject someone who is hurling insults?

First off, don’t take it personally. Just don’t. Again, if you can’t handle insults, this is not the line of work for you.

Second, try a little empathy. Put yourself in that person’s shoes: their boyfriend/girlfriend just left them, they were just fired, and the bartender refuses to serve the any more alcohol. That is an equation that when added up equals not too good behavior. Sometimes a smile and a nod (even if you don’t agree with their argument) can go a long way to soothing someone. EVEN if they have said something completely out of bounds.

“Yessir, I appreciate that you think my mother is a lady of loose morals, but I’m still going to have to ask you to leave.”

The key with empathy is that you want the person to think you are on their side. They can call you all the names they want as long as you nod and lead them out the Front Door.

Third, if they are truly upset, you have to try and disrupt their train of thought.

“Hey!”

“Sir/Ma’am/Miss!”

“Excuse me!”

Say it loud and get their attention. Then…

“Can you slow down a little? I want to try and help out, but you’re speaking too fast for me.”

Now the Patron thinks you’re listening – whether or not you really are – and may even slow down and try to explain themselves. Again, nod, smile, and (possibly) continue leading them to the door. (Granted, if this is a possibly violent situation a different set of rules apply)

Now, you’ve managed to slow someone down, listened to their complaint, and possibly managed to get them to the exit without them even noticing. You know what you do now?

Walk away.

No, really. Hand them off to the Front Door staff and walk away. You have now managed to remove the object of the Patron’s anger – you – from the equation. And you probably haven’t laid a hand on them. I have seen people literally stand slack-jawed as they realize that the person they wanted so badly to vent their anger at is gone. Conversely, I have seen people become incredibly upset. But guess what? They are now outside of the establishment and bad behavior outside is more likely to be noticed by Law Enforcement and dealt with far more harshly.

There is one caveat: Let the Front Door staff know WHY you removed the person. At least they then have the opportunity to soothe nerves in their own way, in their own time. And finally, don’t try to get the last word in. A simple smile and a, “Have a good night.” will make you feel like a champ as you WALK AWAY.

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…