As we’ve been unfortunate witnesses to, we are at-risk every day but major events become more likely targets to terrorist-type attacks. Whether it’s a terrorist organization, an unstable person, or a drunken brawl a situation may arise that would require you to act quickly and having some things set up in advance could make a world of difference when those precious seconds count the most. My M.S. in Emergency Management affords me a great deal of knowledge on emergencies and preparedness. Many things are simply a matter of observing your surroundings and being vigilant, but there are some things you may not be aware of for yourself that could be useful and helpful. When you’re at exciting and large-scale events, it’s easy to be distracted. Here are some tips to help you celebrate Pride this month as safely as possible.
*Note: As I am in New York I may tend to reference NYC-based materials, but most major cities run similar emergency protocols. I do invite anyone from other areas to contact me directly if you would like information pertaining to a specific location.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE:
There are a few things you can do before you even step foot out of your house.
- Tell others that you’re going to a Pride Event. While you don’t have to out yourself, it’s important that someone know you will be at a specific event and the general area in which you plan to be located. For example, NYC Pride runs from 36thSt and 5th Ave all the way down to Greenwich Village at Christopher St. If you’re planning on staying down in the Village be sure to let your contact know that.
- Make sure you have charging packs on-hand (and that they’re fully charged), power cord, an outlet. There are many places throughout major cities where you can stop to get a power boost (i.e. McDonald’s, Panera, even some bars). Maintaining a healthy charge is important.
- Activate and plug in all the information in your Health App. The iPhone has its Health App built in (click for detailed instructions on setting up medical ID) and Android has one you can download. This is extremely important to keep updated for many reasons, but especially when attending a large event like Pride. It gives plenty of information that would allow people to treat you in the event you’re unable to communicate while also allowing for your In Case of Emergency (ICE) contacts to be accessed. The iPhone version allows this to be accessed even if your phone is locked and will display only emergency information so be sure to activate that feature.
- While not everyone can do this – if you have someone that lives close to where the event is being held, try to reach out to them. Having a place to retreat to in the event of an emergency is helpful. It will give you a safe place and get you out of the area so that you do not hinder emergency response.
Pride events bring out the masses, so making your way through big crowds can be tricky, especially if you’re with other people. What happens if you get separated? What happens if there’s a stampede? Do you know where everyone is going? Do you know how to navigate the area in general?
- It’s generally a good idea to have a few places that you want to go marked off ahead of time before the event. Figure that any high-profile place (i.e. Stonewall Inn in NYC) will be packed almost immediately, so have a few other places set as options.
- Any time your group decides to change places and head somewhere else, make sure everyone in the group is aware of the destination. If you get separated at least you all know where to end up. If people want to go somewhere else instead, make sure you still meet at that initial location and you can head out to a different location from there.
- Make sure you have the number of everyone in the group. Even if you’re not friends with the person, grab their number so you can reach people if you or they get separated. Nothing ruins a good time then getting frustrated at someone who can’t find you and vice versa.
- In the event of a stampede or a crushing situation: Try to get into a “boxer” type of stance with your hands up by your chest. You can also grip both your wrists to create a barrier near your chest. This will help you maintain some space during a crush so that you can still breathe. If you fall, then get into a fetal position and grab protect your face/neck, curling your legs up tight to protect your stomach. Be aware of your surroundings. Where are there gaps in the flow? Was there a fence or door that you passed? Avoid that direction if so. More stampede information here.
A huge crowd is a smorgasbord for pick-pockets. The “bump” technique is hugely popular and easy to pull off in crowds. However, you also have to watch for digital pickpockets as well.
- Keep your cash spread out in different pockets, even your socks. Having your cash spread around will help if you are pick-pocketed, as you won’t have everything taken and you’ll still have the cash to get you through the day or, at the very least, back home.
- Do not have wads of money and do not flash your cash when paying for things. Put your money away immediately and securely, the longer you leave it out the easier a target you become.
- Wrap your cards or entire wallet in aluminum foil for a cheap way to help block RFID pick-pockets, although this is not a guaranteed or fool-proof method. It’s best that you purchase an RFID-blocking wallet or sleeve. (Here’s a pagethat discusses some wallets ranging from $20 to $120)
Whether you’re in a bar, a theater, or anywhere else that contains you inside walls, there are things to be aware of in the event of any emergency including a fire or a shooting.
- Make a mental note of where exits are. The more exits you’re aware of the better. Make sure these exits do not appear blocked by equipment, chained, or otherwise impeded. Taking a split second to gauge the doorway could save lives later. It’s illegal for a place to block or lock exits, so if you see one like that report it to the management or find another place to hang out.
- Not all exits are visible. The primary exit (i.e. front door) is the one most likely to receive the biggest rush of people trying to flee, but secondary exits that may be scattered throughout the building may be less crowded. Additionally, some areas may even have additional exits such as through the kitchen. Most places that serve food have a door from the kitchen area to the outside for deliveries and disposing of trash. If your primary and secondary exits are blocked for any reason, try to get through the kitchen to their door.
- It doesn’t hurt to hang out closer to an exit if possible. While you don’t have to hang out right at the exit-ways, it’s always prudent to be near one as a precaution.
- All emergency exits must open outward by law. Front doors, however, do not have this same requirement. If you’re near a front door be sure to note if it opens inward – this could create a massive issue if there’s a rush for the door.
- Do not let a stranger give you a drink. Pride is a great time to connect with people on many different levels and buying drinks is just one aspect of hanging out with folks. If someone wants to buy you a drink, stand beside them and don’t let them touch your drink at all, even just to pass it to you – sleight-of-hand is an easy trick to learn and dropping something inside your glass without seeing it in a split second is not unheard of. If someone hands you an open drink it’s best to go to the bar and ask them for a new one.
- Check to see if the bar has anysecret codes. Some have established special drink orders that will clue the bartenders that there’s a potential situation. These are usually found in women’s restrooms but it’s not just women that could fall prey to someone.
SURVIVING A SHOOTING INCIDENT:
This is not Hollywood, you will not take a hit and keep on going. A shot is a shot – it will take you down and it will most likely kill you. Don’t be stupid. Be careful. The order you should be thinking in is RUN, HIDE, FIGHT.
- Anyone who has seen any movie knows never to run in a straight line. Whenever possible, when fleeing a shooting situation run in a zig-zag. This is why it’s always important to know your exits. Also, be aware of any objects (like people’s belongings that are dropped during the panic) that could cause you to trip. If you’re wearing heels or other shoes that could impede your running get rid of them immediately. If you have to untie them then you’re better to try to run with them on.
- Don’t even think about it! Even if you thinkyou heard a gunshot, immediately make your way to an exit that is away from where you heard the sound. Don’t stop to ask/think “was that a shot?” Just move! Don’t even stop for your things. Things can be replaced, someone will have a phone that you can borrow, your IDs and cards can be canceled and reissued – you are not replaceable!
- It’s okay to give the place on-going scans to look for anything or anyone that may be suspicious. DO NOT PROFILE BASED ON PRESUMED RACE OR RELIGION. However, do listen to your gut. We’ve gotten too far away from listening to our instincts. WHEN IT DOUBT – GET OUT.
- If you cannot escape, then you must hide. Do NOT flee to a bathroom that cannot be secured, and even then that should be a last resort. Bathrooms and similar locations are dead ends. If the shooter can get into that room (i.e. shoot the lock off or break a window), you now have nowhere left to go.
- Playing Dead does not always work. While it worked for a few during the Pulse shooting, many shooters tend to just spray bullets everywhere, including the ground at people perceived to be dead already. This could leave you in a wide-open position. If you have absolutely no other option than to play dead, try to smear blood on yourself and pull something on top of you like chairs or even a table.
While all major cities that host large scale events have many safety plans in effect such as removing or bolting trash cans to the ground, securing mailboxes that could house a bomb, increased security (including many officers and agents in plain clothes) or even have blimps or drones doing constant surveillance, it ultimately comes down to you to ensure your own safety.
It stinks that we have to live in a world where this is now a way we MUST think. We are no longer in a place or time that we can “maybe” think about what to do. Now we are required to be vigilant and proactive about our safety and how to survive. Pride is a time to celebrate diversity; to commemorate the fights and struggles that we’ve made thus far and that we will continue to make towards equality as an on-going political statement. This year is especially important and especially at-risk given the political climate. Many seem to feel it’s acceptable to take aim at the LGBT community because of who happens to be sitting in the White House. This year’s Pride events that will take place across the nation are so vital to our community, but it is also dangerous for a group of people already in the crosshairs. Be vigilant, be brave, and be aware.