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DJ Experience, News, Videos | Jun 13, 2016   

What to Do in an Emergency at a Nightclub

People go to the club to have a good time. So they don’t usually stop to think about things like emergency exits or over crowding. In light of the tragedy in Orlando, FL, it is important for the nightlife industry to be prepared during emergency situations.

A lot of us have worked in nightclubs, but as one CW reporter pointed out, most bars do not have a plan in case of emergencies. In a large assembly area such as a dance party, an emergency situation can escalate quickly because there are a lot of people and limited ways to get out. According to the Department of Homeland Security, shooter situations usually last about 10 to 15 minutes, which is not enough time for law enforcement to arrive. Therefore it is a good idea to know how to react if something goes horribly wrong.

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Be Prepared for Anything

Know the emergency procedures before starting a gig. Law enforcement officials advise that you note any available entrances and exits as soon as you enter a room. Fire code regulations state that all exits must be clearly marked and well lit. The doors should not be blocked by furniture, debris or construction materials. Additionally every room needs to have an occupancy limit sign posted. If the room is too full, patrons have the right to contact the fire department for an unannounced inspection.

If the show calls for pyrotechnics, the venue is required to obtain safety permits from the local fire department, and take extra safety precautions. Poor planning is what set off the Station Nightclub fire of 2003 that killed 103 people in West Warwick, RI.

If there is not good crowd flow at the event, then you are asking for trouble. You will know that there are too many people in one place if they are packed together shoulder to shoulder. Reduce overcrowding immediately by asking them to move to a different area. Bouncers and staff who cannot handle the movements of the audience may not be properly trained, and this is a sign of an unsafe venue. Remember you do not have to enter or stay inside a club if it does not seem safe to you.

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What to Do if There’s a Shooter 

The recent massacres in Orlando and Paris highlight that unfortunately we need to be prepared in case a psychopath decides to open fire at a nightclub. An active shooter is defined as a person engaged in the act of killing or attempting to kill people with a firearm in a confined area.

If there is a shooter in your area, the best thing to do is to leave the building as soon as possible. Don’t stop to grab your hand bag or the tip jar, just leave. If this is not an option, barricade yourself and others inside a room, and don’t open the door until the emergency situation has passed. If there is a lot of chaos, you may be able to play dead to avoid the terrorist. Do not use your phone to call for help until it is safe to do so, or you might get shot. In the event that you are confronted by a shooter, you have a greater chance of surviving if you fight back and incapacitate them. 

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In the Event of a Fire

Historically fires kill more nightclub patrons than gunmen do. The Pulse Nightclub shootings were the deadliest in US history with 49 dead and 53 wounded. The deadliest assembly fire in history was in 1903 at the Iroquois Theater of Chicago, when fire swept through the auditorium killing 602 people and injuring another 250 individuals. You may be thinking, “that was in 1903,” but in the year 2000, there was a disco fire in Luoyang, China that lead to 309 deaths. In 2009, a fire at Lame Horse Nightclub in Perm, Russia killed 154 club goers.

Music venues and other gathering areas are required to have clearly labeled exits for this very reason. Fire may spread incredibly fast in a confined area, so you need to make your way outside as calmly and quickly as possible. Remember the fire safety tips you learned as a child, such as staying low to the floor to avoid smoke inhalation. If you are on fire, extinguish the flames by rolling on the ground. Do not re-enter the club after you have exited. And stay out of the way of firefighters.

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After You’re Out of Immediate Danger

If you have a chance to use the phone before police arrive, call 911 to report the emergency. In an active shooting situation, they will want to know the location, the number of shooters, a physical description of the attacker(s), the number and type of weapons being used, as well as how many victims there are.

You will know that law enforcement has arrived because the SWAT teams always show up in groups of four with a lot of equipment. They will be on high alert so do what they tell you, and make sure it is obvious that you do not have anything in your hands. You should not ask questions, just proceed to the same area as everyone else.

They say all publicity is good publicity, but you do not want to be the disc jockey associated with the deadliest nightclub disaster in history. In addition to researching the perfect set, be prepared for emergencies when you go out at night.


If you would like to help victims of the Orlando shooting at Pulse Nightclub, you can donate money online. Blood donations are currently being accepted by OneBlood. And the National Center for Victims of Crime has set up a volunteer crisis hotline that can be reached at (407) 227-1446.

BPM Supreme is a source for DJ and production culture delivering exclusive performances, interviews, behind the scenes, tutorials, and much more. Keep checking our BPM Supreme Blog to get the latest in DJ trends.

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