Following last Sunday’s terrorist attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando and before that at The Bataclan in Paris, it’s become evident that party people everywhere need to be on alert while out on the town.
The cold-blooded murder of 49 of our gay, lesbian and transgender family and straight friends hit especially close to home for us here in West Hollywood. An attack on our brothers and sisters at a gay nightclub is an attack on us all. We are reeling and numb. Yet we vow to press forward and be who we are, openly.
The threat remains real, however. ISIS celebrated the carnage in Orlando and reportedly has promised that more is to come. Copycats are also a valid worry. Just yesterday a friend of mine received a message on Grindr threatening an attack from “me and my friends” on a gay club in LA, and proclaiming, “Death to all fags.” The Sheriff is looking into this threat. I saw another such report on Twitter as well, and it was also reported that there was a post on Craigslist which warned, “San Diego, you are next.”
While I would understand if you decided not to inhabit a crowded nightclub, theater or concert venue for a while, our community as a whole has bravely decided that we won’t let terrorism change the way we live our lives. I agree with that sentiment.
So how do we stay safe in the face of these threats while continuing some semblance of normalcy? If you’re going to go and live your life as you should, here are some tips to think about in advance:
Know where you are and think ahead.
If you’re aware of your surroundings from the beginning, you have a much better chance of escaping if something goes down. When you enter a crowded place, take note of where the emergency exits are. Point them out to your friends. Bar and club employees know the layout of their workplace like the back of their hand, and often know of exits that most people don’t. Ask your bartender, server or go-go dancer where they would escape if the main entrances were blocked or dangerous. You may feel ridiculous by asking that question, but trust me, right now they’ll understand.
On that note, managers of establishments that host large numbers of people should designate several employees who have access to keys that can unlock loading bays, back or side doors and gates, or any other possible means of escape. Every employee should be fully aware and rehearsed in the evacuation plan for the building in which they work. If you aren’t, ask immediately.
I heard first hand accounts of survivors from the Pulse shooting that said they had to beat down locked patio gates and climb on top of refrigerators in order to escape the terror. Once those means of exit were opened, hundreds of people were saved.
Stay in touch.
Tell your friends where you are throughout the night. If you peel off from your group and end up alone or with strangers, let them know where you’re going, and text them if any changes come up. Knowing the general whereabouts of your friends throughout the night will lessen the confusion later as you attempt to locate everyone if a tragedy does occur.
Don’t get too drunk. Keep your back to the wall and face the crowd. The more alert you are, then the quicker you will see something crazy going down, which means you’ll have more time to escape.
God forbid you ever have to put the following into action. But if an active shooter enters a place where you are, what should you do? The following are advisories shown in a Sheriff Department video called, “Surviving An Active Shooter.”
Get low, get out.
Hopefully you have already identified the exits as I mentioned before. It’s important to stay calm and think about your next steps. Use cover and concealment as you make your escape. Duck under tables and behind pillars and walls, staying as low and as inconspicuous as possible. Many establishments have exits that are through the kitchen or stockroom. Use any method to get out, including doors or windows.
Once out, ensure that you are a safe distance from the building and shielded by other buildings, cars, etc. Call 911. Assist the injured only if it’s safe to do so.
If you can’t get out, get to a room or place you can secure.
We learned from Orlando that hiding in the bathroom was not a safe place for that situation. There was no way to exit the building from the bathrooms, and the terrorist quickly made his way to those rooms, where he kept people trapped. If you have no viable way of getting outside, try to find a room in which to hide that can be secured from the inside. If the door can be locked, lock it. If there isn’t a lock, barricade the door with heavy furniture, or use rope or a belt to tie the door handle to another solid object.
Turn out the lights, stay down and away from windows, and silence your cell phone and remain quiet so as not to alert the shooter to your presence.
If you can’t escape to a secure room, or if the gunman is able to break your barricade and enters the room, you should be prepared to defend yourself. Look for something that could distract the shooter by impairing their ability to see, breath, or control their weapon. A fire extinguisher is a good tool. Shoot the foam right into the gunman’s face and run like hell. Sharp objects like scissors or a kitchen knife, blunt objects like a crowbar or shovel, and even ceramic dishes can be used to distract or impair the terrorist. Aim for the eyes and make it count.
Obey the commands of law enforcement.
In this chaotic and tense situation it can be very difficult for the cops to know who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. When police arrive, keep your hands visible and don’t make any sudden movements. Obey any commands you are given. A wrong move at the wrong time could mean a terrible accident by those who are there to help. Also keep in mind that it is law enforcement’s job to neutralize the threat first before giving aid to the wounded.
The above scenario is one which I hope none of us are ever forced to encounter. But knowing this important information and planning ahead may, in the terror-filled world which we now live, save your life.