With this latest terrible tragedy in Boston, America has been slapped in the face to wake up, and again, it cost us more lives. If you’re reading this, please don’t be angry with me or take any offense to my questions or second-guessing. If we don’t examine our issues, we can never be safer or smarter.
The Boston bombing was not at a club or bar. No, but the target was at another popular gathering place for innocent people; the sidelines of a public sporting event. The physical targets of the bombing were the marathon runners, workers and the visitors. However, the possible real target of the bombing was our way of life.
My point is that innocent people visit your bars and clubs every night and your venues are natural targets for anyone who wants to attack our way of life. Just like the sidelines of the Boston Marathon, your venue, your dance floor and your entry line are perfect targets for someone to attack. So, why aren’t owners acting faster to not be a target?
I’ve been teaching and consulting with bar and club staff and owners for over 15 years. I’ve been teaching them to be safe, to be smarter and to move the direction of “security” for bars and clubs in a better direction. For some, they’ve tried to move in that direction but for most, no movement at all to be a safer environment. This lack of self-examination of your ability to be a possible target can end up costing lives.
Over the years, I’ve heard the excuses from managers and owners; times are tough, we aren’t making the same money we used too, we are over taxed by the government and just can afford to change, things are slow right now… blah, blah, blah. At the same time, operators are adding new DJ systems, opening rooftop decks, changing the club color scheme and adding in new LED show lighting. Yeah, money is being spent, just not on the ugly side of making our bars or clubs safer.
Here are some immediate things that operators do today to make their establishment less appealing to anyone wanting to attack our guests and our freedom:
- Learn and teach all your staff the difference between a “soft” and “hard” target. Teach staff that your bar or club is a soft target and normally, easy to attack. Ask experts or law enforcement to help you “harden” your bar or club.
- Hire the correct number of security guards. Having five guards for 500 guests just isn’t safe. Take one guard away to work the door. Take another one away to stand with the cover girl or the beer tub. Take another away to watch the stairs and now, you end up with two guards to watch those 500 guests. REALLY? Be honest and have the correct number of guards to provide a safe environment for your guests and to “harden” your bar or club as a target.
- Put 2 or 3 guards at your door. Have them be visible and outgoing to guests in line and guest walking by. Have them use guest relations and customer service to deter anyone who means your venue or your guests harm. From underage persons to a local fanatic, having a door presence is smart.
- Use a smart and safe ratio of 1:50 for your crowd. If you have 500 people, plan on using 10 guards minimum. Yes, I know it’s an expense but you save so much money by having more guards proactively stopping trouble before it starts. Think about it, fewer arguments, fewer fights, fewer police issues and fewer civil lawsuits.
- Having the correct number of guards out front and inside your venue will absolutely deter 50% of all problems from idiots, drunks or someone looking for an easy target to leave a backpack bomb.
- Have a policy and procedure manual that outlines what you expect of your team in regard to potential problems. In that manual, have a section on front door and sidewalk guest relations. This area might include what to do guidelines for several possible issues;
- Suspicious guest – taking photos or video of your club. This is occasionally a normal occurrence but if this person is researching your front door and your door staff, they will conduct surveillance on your staff. Talk to them nicely, ask them honestly and openly; Whatcha doing? Are you visiting? Would you like me to take one of you? Remember how a normal tourist taking photos will answer those questions. If staff feels funny about the answers, teach them to be a great witness and document the contact.
- Suspicious package – In the hospitality industry, bomb threats and suspicious packages are pretty rare. But, what if, just as in Boston, someone leaves a backpack on the ground and walks away. Normally, in our industry, if our outside staff isn’t paying attention, that backpack filled with an improvised explosive device and nails will sit there until your line is jammed or until the end of the night and staff is doing the push and the “suspect” decides to detonate the backpack. I urge you to ask local authorities to assist you with writing a policy on what they’d like you to do as a policy for suspicious packages.
- What to do after a major incident – Evacuate, shelter in place and first aid. In a crises, your staff will do what they’ve always done, normally, run away. Take time to talk to staff about a shooting in line, a natural disaster or even a terrorist attack. After talking and training staff, have some simple role play training for the staff. You want them to train like it’s a real incident because they’ll automatically return to their training during an emergency.
- Get a real first aid kit. Not the one that all the servers and bartenders get into when they have a small finger cut. No, instead, have a back office first aid kit for major issues that may require your staff to provide first aid to guests. What? You don’t trust your staff to give first aid? Duh, get them the proper training for first responders. Your staff may not be able to actually stop the dangerous incident but they certainly can offer first aid and other life saving measures after an incident.
Come on operators; please think proactively in this area. Your bar or club may not be a target of a domestic or international terrorist, but what about the other possible types of incidents that would require your staff to react in a safe and professional manner. Don’t get upset with the topic, it’s the way life is right now in our great country; Prepare for the Worst but Expect the Best.