Be Prepared Before You Festival
A note from Executive Director: Janine Jordan
Although we are in the midst of festival season, it is never too late to start thinking about outdoor survival, health, and safety considerations for the events you plan on going to. Although this list will lean more "festival", some of this information can be applied to clubs as well.
Here are a list of considerations:
1) Staying Hydrated and Cool
One of the biggest considerations a festival goer should be considering these days is heat. Heat can be a killer, literally, regardless if you have taken any substances or not. Even the government agency FEMA educates about extreme heat. I would recommend you read their advice here. DanceSafe also has a great page on heatstroke.
Heat sickness and dehydration sickness have similar symptoms. They also have similar symptoms to someone that might be overdosing, although heat sickness and dehydration can happen to anyone regardless of substance usage. Heat sickness and dehydration can sometimes be something that you may be more susceptible to than others so you may want to find out if you are one of these people. We encourage our community to take breaks from dancing to cool down. One medical vendor for an event producer recommends a 15 minute break every hour. If you have a heat sensitivity, you should be extra mindful and perhaps take additional breaks every hour and get somewhere at the festival where your body can actually be allowed to cool. Again,DanceSafe has great information on their page about this.
Staying hydrated is important. You can read some basic guidelines here. However, it is important to not over-hydrate either as some people have died from water intoxication, called hyponatremia, where the water throws off the sodium level in the body and the brain swells.
Sip, don't gulp down water or other beverages. Try to keep water levels at 2 cups of water/ hour (via DanceSafe). Think about "eating" some of your water as well through fresh fruits (not juices), as well as drinking coconut water or sports beverages to replace your electrolytes. Please note that some sports beverages contain high fructose corn syrup or other crystalline sugars. If you are diabetic, check with your doctor or do some research on whether or not that is a healthy option for you.
2) Substance Usage
Be honest with yourself about any current prescription drugs you currently take as well as any recreational drugs you may take at an event. You should know how any prescription drugs you take on a regular basis might interact with heat, increased physical exertion (dancing), as well as any substances you plan on consuming including alcohol and caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, and energy drinks), or recreational drugs. Do the research. You should be able to find information online for your prescription drugs but you should also be able to call your doctor. You may even want to see your doctor before an event or series of events you plan on going to.
Doctors are supposed to keep your medical history private. Make sure to ask your doctor if disclosure of taking recreational drugs will be kept private and if they say it is, you may want to ask them their advice or knowledge on the effects of taking certain substances under certain conditions (heat, cold, or physical activity) as well as with other substances (ask about synergistic effects). If you do not feel comfortable asking your doctor about this, you should at least do some of your own research online from websites such as DanceSafe which offers fact-based information on a variety of substances you may encounter these days.
3) Medical History
Do you know yours? Maybe you should have a conversation with your parents in case you have forgotten about allergies you may have. Some people don't even know they may have a minor susceptibility to epilepsy until they are standing in front of a strobe light and then next moment they are on the ground. You may even want to visit a doctor before festival season and talk about any susceptibilities you may have especially to heat, allergies of any sort, or perhaps any physical idiosyncrasies like heart palpitations. This is extremely important as you may find yourself physically exerting yourself more than you normally would through dancing on and off throughout a long event or long event weekend. You will find that there are recommendations to check in with a doctor before engaging in certain demanding exercises. Dancing for hours, over the course of several days, and in possibly extreme elements should count.
4) Things to buy or bring
These days there are all sorts of things you can buy to help with cooling yourself down or staying more vibrant and hydrated. Misting fans (sometimes sold by the event producer), neck ties that cool you down (REI carries these), vitamin patches (through festival supply retail sites), hydration backpacks, or reusable water canteens. As you will read in the section about heat on the Ready.gov website by FEMA, you should consult a doctor before taking or buying salt tablets.
Be prepared with sunscreen. Not all are created equal. Please review the Environmental Working Group guide for safe sunscreen suggestions. We also recommend ear plugs. We understand you may equate ear plugs with a poor audio experience however there have been great strides in recent years in the creation of affordable, hi-fidelity ear plugs that will avoid hearing damage but not distort sound. Some brands worth investigating are EarPeace and EarLove.
Make sure to check the event website for what you can bring into the event and what you can buy there.
Yes be prepared for sex. Bring your own condoms whether you are a guy or a girl. Sometimes these can also be found as giveaways at vendor booths or on-site harm reduction service tents including medical. There are actually eco-friendly condoms now. Both Greenpeace and Sierra Club have articles about greening your sexy times.
You should also be well versed in consent-culture. Rape and harassment are crimes or behaviors that are not tolerated and you can get in real trouble for. Sometimes substance use, especially alcohol, can impair your judgement and make you act in ways that will be considered unwanted and pushy. Know when no means no. We are a community of respect. Appreciate from afar or if you solicit sexual engagement. You should have explicit consent from the individual you are engaging with whether it is a hug, a kiss, or further sexual comments, maneuvers, or activity. Here is a website to investigate what "consent culture"is all about.
6) Seeking Medical Attention
Security, fire, and medical will not punish you for telling them that someone, including a friend of yours, needs help. And if you need medical attention, go directly to medical or ask for assistance from staff or the community all around you. We are here to look out for one another.
7) Law Enforcement
Law enforcement is at most events. You will not get in trouble for reporting anything you see if the outcome brings safety to an individual, group, or the event itself. However, you can be arrested if you try to sneak illegal substances into an event. Amnesty boxes are now being provided at many festivals to give you the option to ditch anything that could get you in trouble before coming in through the gates. Know the laws of not just the state you live in but where the event is taking place. If you decide to risk engage in in illegal behaviors, you should at least consider the consequences. Whether the behavior could lead to a felony or a misdemeanor conviction, and what that can do to your life in general. A helpful website to read about legal considerations inThe Festival Lawyer.
8) Apps and Information Resources
Most events have apps now. We recommend downloading the event app so you have a map on you and can access information on services available. You may also want to download (pre-event) the DanceSafe app so you have information regarding substances and situational safety tips close at hand. Ready.gov also has an app regarding emergency services. There are also other apps such as FestEvo, or Roll Random that have community features so you can find your buddies, make new ones, or communicate with others in general. Many festivals now have text alert systems. Please store the text number in your phone when you get there so that you can text emergency services if needed. The Festival Guy has a great website on how to "festival better". He is an advocate for getting some rest during long or multi-day events so you can have an optimal experience.
9) Check the Weather before you go
Weather can change. Make sure you will be properly prepared. Again, heat has been bringing many people down. If you have a susceptibility to heat sickness you may want to change your plans. There are plenty of Fall festivals now that would hopefully have cooler weather.
10) Making it home Safe
Please have plans to get home safely, whether it is enough time and rest before you drive, having a designated driver, or using a taxi, driving service, or public transportation option. If you need to walk through neighborhoods or areas considered "rough", it can be courteous and also safe to have a cover-up if you are dressed minimally. This might also save you public indecency tickets.
11) How you can make festivals safer
Prohibition of drugs causes many problems in our society especially when it comes to public education about illegal substances. Often not enough money is allocated to studying these drugs and thus information may not be well-researched or presented in a fashion that will give non-judgmental, fact-based information to the public. This makes education less available when we should be well informed. If you want to see drug laws change, we suggest following organizations that dedicate themselves to that mission such as our non-profit ally, Drug Policy Alliance. Check out their"I am a Music Fan" page.
A change in drug laws will be a long journey, especially now that the Federal government has decided to keep marijuana a schedule 1 substance. However, amending an old law informally known as "The Rave Act" could allow our event producers amnesty for providing services or education to keep our community safe. Please read up on Amending the Rave Act and sign the petition if you agree.
Sharing information can also help make our events safer. Tell your friends to be prepared and share our website, this link, and our partners information with them. Additionally you may want to become an ambassador of safety before the festival or during the festival. Pre-festival you could read and distribute a great guide from the Drug Policy Alliance called Safety First. Both pre- and at the festival you can become a social media ambassador by reading this quick tip guide. You may also want to join a volunteer team at the festival. Usually applications are due for volunteer positions well in advance of the event date so start your inquiry early!
Know that there are people in your life that love you. Friends, and especially family that will miss you greatly if you do not return from your adventure. The festival scene, and especially the electronic dance music scene, will rely on all of us trying to make safety a prime responsibility. This means taking responsibility for yourself and also watching out for those around you whether you know them or not. We are a community; remember that fellow festival patrons are family.
Go. Be Safe and have fun. If you have other suggestions or considerations that I might have missed, please let me know. It takes all of us working together to create an environment of safety within our communities.