Emergency Info

Guidelines on when to call the Emergency Services 999 for unwell recreational drug users

Call 999 if ANY one of the following is present:

Unconsciousness – if the patient does not respond to vocal commands, requires painful stimulus (e.g. pressure across the fingernails) to respond or does not respond at all.

Significant agitation (e.g. pacing around the room) or aggression not settling within 15 minutes.

Seizures (e.g. a convulsion similar to an epileptic fit)

Breathing difficulties such as fast breathing rate which does not settle within 15 minutes.

Heart rate over 140 beats per minute not settling within 5 minutes.

Temperature over 38.5 not settling after about 5 minutes of rest, or if very flushed and feels very hot if no thermometer is available.

Blood pressure – Systolic (“upper pressure”) over 180mmHg, or Diastolic (“lower pressure”) over 110mmHg on two repeated blood pressure measurements.

Other concerns – if there are any other concerns (e.g. severe headache, chest pain).

 
IF IN DOUBT CALL 999

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A safe physical environment can be the difference between life and death for people vulnerable through their use of drugs and/or alcohol.

People can only go out and have a good time if the place they are going – pub, club or festival – provides a safe physical environment for everyone. Obviously, the details of what makes for a safe environment vary considerably from venue to venue; what’s appropriate in the back room of a pub, a medium-sized club and a weekend long greenfield festival are substantially different.

Nonetheless, the same principles apply and in this section of Safer Nightlife, we provide straightforward, up-to-date and legally accurate information on the subjects listed below. Obviously, these factors are vital to the safety of everyone but they can, literally, make the difference between life and death for people who are vulnerable through the consumption of drugs and/or alcohol.

The key people responsible for ensuring the environment is safe are premises owners and managers, and/or event promoters. The local police, fire and environmental health services will give advice and sometimes require particular works to take place in order to ensure that these key people are creating a safe environment.

The Licensing Act 2003

The Licensing Act 2003 established a single licensing system for premises which supply alcohol, provide entertainment or provide late night refreshments; and it remains the key piece of legislation with updated guidance issued occasionally. Any individual or company wishing to put on events will need to comply with the requirements of the Act. The police, fire authorities, and others, are notified of every application for a new licence, or variation of existing licences. There are also mechanisms for the consultation of local residents.

The Four Licensing Objectives

The Act requires every local licensing authority (which sits within the local authority) to carry out its duties with a view to promoting four licensing objectives:

  • Public safety,
  • The prevention of crime and disorder,
  • The prevention of public nuisance, and
  • The protection of children from harm.

These objectives provide the framework on which decisions to grant licences are based − a licensing authority may only refuse applications or revoke licences based on a failure to promote one or more of the four objectives.

New licensing applications have to fit with the local licensing policy which might, for example, seek to restrict the number of licenses in a particular area. Most local authorities post information about how to apply for licences and provide links to the guidance issued by the Home Office on their website and applications are via a prescribed form which may be submitted by post or downloaded and submitted electronically.

A key element of the application is completing the operating schedule which sets out what steps the applicant intends to take to promote the licensing objectives (for example, the arrangements for door security to promote the prevention of crime and disorder)

The operating schedule

The importance of the operating schedule is that if the application for the premises licence is granted, it will be incorporated, as enforceable conditions into the Licence itself which will in addition set out the permitted licensable activities and any limitations on them.

Best Bar None Awards

In many areas of the country, Best Bar None Award schemes, or their equivalents, are run with the aim of identifying and rewarding responsible pub/club operators. Premises which comply with high standards of operation in a number of assessed areas – beyond the legal requirements – are recognised at an annual awards ceremony. These premises may then feature in publicity material run by the local authority or town centre management groups and can advertise to the public that they are well-run premises.

Anyone applying for a licence also needs to comply with fire safety law, specifically The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

You need to make sure a Fire Risk Assessment is carried out by a competent person in order to:

  • Identify the fire hazards,
  • Identify the persons at risk,
  • Eliminate or reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to persons,
  • Determine what physical fire safety arrangements and management controls are necessary to ensure the safety of relevant persons.

The Responsible Person

The Fire Safety Order requires the “Responsible Person” to act upon the significant findings of the Fire Risk Assessment to reduce the risks to persons in case of fire. Where a fire risk assessment already exists it should be reviewed to ensure that it takes account of any changes that you propose to make and also to ensure that it makes adequate provision for the safety of ALL persons (staff and customers) who may be at the premises. Clearly, the fire safety arrangements required for a three day festival attracting 20,000 people will be very different from those placed on a basement nightclub.

Communication

Communication between club owner/manager, promoter and the fire, police and environmental health services is vital.

The safety lessons and requirements which are the responsibility of the venue owner must also be known and understood by the promoter who may, to a large extent, be running the entertainment.

The National Fire Chief’s Council provides a comprehensive event organiser’s checklist and a range of regularly updated documents to be incorporated into event management plans which are available from https://www.nationalfirechiefs.org.uk/Event-safety

Overcrowding has been implicated as a key factor in injuries and deaths at dance events. As a result of the fire risk assessment and consultation with the local fire service, it is usual for an overall capacity limit to be set for a pub or club.

Counting customers and staff

It is important that premises/events use a reliable method of counting the number of customers entering. Methods include electronic clocking systems, ‘clickers’ and tills. Electronic scanning database systems are now common at many venues. Customers are asked, as a condition of entry, to present ID which is scanned and verified, confirming their identity1 Some companies will check ID at point of sale in advance and just scan tickets on entry.. These systems have a number of advantages:

  • They ensure that under-age patrons are not admitted and served,
  • They accurately count the numbers of people entering the premises,
  • They may reduce incidences of disorder since any miscreants know they can be identified and,
  • Anyone who is asked to leave the premises for unacceptable behaviour can be noted on the system and banned from the premises in future.
  • There is growing evidence that ID scanning makes a significant contribution to reducing crime.

The majority of festivals sell almost all tickets online in advance and can therefore have control over attendance figures.

It is vital that all people on the premises are counted. Where guest lists or VIP passes are in operation, the number of paying customers allowed in must be adjusted accordingly.

Safe capacity

In order to assess a safe capacity for the venue, your fire risk assessment should include an evaluation of the means of escape and the number of people that can safely be accommodated. In all premises this evaluation should demonstrate that the exits are sufficient for the number of people that could be present. Safe capacities are best expressed in clear and simple terms e.g. “The maximum capacity of the premises at any one time will be restricted in respect of the ground floor to 300 persons and in respect of the first floor to 100 persons.” It is important to make sure that staff, performers (and their support staff, sound & lighting people etc.) are included in these numbers.

Avoid bottlenecks

In addition to ensuring that the overall capacity of the venue is not exceeded, it is important to ensure that localised overcrowding is avoided. It is pointless observing the capacity limit, if half the customers are squeezed into small popular areas. Care should be taken to design the venue in ways which avoid this ‘bottle-necking’.

Police and fire licensing officers often have the experience to provide helpful (and free) advice on this subject. Particular attention should be paid to bar areas, toilet and cloakroom areas, and thoroughfares, stairways and landings. This level of attention to detail is important as late night venues, where many customers may be intoxicated and unfamiliar with their surroundings, can present unique problems for an emergency evacuation.

Similar principles apply to festivals, particular for initial admission to a festival site and for the main routes between popular stages, bars and toilet facilities. Although in this case, crowd safety experts may be more helpful.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Some companies will check ID at point of sale in advance and just scan tickets on entry.

Controlling temperatures and humidity in venues is of paramount importance for the comfort and safety of clubbers. 1Technical Standards for Places of Entertainment 2015 (Reprinted with revisions 1 April 2019)
https://www.thenbs.com/PublicationIndex/documents/details?Pub=ABTT&DocID=325724
Technical guidance is available on appropriate temperatures and humidity.

Air conditioning

Some owners or managers are reluctant to switch air conditioning on, through concern about cost. Air conditioning is sometimes switched on when the temperature is already very hot and is then of very limited use in controlling temperature. In order to ensure that the temperature remains at a proper level, air conditioning should be switched on before the event so that it can cope with a gradual increase of temperature as the number of customers increases. This also enables the air conditioning to be operated at less than full power and is more cost efficient.

Alternative ways of controlling temperature

Licence holders should ensure that venues which do not have air conditioning make provision for temperature cooling, for example by hiring or purchasing industrial fans to be placed around dance floors. If necessary, external fire exits could be opened to allow cool air in, provided this has been formally agreed within the fire risk assessment. In such cases where the fire exit door is left opened, it is important to ensure that noise from the club does not disturb local residents and security staff may need to be deployed to prevent unauthorised entry.

It is the venue’s responsibility to prevent customers overheating. Venues should also have a policy where readmission is possible if a customer wishes to go outside to cool off.

Outdoor events

Although festival operators cannot, of course, regulate the temperature outdoors, they should still make careful plans to ensure the safety of customers in the event of different weather conditions. A common problem is ensuring that people have access to free water and shade in high temperatures for summer events. The effects of dehydration can be particularly severe, or even fatal, for people who have consumed drugs and/or alcohol. Operators should make contingency plans to cover likely eventualities to prevent situations like that at a 2019 festival when there was a problem admitting festival goers owing to glitches with a new digital wristband/payment system. This resulted in dozens of people fainting (and several hospital admissions) when festival goers were faced with an unexpected delay in getting on to the festival site when they were standing in hot sun for several hours with no access to water.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Technical Standards for Places of Entertainment 2015 (Reprinted with revisions 1 April 2019)
https://www.thenbs.com/PublicationIndex/documents/details?Pub=ABTT&DocID=325724

It is important that everyone attending events keeps themselves hydrated with water or other non-alcoholic drinks. This is particularly important for those who have consumed alcohol and drugs, especially ecstasy.

There have been many health education campaigns on this issue and surveys show that many clubbers are aware of the need to keep themselves hydrated. However, it should also be noted that in some cases the over consumption of water can cause serious problems.

Free and unrestricted access

It is imperative that there is free and unrestricted, but monitored, access to cold drinking water at all times. Licensing authorities should be aware that, in order to maximise bar profits, several owners and promoters have turned off water supplies, supplied only warm water or discouraged bar staff from supplying free cold water. Similarly, festivals have been known to provide only limited free water in hard to access parts of the festival site in order to protect the revenue of concessions selling beverages. Recommended best practice is:

  • Provision of cold water in easy to access areas; such as taps installed by the bar,
  • Large signs to advertise and locate where water can be accessed,
  • Availability of a large range of appropriately priced bottled water and soft drinks for purchase at the bar.

Local fire and Health and Safety officers will direct the venue to comply with the requirements of Health and Safety legislation.

Common important issues for consideration at event venues include:

  • Ensuring that access to potentially dangerous sites such as the top of speakers or balcony rails is effectively prevented,
  • Employing glass collectors to ensure that drinking vessels do not accumulate and cause obstructions,
  • Providing drinks in glasses that are made of poly-carbonate to prevent them being used as weapons,
  • Bottled drinks should be poured into these glasses or consideration should be given to selling beers in polycarbonate bottles,
  • Ensuring that fixtures and fittings are safe and secure and unlikely to cause harm or injury,
  • Ensuring that all fixtures and fittings and electrical systems in particular are safeguarded from the effects of excessive condensation which are common at dance events or from the rain at festivals or outside events,
  • Making sure that a maximum volume on sound systems is set to prevent causing hearing damage to clubbers and staff or disturbance to neighbours. In many cases it may be appropriate to install a tamper-proof sound limiter on the amplification system.
  • Informing customers of the intended use of any strobe or laser lighting, smoke or other special effects and ensuring that these are installed and used safely,
  • Preventing floors from becoming slippery from condensation or spilt drinks,
  • Ensuring that emergency evacuation procedures take into account the fact that many customers may be intoxicated from drink or drugs1Many pubs and clubs, particularly those in tourist areas, will also need to draw up their emergency plans within the context of a possible terrorist threat. Full guidance on counter-terrorism planning can be found in: National Counter Terrorism Security Office (2017) Crowded places guidance which has specific guidance for both the night-time economy and major events. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/crowded-places-guidance,
  • Providing supervised ‘chill out’ areas where customers can have a ‘time out’ obtain free drinking water and seek assistance from welfare or medical staff or seek advice on drug use.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Many pubs and clubs, particularly those in tourist areas, will also need to draw up their emergency plans within the context of a possible terrorist threat. Full guidance on counter-terrorism planning can be found in: National Counter Terrorism Security Office (2017) Crowded places guidance which has specific guidance for both the night-time economy and major events. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/crowded-places-guidance

Much of the advice in this section is relevant to festivals and events held outside. However we have assembled some of the festival-specific issues in this section for the convenience of readers.

Avoiding bottlenecks

Although it may not be immediately obvious, the problems of localised overcrowding can be just as likely on a multi-acre outdoor site as they are in the small nightclub. Organisers and licensing officers should pay particular attention to avoiding bottlenecks, particularly for initial admission to a festival site and for the main routes between popular stages, bars and toilet facilities.

Temperature control

Although festival operators cannot, of course, regulate the temperature outdoors, they should still make careful plans to ensure the safety of customers in the event of different weather conditions. A common problem is ensuring that people have access to free water and shade in high temperatures for summer events. The effects of dehydration can be particularly severe, or even fatal, for people who have consumed drugs and/or alcohol. Customers should also be advised to keep themselves hydrated and to use sun screen and wear hats to protect themselves. Operators should ensure that these items are available to purchase on site.

Contingency plans

Operators should make contingency plans to cover likely eventualities to prevent situations like that at a 2019 festival when there was a problem admitting festival goers owing to glitches with a new digital wristband/payment system. This resulted in dozens of people fainting (and several hospital admissions) when festival goers were faced with an unexpected delay in getting on to the festival site when they were standing in hot sun for several hours with no access to water.

Access to water

It is important that easy access to free drinking water is also provided at festivals. Licensing officers should ensure that organisers do not restrict free water supplies to hard to access parts of the festival site in order to protect the revenue of concessions selling beverages.

A constructive partnership

The most effective means of ensuring a safe environment for clubbers is for club owners, event promoters and licensing officers from the local authority and the police, fire and environmental health services, to work together in a constructive partnership.

Developing a trusting relationship in which concerns and issues on all sides are aired in advance is the most effective way for licensing, police and fire officers to ensure that the public is kept safe and for licensees to protect their business(es). While licensees may be wary of raising issues relating to drugs, experienced enforcement staff will know that it is not possible for any business to operate environments in which no customers could have taken illegal drugs. They can provide the benefit of their experience to identify and address key concerns in ways which are likely to be more effective if discussed openly and honestly.

Upholding the four objectives

Nevertheless, it must be recognised that not only licensing authorities, but licence holders, managers and event promoters all have a duty to preserve public safety and meet the four licensing objectives set out at the start of this chapter.

There are still too many occasions when customer safety is put in jeopardy: ventilation is poor, air conditioning is not used, water taps are turned off, and capacity limits are ignored. In these situations, licensing authorities must take action.

Co-ordination

It is good practice for licensing teams and their colleagues from the police, fire and health services to co-ordinate their relevant work and enforcement efforts to ensure that late night premises playing music that is attractive to people who take drugs as part of their night out, receive appropriate inspection visits. The risks of harm, and ultimately of fatalities, are highest at such premises.

It should of course be emphasised that although enforcement is the responsibility of police and fire officers, the legal responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of clubbers remains with licence holders, Designated Premises Supervisors, venue managers, festival organisers and promoters in particular.

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