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).


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How to tackle drug dealing effectively and legally.

There is an essential challenge in tackling drug use in the night-time economy and at festivals. Drug use is, for many people, an integral part of going out. While certain forms of music are more closely associated with particular types of drug use, it is likely that at any venue the customers will include people that use drugs.

Club and premises owners alongside event and festival promoters are therefore placed in a difficult situation; they are required to seek to prevent drug dealing and drug use in an environment which is associated with these activities. Nonetheless the full responsibility is with licence holders to ensure they work within the law, and make every effort to control the use and supply of drugs on their premises.

As part of a licence holder’s policy on drugs, there should be a section setting out policies and procedures for searching customers for drugs and weapons including firearms.

You can find more detail in this section on searches. These policies should be formulated in consultation with local police. It is important that the policy contains a complaints procedure.


Many venues will scan customers’ ID and photograph them on entry and store that information securely on a computerised system. This provides a useful source of information for police wishing to identify anyone suspected of a criminal offence and also allows businesses to share information about known drug dealers or those who have committed other criminal offences on licensed premises.

Search policy

Where ID scanners are used, searching should take place after the customer has provided ID, this will assist police should illegal items be found and the individual is refused entry or where detaining is considered, it is either not safe to do so or the individual leaves the scene.

The policy of searching customers for drugs and weapons should be advertised widely, on electronic and other media, tickets and flyers and prominently in entrance and queuing areas.

Secure disposal boxes (often known as drug boxes) should also be provided so that customers who have drugs or other potentially prohibited items on them and still wish to enter the venue can dispose of these items before being searched. These boxes must be secure and a protocol should be established for opening them. The opening of the box and any findings should be recorded and witnessed by at least two people. Any drugs should be stored securely before being handed over to the police.

Some Police Services issue clubs with self-sealing exhibit bags. Any drugs found are placed in these and retained by the management for collection by the police. The bags are all individually numbered and tamper-proof.

Door supervisors

A significant factor in tackling drug dealing and usage in premises is the quality of door supervisor team. A well trained team of professional door staff can be extremely effective in preventing drug dealing and quickly identifying and intervening where patrons may be suffering the adverse effects of drug usage.

However premises operators should be mindful of the potential risk of criminal infiltration into security staff and they should seek police assistance immediately should they suspect this has happened.

The Security Industry Authority (SIA)ensures that everyone working in the security industry, including door supervisors, is licensed. To gain a licence, individuals are required to undergo a criminal records check and complete and pass a training course. In addition to licensing individuals, the SIA also runs an approved contractor scheme for companies who comply with a set of operational and performance standards.

If you work as a member of security staff or door supervisor, you can see the main roles and responsibilities for this group of staff.

Clear procedures

Door supervisors need to be aware of search/seizure/arrest procedures at the venue, particularly in relation to controlled drugs and offensive weapons. The use of search arches or metal detectors is strongly recommended by police services. Some festivals also require all entrants to pass by a drug dog; any event using drug dogs should discuss protocols and procedures with police licensing officers in advance.

Search as condition of entry

All searches should take place where there is full CCTV coverage and where prohibited or illegal items are discovered assistance should be sought and where possible all following actions involving the individual in possession of the items should be covered by bodyworn video camera.

Door supervisors have no statutory legal rights to search customers. Searches can only be conducted with the customer’s consent, as a condition of entry. The fact that searches will be conducted should be clearly advertised. Customers should normally be searched by door supervisors of the same sex. Under no circumstances should door supervisors perform strip searches.

Search as condition of remaining

Some premises may wish to adopt this protocol where there is an identified problem of drug usage within the premises. It may be particularly where there has been suspicious activity taking place for example two persons sharing a toilet cubicle or regular attendance on an individual by number of different patrons. Following on from this security staff may wish to seek assistance from colleagues and ensure that any search is conducted in full view of CCTV and preferably covered additionally by bodyworn video cameras.

Conducting a search

Any customer refusing to consent to a search should be politely but firmly refused entry to the venue. It is important that those conducting searches should do so in a respectful and polite manner, remembering that those being searched are customers. Searching should not cause undue problems to customers, such as requiring them to wait outside in cold weather. The methods and approach to searching influence the mood of clubbers, and set the tone for compliance with the club’s practices. It is advised that a full body pat down search takes place including the emptying of pockets and removal of bulky outer clothing and hats.

However if a clubber feels that their search was too intimate or inappropriate in other ways, there should be a clearly advertised complaints procedure.

Where it is not possible or practical to search every patron on entry it is important that random searches take place this should not be for example every 5th or 7th customer but completely random so as to provide the best opportunity to disrupt the likelihood of drugs and weapons entering premises. Where there is an identified or known risk at the premises search of every patron is strongly advised.

Finding drugs

Where suspected controlled drugs are found on customers during a search, door supervisors have two options. They can either seize the items and refuse entry to the customer, booking in the property in the incident book before handing it to a supervisor or manager for secure storage (see below), or they can seize the items, detain the customer and seized items and call the police.
The local police service should make it clear when they expect the venue to call police the licence holder’s drug policy should make it clear what is expected of staff.

All seizures should be witnessed by a supervisor and recorded immediately. Door supervisors should not retain possession of any seized items which should be transferred to secure storage immediately. See more detailed information about What to do when you find drugs.

Storing illegal drugs

A number of companies manufacture metal boxes for the safe deposit of drugs. Typically these are made from heavy duty steel and feature welded hinges to prevent tampering. They have a one way loading system which makes it safe to deposit substances and impossible to retrieve drugs from the box without unlocking it. Specialist boxes come fitted with two steel locks mounted in the door – local agreements may suggest that the venue manager keeps one key while the police keep the other. The box can then only be opened by both parties together, safeguarding the venue and its staff from any accusations of removing drugs from the box. The boxes are designed to be wall-mounted.


Searching should be especially vigilant in those clubs which have had recent problems with drug dealing or weapons. It is particularly important that customers are subjected to the same search procedures when they re-enter the club after going outside to smoke or for any other reason. Otherwise, it is too easy to collect drugs or a weapon from an associate, vehicle or hiding place after under-going the initial search.


CCTV can be used to deter and detect drug use, drug dealing or other problems. There is need for a balance in using CCTV. It can be effective in deterring drug dealing, but should not be used to intrude on the legitimate privacy of club goers. It is particularly useful to cover entrance areas and secluded areas of the venue which could be used for drug dealing.

Some clubs have also used CCTV to deter sexual harassment of customers which sometimes happens disproportionately in the corridors and areas outside toilets (since predatory individuals can target these areas). These locations need to be well-lit to ensure that CCTV cameras operate effectively.

Code of practice

Those operating CCTV are required to have the appropriate license from the SIA and to comply with the code of practice laid down by the Information Commissioner.

There should be a clear policy which ensures that digital media are securely stored and access to them only granted to appropriate personnel. Perhaps the most effective use of CCTV is the ability to send out a clear deterrent message to drug dealers and those carrying weapons including firearms, that the identity of everyone entering a venue is recorded.

Where it is not a condition of the licence, it is recommended that footage should be kept for 31 days and licence holders should ensure that there is sufficient digital storage for this purpose. Where police are called to deal with a crime, including the apprehension of drug dealers it would assist if the footage could be made immediately available this will allow police to deal immediately with the investigation and could increase the likelihood of a conviction.

Body-worm cameras

At some venues security staff have started to wear body cameras which record constantly. The footage is uploaded securely with a buffer period, typically of 30 seconds, being constantly over-written. When a door supervisor presses the record button, this enables the camera to preserve footage from 30 seconds previous to the button press.

Body worn cameras have been found to safeguard staff and the licensee and have been found to be much more reliable than CCTV since sound is also recorded; audio recordings often provide important evidence about the cause of an altercation.

It is good practice to have attendants in toilet areas to discourage a large build-up of people and the selling and use of drugs.

Naturally, it is particularly important to respect individuals’ privacy in this area and staff should be given clear guidelines which cover when it is appropriate for staff to try to enter a cubicle and when assistance should be sought, and from whom. These guidelines should also be communicated to customers via clear signs which also state that it is venue policy for only one person in a cubicle at any time.

Training to recognise individuals who are in distress through drug and/or alcohol use is also invaluable for toilet/cloakroom attendants.

Security staff should include toilet areas on their regular tours of inspection. Finally, all toilet areas should have a sharps bin installed so that any needles can be safely disposed of. Sharps bins can also be used by customers who have legitimate cause to use needles, for instance, in order to self-administer insulin for diabetes.

Liaison between police and venues

The importance of liaison between police and venues cannot be over-stated. Many of the difficulties involved in running a venue or event that is profitable, safe and legal can be overcome by good working relationships between local officers and owners, managers and promoters. There should be an agreement about the way in which incidents relating to drug use or dealing should be handled.

Clarification of expectations

The police should clarify in which circumstances they wish to be called and what they expect of door supervisors. Police officers may not always be able to respond promptly, especially on weekend evenings and any agreement should cover what should happen when police cannot attend.

The procedures for seizing and keeping secure suspected controlled drugs should also be formally agreed. In some areas, it is regarded as good practice for police officers to come to the club to collect seized substances on a regular basis. This visit also allows the opportunity to exchange information and concerns.

Many license holders worry about handing over drugs to the police, fearing that if they are regularly seizing drugs, they may be considered to have a serious drug problem and their licence could be at risk.

Conversely, police officers often target venues who never seize drugs, feeling that they may be condoning drug use or dealing. These, normally unspoken, fears can evaporate within a good working relationship which involves frequent personal contact. Police services appreciate the difficulties in preventing drug dealing in a club setting and would rather work with licensees to tackle an identified problem than seek to close a venue down, which, in any case, may only displace any drug dealing taking place.

Liaison between venues

Liaison between venues – especially those who provide similar events and are competitors – and police is particularly valuable. Banning a suspected drug dealer from one club may result in him or her trying to sell drugs in another. If a group of clubs in a city centre are successful in reducing the amount of dealing inside their premises, it may be that drugs are being sold more frequently in local ‘feeder’ pubs or bars where customers meet before going clubbing.

The police, in collaboration with the local Community Safety Partnership, should seek to institute regular fora for exchanging information, on a formal or informal basis. Local Pubwatch schemes are often good networks for exchanging this sort of information as is the SaferSounds Partnership in London.

If you would like to know more about the work of security staff and door supervisors in relation to drugs, you can see the main roles and responsibilities here.

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