Nightclub Safety – 4 Solid Tips

by Doug Zanes | Last Updated: December 23, 2016

Four Tips That Will Help You Stay Safe

Nightclub safety is important because there are real dangers that we seldom think about. What could be the common denominator in being injured or killed by a fire or in a shooting?  Surprisingly enough, a night out on the town with friends.  That’s right, as crazy as it sounds.

Being seriously injured or killed because of an establishment’s failure to protect you is more common that you think.  So with New Year’s Eve right around the corner, I want to broach the topic of nightclub safety and being injured or killed in an accident or purposeful event so that you can protect yourself.

Nightclub fires are a real threat

On Friday December 2, 2016, a fire broke out at a warehouse in Oakland, California where an electronic music event was taking place.  The aftermath of this horrific, preventable tragedy is that numerous party-goers were killed and injured in the fire.  Everyone attending assumed that they were safe and that they would go home at the end of the night.  They did not know that escaping a fire down a single set of stairs would be impossible.  They did not think about whether or not the venue had a fire sprinkler system or alarms.  They certainly did not think about whether or not the venue was up to code and had obtained all of the permits that were needed in order to hold the event. We simply assume that if a nightclub or bar is in business or if a venue is being used that someone else has made sure that we are safe.  DO NOT MAKE THIS ASSUMPTION!  There are numerous examples of unsafe venues and clubs that have lead to the death of their patrons when fires breakout.  It is my opinion that every single one of these tragedies was preventable but, more importantly, the odds of survival in every event could have been significantly increased through awareness and preparation on the part of each individual patron.


Nightclub shootings are more common than you think

On June 12, 2016, the worst mass shooting in the United States occurred at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando Florida, killing 49 people and injuring dozens of others.  It would be easy to simply say this is a once in a lifetime tragic event that could never happen to me.  But if you really listen, you will pick up on story after story of shootings both inside and outside of nightclubs and bars.  They happen all the time and for everyone who is “at the wrong place at the wrong time” being aware and prepared is your best defense.

If we think about it logically, when we are out with friends at a bar or nightclub we generally aren’t paying too much attention to our surroundings.  We focus on our friends and we are focused on having fun.  Typically bars and nightclubs, especially nightclubs, are loud and dark.  The music is pumping.  People are dancing, laughing, and talking.  Bodies are smashed together as people crowd the bar or dance floor.  There’s just lots going on that’s fun and exciting, so that’s where our focus is.

Nightclub Safety – How to have fun and be safe

So should we all just stay home?  No, of course not.  Life is about experiences.  Life is about friends and family.  Life is about fun!  So you should certainly not stay home.  But you should be smart, prepared, and aware of your surroundings.

You know how when you get on an airplane and the flight attendant goes through the safety briefing and tells you where all the exits are and what to do in case of an emergency?   You know how you never listen to that safety briefing?  Well, I’m telling you to listen.  It could save your life.  Below are tips that I think are helpful and could be the difference.

The single common factor in each of these situations that matters is your ability to escape.  Your ability to get out of that situation fast is the number one nightclub safety rule. This requires knowledge.  Knowledge of the layout of the venue, knowledge of all the exists, and then the ability to not just get to them, but to also get through them and out of the venue.


  1. Understanding nightclub safety requires one to be familiar with the venue. Generally, you will have the opportunity to go to the bar, nightclub, or venue at a time when it isn’t busy and this will allow you to familiarize yourself with its layout.  One idea is to go with some friends on a Tuesday night to just check things out when there are less people.  This will allow you to walk around the place and look around.  Pay attention to how many exists there are (in addition to the front door).  Test the exit doors by opening them because there have been emergencies in venues where the back exit doors were actually locked shut, so test them.  Pay attention to where the kitchen entrance is (if there is a kitchen) because most kitchens have a back door that exists to the outside of the building.  It is extremely important to know if the only exit is the front door that you walked in.
  2. Pick a table or section of the venue that is close to an exit door. The biggest problem patrons have when a fire starts or something bad begins to happen is the inability to simply get to an exit.  I prefer to focus on an exit that isn’t a main exit.  Remember, most people will head straight for the front door so you do not want to move in that direction.  But you also won’t be able to go against that stampede of people.  You need to be able to move in a direction that is to the side of all the ensuing chaos and simply slide out of a door.  The people who are able to do that are the people who survive.  When the Station Nightclub fire happened in 2003, many of the patrons who ran for the front door ended up stuck in the club and perished because people fell in the doorway and blocked the exit.  The ones who escaped through this exit were the ones who were in the back of the room and were close to the exit, so they got to the exit first before the crowed hit it.  The mass of people trying to escape from the single front exit doomed them all.
  3. Pay close attention to your surroundings and anything that is out of the ordinary. How quickly you react is extremely important.  I would rather over react a bit and be wrong, then not believe what I’m seeing and move too slow.
  4. Don’t get overly intoxicated. I know, I know…. my wife calls me the “Fun Squisher”.  But if you are too intoxicated you will not make the decisions that you need to make.  I’m not saying don’t have any drinks, but I am saying don’t get drunk.  It’s great to think that your friends will take care of you, but if you watched the Station Nightclub video linked above it should have been clear that you have very little time to react and the chaos is extreme.  So you have to be able to think and to react.

The author of this article is Doug Zanes.  Doug is a personal injury attorney in Phoenix, AZ.


Doug Zanes
Doug Zanes: Founding Attorney Raised in Douglas, Arizona, and went to college at Arizona State University and graduated from law school at St. Mary’s University School of Law in Texas. Doug began practicing law in Phoenix Arizona in 1997.
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