I woke up this morning to the following headline on my iPhone news app, “More than 90 Dead in Brazil Nightclub Fire.” As I write this, the death toll is at 180. I knew, when I saw that headline, I would write this article.
Many of us love nightclubs. We are going to go no matter how dangerous some can be. That’s understood. So, while we might be bleary-eyed, we’re awake enough to read. Let’s take a few minutes to learn how we can stay alive and maybe save the life of our nightclub date.
1. Surviving Fire. My grandfather was a Fire Chief in the Northeast. Our structures were primarily made of wood, but, despite the fact that wood will burn a lot quicker than other materials and at lower temperatures, he used to say, “It’s the smoke that kills you.” That usually means electrical fire. Have you seen some of the wiring South of the Border? How about in South America? Don’t be lulled into complacency, however, by ostensibly upscale surroundings. A nightclub fire in Rhode Island was set off by the band’s pyrotechnics. The smoke filled the place so fast that people had little time to get out. Then, some of the exits were blocked. This occurred in the United States where public places are heavily regulated if not frequently inspected. As you go into progressively laid back areas of the world, you will have even less protection. The good news is that there are just a few things you can do to enhance your chances of survival.
First, when you go into a nightclub, check the locations of the exits. Consider whether the place is seriously overcrowded. Do you see any safety floodlights? Nightclubs are dark. That’s one reason we love them. However, when the lights go out, we want safety lights to come on. Exits should be clearly marked with lights above. Unfortunately, as was the case in Rhode Island, we can’t know if those exits are blocked. Most people, in that case, headed for the front. So many tried that exit, the hallway got choked. Nobody could get out. Others tried the back. The doors had been chained to prevent customers from skipping out on the tab. Those who block exits that way are the real criminals, of course. So, the choices are not always clear. I want to mention that there may be ways out that are not marked as official “exits.” Consider the bathroom. Maybe there’s a window in it or elsewhere you can use. You want to determine the location of the fire as soon as you can. Remember also, smoke rises. You don’t want to get trampled, but the best air may well be close to the floor. Keep that in mind as you move along maybe close to a wall. If you are behind a door when you hear the fire alarm go off, don’t open it until you feel it. Is it hot? Also, there is sometimes danger of draft when you open a window in a fire.
Here’s a quote from a survivor of that Rhode Island fire, “At first, there was no panic. Everybody just kind of turned. Most people still just stood there. In the other rooms, the smoke hadn’t gotten to them, the flame wasn’t that bad, they didn’t think anything of it.” I can relate to this because I tend to under-react in emergencies. I remember the one fire I personally experienced. My boyfriend and I were upstairs in our apartment house. We heard the fire alarm go off. We had a fire escape, but he thought the shortest route was down the stairs. I felt the door. It wasn’t hot. I opened it. I saw smoke, just a bit on our landing but more downstairs. I hesitated there. He came behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. “Go!” he shouted. So, I went, running down the stairs, through the smoke and out. That was a small kitchen fire. If you are in a nightclub and you smell smoke or see flame, don’t wait for someone to put it out. Get out. Don’t run. Briskly walk. The worst that can happen is you’re outside in the cold when nothing was really wrong. If your date complains, get a new date or, if you really want that person to spend the night, tell him or her you didn’t want to take a chance of losing all those years ahead when you could be making love.
2. Surviving Drugs, Drink and the Dark. We go to nightclubs because we like to dance, maybe to meet someone. Often, we go with our friends. That’s best, but then, we might split up. You are immediately more vulnerable to predators and other dangers when alone in a nightclub.
I want you to recall a few things about nightclubs. First, as previously noted, they are dark. The lack of visibility can create dangers as simple as falling down stairs or getting your purse ripped off. By the way, what are you doing with a purse in a nightclub? Carry your money and keys on your body.
A friend of mine was in Asia on Christmas. She decided to go to the Christmas Eve church service. She went out into the street from her hotel, and, before she knew it, she was caught up in a flood of people going to midnight mass. More and more parishioners crowded into the church. She was wearing a travel purse around her waist, and she was completely helpless as she felt it slowly turn to the back. She struggled. She tried to pull it back. She knew she was in the process of losing her cash, credit cards and passport, but there was nothing she could do about it. In a church! Carry enough cash to buy a couple drinks and your keys. Carry one credit card with a low limit, if you feel you need it. Leave your passport and the rest in your hotel safe.
Did you see the recent article on the grandmother who was arrested for carrying cocaine and sentenced to death in Indonesia? The further you go from Canada, the United States and Europe, the tougher you can expect the drug laws to be. Mexico, Asia, Central and South America can just be merciless – even, sometimes, for marijuana. The same goes for guns – even when they are declared at the border! The former Marine in that case was ultimately released but not until after his fellow Mexican prisoners attempted to extort his parents and he was chained in solitary confinement.
What about the drugs you didn’t want to take? If you set down your drink in a nightclub and go off to dance, you may find yourself pretty woozy after your first sip when you come back. Some who want to incapacitate you may try to spike your drink. The combination of drink and drug makes the situation very dangerous, but did you know that the most common “date rape drug” is alcohol? Alcohol is a disinhibitor. That’s why we use it. We feel good. I feel I can dance better. In moderation, it’s no problem for most of us. Restrict yourself to two drinks. Drink non-alcoholic beverages in between. Keep an eye on your glass as you would your wallet or purse. Men, it’s not just women who have been assaulted or robbed when drunk. It happened just the other day in my town when a really drunk guy called a cab to go home. The cab driver called a couple of buddies. Two of them relieved him of his cash and rolled him toward home.
Know your risks and how to avoid them. Then, make your decisions. You can have so much fun at nightclubs. Get dressed up. Go with friends. Dance all night. Have a blast! You look great. You laugh and laugh. You wake up safe, not hung over, in your bed. Now, let that handsome man you met give you a call. Meet for breakfast in broad daylight. Get a good look at him when you’re not drunk. Then, you can decide if you want to go back to bed.