Festivals are full of fun, but they can also be full of chaos. They’re populated with people you don’t know, and often, they are held in an area you may not be too familiar with. Trust your instinct if a situation feels unsafe to you, and remember that your wellbeing is always the top priority. Your safety takes precedence over being polite or someone else’s discomfort. In a perfect world, a safety guide wouldn’t be needed, but in this one, we’d like to provide you with the best tips and advice.
Watch your drinks.
Accept drinks directly from bartenders and servers. Don’t accept drinks from strangers, and don’t leave them unattended. Many dissolving drugs will taste salty, but that can be harder to detect in flavored drinks. The first thing to do if you suspect you have been drugged is to alert the bartender or the nearest available festival staff member. Ask to be escorted to on-site first aid, security, or law enforcement. There is a device called the SipChip that allows users to test their drink for drugs, as well as covers for drinks such as the Nightcap, Cheal Patch, or My Cup Cover.
Download safety apps.
There are mobile apps that use subtle features to alert authorities or notify designated contacts of your location. Shake2Safety for Android sends emergency messages to a contact after tapping the power button four times or shaking the phone while the app is open. BSafe, available for Apple and Android, uses an SOS system activated by touch or by voice commands with a key phrase the user can set up. It then starts recording and sends the recording and your location to your chosen contacts. Newer phone models have a built-in feature where quickly pressing the lock screen button five times in a row immediately calls 911. Whatever method you choose, make sure to install your chosen app well ahead of the festival so you have time to get familiar with it.
Utilize the buddy system.
Huddle up with your festival group and establish a designated meeting area in case of emergencies. Apps such as Find My Friends allow you to track your friends’ locations. However, it’s an internet-based service and won’t work if the person is without cellular service or WiFi, nor if their phone is off or dead. Asking a friend to accompany you to the bathroom or to get snacks is always a safe bet. If you absolutely cannot control your solo wanderlust, be sure to text or tell a buddy exactly where you’re going, how long you plan to be there, and what you plan to do after.
Don’t take anything you aren’t familiar with.
You should know the source and dose of everything that goes in your body – even for things like ibuprofen. A medication taken from a stranger or from a friend-of-a-friend may not always be what they say it is. A festival isn’t usually the best place to experiment with new substances. Do not mix medications or drugs with alcohol, as you cannot be sure of how they will react with one another. For example, ibuprofen and alcohol mixed together can cause nausea and stomach bleeding.
Make sure your group stays on the outer edges of large crowds when things are getting chaotic. It’s important to know where exits are and have an escape plan in mind. If you find yourself in a tight position, keep your arms out in front of you; this helps prevent head and chest injuries. If you sense that a crowd surge is happening, try your best to stay on your feet and move with the flow of the crowd. Packed crowds can be unpredictable. In the event that you do find yourself on the ground, curling into the fetal position is safer than lying flat.
Drink plenty of water.
If the festival takes place in the summertime or a warm location, water intake is key. Even if it means having to go to the bathroom every hour, the risk of dehydration is not worth it. Bring a thermal bottle that will keep your water cold. If you can’t bring containers with liquid into the venue, bring an empty one and fill it there. If you’re dancing, drinking alcohol, or doing anything that drains your body, you should be drinking more water than usual.
Leave valuables at home.
Keep your expensive items where they can’t be stolen, like at home or at your hotel. Keep your phone, money, ID, and any other essential items in your front pockets, fanny pack, or on a lanyard around your neck so they are less likely to fall out of your bag or be stolen. The fewer items you bring, the less you have to worry about! Something valuable you absolutely shouldn’t leave at home: sunscreen. There’s nothing that kills the vibe at a festival like being sunburnt – or even worse, sun poisoning. Use a sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30, and reapply it every couple of hours.
We hope you have a blast during this summer festival season, and most importantly, stay safe. If you’re stumped on the best meeting place for your crew, the bathrooms are usually centrally located and well-lit – and hopefully, they’ll be as clean as Kerkstra’s portable restrooms! This year, we’re servicing some festivals like Electric Forest and Wheatland, so we’ll see you there.