[Editor's Note]: Josh Billings is a California-based DJ and party promoter, the brains behind the much-lauded Focus OC series of events that has brought many of the world's best underground DJs to the previously unfashionable reaches of Orange County. A major part of the local scene and a respected voice in the community, Josh put out an open letter to fellow promoters with simple and effective tools to heighten safety at warehouse parties.
None of the below is rocket science, but we should all take it upon ourselves to consider it next time we go out to have fun all night....
First, what happened in Oakland is extremely tragic. My heart goes out to all of the families & friends affected by it.
This is an open letter to the promoters that do underground parties / raves.
I gotta be honest. I’ve loved going to these events. I appreciate every promoter that took the risk to do something special over the years that may not have been exactly within the confines of the law. There’s something about a big sound system in a dark room that just resonates with me. The over produced lasers / led walls / co2 cannons of mega clubs don’t do it for me personally.
I know that with what happened in Oakland we’re going to see 2 things:
1. A huge crackdown by law enforcement on unpermitted events
2. A massive decline of underground parties because of the risks involved (legal and morally)
Now, for the promoters that STILL choose to do an event PLEASE be as safe as possible. I have attended way too many events that are scarier than I’d like to admit.
Capacity: This is the biggest one. A general rule is 1 person per 5 SQ ft, but make sure to factor in your exits. A big misconception is that capacity is “How many people can fit in a room comfortably.” That’s not correct at all. It’s “How many people can evacuate safely within a given time period” A 100,000 sq. ft. room with 1 single door as the entrance and exit is a terrifying concept to me.
Exits: Make sure your exits are easily seen and there is nothing obstructing the pathway. I’ve seen sound guys run cables in front of fire exits and / or block them off with misc staging stuff.
Make sure your rigging is safe: A stage collapse is a thing nobody wants to see happen. Those cool fabric panels you put around your stage can act as sails when the wind picks up. Have guy-wires in place when needed. Don’t overload structures / supports. If you’re flying things above people’s heads be SUPER careful and use proper materials / techniques. I’ve seen people hang speakers from their handles using rope before...so many things wrong with that statement.
Don’t underestimate stupid people: This one is self explanatory. I’ve seen some dumb people do some dumb things at events. People climb on top of speaker stacks / mess with things they have no business messing with. I had somebody unplug the DJ booth (cutting the music entirely) to charge their phone. Do what you can to keep these things secure & safe.
Remove flammable items from the venue: This also seems like a no brainer, but I’ve been to parties that were some type of furniture warehouse and they had sofas everywhere...with fire performers about 5 feet away from them...scary stuff.
Keep the fire outside: Fire performers are a big thing right now...and they are awesome, but please keep it outside. You’re just asking for trouble trying things like that indoors.
Now I’m not a lawyer, so don’t take any of this as legal advice, these are just some things that I’ve noticed over the years. I’m sure there’s an infinite amount more that I’m not thinking of. If you’re attending an event and don’t feel safe, leave and let the promoter know why you’re leaving. Great music is everywhere, dangerous parties are few and far between.