How To: Festival Safety


Thomas Evans

It’s good to know where you are when going to a big festival in order to be knowledgeable of where the security is and what to do in case you find yourself in a dangerous situation. The Millennium Park stage hosts many big festivals each year, including the Chicago Blues Festival.

Although “Festival Season” is behind us, our November magazine issue’s theme is safety. Being informed now will prepare you for the days filled with music, dancing and food next year and so on. The information in this article comes from my own experience and outside sources to provide you with the best tips and tricks to staying safe at festivals.

1. Hydration is key

Festival season most likely comes along with the heat. Being out in the sun requires you to drink water, drink water and drink more water. During festivals, this is even more important because it is likely that you are dancing or jumping around, which dehydrates your body more.

Although you may feel that any beverage will help you rehydrate, Medical West, a hospital affiliated with the UAB Health System in Alabama, informs the public on its website that “a common mistake many people make is grabbing an ice-cold soda or energy boosting drink instead of water, but these beverages can actually cause you to become even more dehydrated.”

To make sure that you are rehydrating with water, many festivals, such as Lollapalooza, have hydration stations where you have the opportunity to refill water bottles. Take time in between shows to make this a priority stop to ensure that you are sufficiently hydrated and able to enjoy the performances.

2. Dangers of substance use and abuse

The consumption of alcohol or drugs can be dangerous no matter your surroundings, but this danger can increase at festivals.

Alcohol consumption has multiple negative outcomes. According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, short-term effects include “slurred speech, drowsiness, impaired judgment, distorted vision and hearing, memory loss, etc,” while long-term effects can be, but are not limited to, “alcohol poisoning, heart-related diseases, nerve damage, liver disease, and permanent damage to the brain.”

While there is a great risk that comes with doing illegal drugs in itself, also realize that these substances can be tampered with. Drugs can be laced with other drugs, which can make the original one stronger and potentially more lethal.

For example, Laguna Treatment Hospital, a facility for addicts in California, referring to the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, notes that “people who smoke formaldehyde-dipped marijuana can wind up with a mental health condition called dysmnesia, which includes memory loss and disordered memory.”

Furthermore, mixing drugs and alcohol can have unpredictable and unwanted consequences.

Project Know, an American Addiction Centers resource, states that “in 2011, more than 14 percent of emergency department visits, or roughly 520,000 cases, involved a combination of drugs and alcohol.”

3. Take time to relax

Along with the many performances that you may be trying to fit into your schedule, make sure to leave time to relax. A couple days, or even one day at a festival, can be exhausting and quite wearing on your body. To ensure that you are ready to sing or dance your heart out with the next artist, it is crucial to find a shady spot where you can take a quick break. Many people get sore feet from walking around all day, too. Sitting down for a bit is a great way to rejuvenate your energy and give your tired feet a break.

4. Pay attention to your drinks

While walking around at a festival, you may have a drink without a cap or lid. Understandably, the top to your drink may be a nuisance to keep track of, so you toss it. This may be a convenience in the short run, but many people don’t consider the possible consequences of this careless act. With or without having a cap to your drinks, it is crucial that you pay close attention to what is being put into it. Spiking a drink is when someone deliberately adds alcohol or a drug to a drink to make a victim feel more intoxicated.

“Most date rape drugs take effect within 30 minutes and symptoms usually last for several hours,” says the National Health Service of England. “If your drink has been spiked, it’s unlikely that you will see, smell or taste any difference. Some drugs, such as GHB, may taste slightly salty or smell unusual. If you start to feel strange or more drunk than you should be, get help immediately.”

This is why it is so important to buy and pour your own drinks, as well as keep an eye on your beverages when they are in your hand. Most importantly, do not accept drinks from strangers.

5. Make plans for travel

Clearly, you’ll need transportation to and from the festival that you are attending. Making plans beforehand on how to get home after the end of a festival is exceptionally helpful to your safety. Festivals tend to go late into the night, so by the time you leave, it is dark out and there will be a large surge of people leaving the venue along with you. By making precise plans beforehand, such as downloading an Uber app or searching train times, you can save yourself a great amount of time and stress, along with problems like missing the time of your transportation. The greatest concerns with traveling is knowing not to accept a ride from people outside of your group. Even if you met them at the festival, understand that you don’t truly know that person and cannot trust them.

6. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings

As soon as you get to a festival, it is important to know what is around you and how to get from one place to another. This way, you’ll not only know how to be efficient when going from one stage to another, but also it’ll be helpful if you get lost or separated from your group. Many times maps are offered at the gate of the event to familiarize yourself with the layout of the festival. If not, festivals such as Country Thunder offer a map on their website that you can use. Remember to designate a meeting spot in the beginning of the day in case your group purposely or accidentally splits up.

7. Keep your belongings secured

Not only is it common to lose belongings, but they are often stolen at festivals. These events are notorious for people stealing phones.

At the Shaky Beats Music Festival in Atlanta in 2018, “police recovered dozens of cell phones reported stolen…after tracking them to an Atlanta FedEx,” reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Imagine looking down into an open fanny pack where your phone used to be. You may not have even felt anything, regardless, you no longer have a phone. Keeping your most important belongings like a phone or money in a safe place close to your body is key. It becomes risky when you put these items in a zipper pocket or behind you in a backpack.

8. Use the Buddy System

Imagine being alone in a crowd of people who are pushing and shoving to get to their next concert. You’ve lost your group. There are thousands of people at festivals, which makes finding your one group of friends quite difficult. Using the Buddy System is an easy way to prevent being left alone. If you’re going to a different performance, getting food, or going to the bathroom, bring one of your friends with you. When wandering alone, you are also more vulnerable.

As stated on the University of Michigan’s Dean of Students website, “those who want to sexually harass, steal from, or assault a person are less likely to choose [you] if [you’re] with someone else.”

Avoid these dangers by staying with another person you trust at all times throughout your day.

9. Stay safe if you hook up

Know that if you choose to hook up with someone at or after a festival, it is important that you stay safe. Take caution if you leave the festival with intentions to go to another person’s apartment or hotel. This can be very dangerous, especially if you are with a stranger.

The University of California Police Department advises that you “talk to your friends. Agree to look out for each other. Let them know if you plan on leaving with someone, where you’re going, and when you’ll be back.”

You can do this by sharing your location over text, with Find My iPhone or even by turning on Snap Maps on Snapchat to keep in touch with your group.

It is also extremely important to “know your sexual boundaries and that you have a right to say ‘No’ no matter the circumstances,” states the UCPD.

10. Don’t forget your medication

If you have any type of medication that you use daily, it is smart to bring it to the festival with you. A daily pill or something of this sort is important to include in your bag just in case plans change and you have to stay overnight near the festival site due to a mishap in plans or otherwise. If you use an inhaler, an EpiPen, or other medication for emergencies, these are important to bring too, in case something goes wrong while you are at the festival.