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A note to parents from the Executive Director: Janine Jordan
Our culture has seen a lot of growth in the last 10 years. A large part of that is due to the feeling of openness at our events and being accepted by others in addition to the dance provoking music, the amusements, and the overall fun. Dancing for long periods of time to beat-driven music is a moving meditation that can lead people into aspects of their own selves they have been unable to reach. Dancing with others has also been proven to connect people, or make them feel part of a community. So, it can be useful to understand that these events, can provide spiritual experiences or a sense of community for the attendees that they have never experienced before. In a time when the world is melting, there appears to be religious division in every country, and we see the ugly fangs of hate snarling through events, and personas, our festivals and the culture surrounding it can become a refuge and sanctuary. You may often hear people call these events their "church" or that is their "religion". The feeling that they take home from the festival can be hugely transforming. I can speak to this personally. I believe this is why our events have grown.
However, every activity we do carries some amount of risk. Much like any mass gathering, clubs and festivals have risk. Some of the risks involved with our events are due to large scale stage set ups, strobing, flashing lights and pyrotechnics, extreme weather conditions of heat, cold, and rain, and the logistics of moving through crowds. And of course, there is the possible drug / substance usage (including legal drugs such as alcohol, caffeinated beverages/ energy drinks, and nicotine) at our festivals. Substance usage will probably be about the same as any other festival, however, the major difference at EDM festivals is that our attendees are there because they like to dance. And dance and dance and dance some more. We are a community of marathon dancers.
Our events themselves are inherently not any more dangerous than other events. What can make our festivals appear to be more dangerous is that some of the attendees do like to take substances that can elevate body temperature and throw off the body's natural ability to regulate that temperature. As we are an open culture, there may be more social acceptance of substance usage, however, please be advised that organizers are not promoting the usage of substances. They are actually discouraging it due to not just legal reasons but risk, however, education about risks (especially substance usage) should not fall completely on the event producers. We are asking all stakeholders in the events and the lives of the attendees to share information that can save lives.
How you can help prepare your children for dance music events
We can use your help. We would like you to understand safety risks and help communicate them to your kid. Knowledge is power.
What you should learn and have conversations with your kid about are:
Heat seems to be a major component during summer festivals or in nightclubs. Whereas in snowy regions during the winter, it can be the cold at outdoor events. Although elements can be a killer alone, dangers of elemental or climate exposure can be exacerbated by substance usage. Substance usage will be defined here as both legal substances sold at events such as alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, as well as legal prescribed drugs, and illicit substances that someone might engage in on a recreational basis or be choosing to experiment with for the first time. There is a tie between being able to take care of yourself during element exposure and substances that may alter normal consciousness. It is important to understand that people may not recognize the signs of heat or cold exposure, dehydration, or even hyponatremia. It is important to be reminded of what the risks are of these conditions and symptoms whether the individual is an experienced festival goer or a first time attendee.
Our events do not promote substances usage. However, we do encourage dancing. It is important that our attendees take breaks in between dance sessions to allow the body to rest, recuperate, and most importantly cool down. Adverse reactions to prolonged heat exposure seem to be a major risk at festivals (also in clubs) these days. Fifteen minutes of relaxing and allowing the body to cool per hour is advised by one festival medical team. Please see our article you can send to your kid about being prepared for the festival.
In synergy with other substances, such as alcohol, further impairment of judgment may adversely affect the person's ability to rehydrate properly. Alcohol is a dehydrating drug in addition to its ability to impair judgment. If someone is drinking alcohol they may either forget to drink enough water or be more inclined to drink too much water to rehydrate which can also be fatal.
At very least, talk to your child about their medical history before they go to an event. They should know if they have sensitivities to heat such as the susceptibility of heatstroke, allergies (especially medicinal allergies), heart palpitations, or epilepsy. For instance, epilepsy can be triggered by strobe lights. Addressing these issues prior to the event can add a layer of mindfulness that may help your child avoid a medical tent or worst case scenario, death.
FEMA has a website called Ready.gov that talks about heat waves and when it is "too hot". Please review that website for their tips on managing heat.
If your kid/s have a sensitivity to heat and you know that the weather is indicating a heat wave, you may want to advise them to either not go, or encourage them to be extra mindful about keeping cool. Although Ready.gov lists temperature as 105-110+ degrees Fahrenheit as being a heat wave, due to the physical exertion of dancing at events, what is considered too hot could be much lower especially if dancers are in direct sunshine.
You might also encourage your kid to get an annual check up before festival season and encourage them to talk to their doctor about festivals and outdoor survival. Doctors may also understand the synergistic dangers of mixed substance usage such as the affects of alcohol and caffeine with any prescribed or recreational drugs.
Please take the time to learn about the dangers of dehyrdration, as well as hyponatremia (water intoxication) for yourself and encourage your kid to be acquainted with them as well. This goes for anyone regardless if they are not taking substances (including alcohol or caffeinated beverages) or not.
From WebMD: The foremost treatment for dehydration is prevention. Anticipate the need for increased fluid intake.
Straight talk about Substances
I would like to extend an invitation to read the Safety First guide from the Drug Policy Alliance.
A reality based approach to talking to teens and young adults about drugs. The earlier you talk to them probably the better. As seen in the DEA's National Drug Threat Assessment of 2014, drug use statistics are measured starting at middle school ages. It is better to address substance usage through education than to deny usage and prevent useful information that could save your kids life, one of their friends, or even someone at the festival they may come across.
Why would you read the Safety First guide?
What can you expect from reading this guide?
Here is an excerpt from the son of the woman who wrote the guide.
If you like this booklet and would like to have a physical copy for yourself or to order many to distribute to friends, families, or schools, you may order them directly from the Drug Policy Alliance web store.
We hope that by talking to your kids in advance of coming to events that they will make responsible choices. Supplementary, you may want to provide your kids with a resource for fact-based, non-judgmental information on different substances. We suggest using our non-profit ally DanceSafe for substance descriptions, effects, and dangers.
You may even remind your kids, on our behalf, that the organizers don't want them using illegal substances at the events because it puts the event at risk. You will find evidence of this request on the event website pages describing what is allowed and not allowed at events.
It is important to also let them know that due to concern over terrorist activities, that Homeland Security now has an invested interest in patrolling the parking lots.
They should also be warned about the consequences of being arrested if they choose to try and sneak illegal substances in. These events can only be thrown if law enforcement is present. Often a County Sheriff or local police presence will be at the gates and often with drug sniffing dogs.
A new trend at the events is that there are Amnesty boxes available for a last ditch of substances before coming in through the gates. It can be uncomfortable for someone to "throw away" substances in front of law enforcement, however, they will not be arrested or hassled for doing so.
Website Resources for Information
Beyond drug usage, we strongly suggest you talk to your kids in general about safety. DanceSafe has some great reads on their website about safety situations. You can also find links through our website.
Most festival websites these days have health and safety information. Make sure that your daughter or son are reading these pages. We recommend you look at them as well, to remind your kids what they may need to do to properly prepare. It should be easy to look up. Ask your son/daughter the event name and do a search for it with the approximate location. Or just ask your kid for the exact website URL.
Some festivals, such as Burning Man, suggest that you are fully prepared as services, such as free water, are not provided. Find out the name of the event or events you know your kids want to go to and read all the safety information on the website. If your kid is interested in outdoor, multi-day festivals, it may be a good idea to encourage your kid to take survival courses, CPR classes, or the like. It never hurts to be prepared. Festivals are like pop up cities and it can be useful to have
Encourage your kids to use sunscreens at day events, ear protection, and also talk to them (perhaps again) about both safe, and consensual sex. In regards to sunscreen, please check out the Environmental Working Group's guide to Safer Sunscreens. Not all sunscreens are created equal.
Similarly, not all ear protection is created equal. Some people equate earplugs only to the cheap, soft, spongey types that distort sound. They equate ear plugs then to a poor experience. Now, people have a fairly wide variety of companies that make inexpensive, hi-fidelity earplugs that come in sleek cases that fit easily into pockets or attach to key-chains. Hi-fidelity ear plugs allow people to enjoy quality sound, thus a good music experience, but just turned down a few decibels to make the experience safer for their long term hearing health. Hearing loss is still currently considered an inoperable, and irreversible damage.
In regards to safe sex, it can be good to have conversations so there is avoidance to unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, or unwanted acquisition of curable or incurable sexually transmitted diseases. It's important to also address sexual consent which is something that Amber the Activist is actively promoting this with her "Stop Rape Educate" campaign. Again, having a conversation can avoid possible suffering of the different parties; avoiding jail, or simply educating on what is okay and not okay so that your kid feels empowered to walk away or get help if necessary.
Please know that our community is encouraging amnesty industry-wide, and it is fairly well adopted, for reporting anything that someone sees that might help save someone else. Make sure they know and understand that they will not get in trouble for telling security about someone they saw that might need help or even one of their friends that might need help.
We are also asking our community to learn about the Rave Act and how it has impacted our industry. We believe our events can be further improved in terms of health and safety amenities offered if we can Amend the Rave Act. Please review the Amend the Rave Act website. You, and your kids 18 and up, are invited to sign the petition if you so agree.
Although there are risks involved in large festivals there are risks at house parties and smaller events as well. Larger events will typically have more services available (such as free water refill stations) than perhaps a smaller event. Large events, unlike house parties or "undergrounds" will also have government agencies there such as fire, law enforcement, and medical services.
Remember there are risks involved to going to any mass gathering event, however, getting in into your car to go to go to work or school also carries risk. Overall, please know that the industry is trying to create safe places for (in our case) electronic music enthusiasts to gather, enjoy the music, explore movement, and enjoy community in the way we love. We encourage our community to be prepared but also to enjoy life, responsibly.
Please feel free to contact us for any questions. Here are 10 simple safety tips:
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