Festival Safety

Your Summer Festival Safety Guide

You’ve booked your tickets, rallied your friends and maybe even decided what order of acts from the line-up you’ll be seeing at a festival this summer. As exciting as that is, having fun is more fun when you and your friends are safe.

We’ve compiled a fairly comprehensive guide to stay safe this summer. Take what you need, or give the whole thing a good read - the important thing is to feel prepared so that you can focus on the important stuff: having fun. You don’t want to be in a situation and think, if only I had just read that UoA summer festival safety guide.

1) Travel Journey
2) Drug and Alcohol Safety
3) Looking out for your wellbeing
4) Crowd crushing and suspicious activity
5) In the case of a distressing Event

Travel Journey

If you’re driving to a festival or being carpooled there, you may already be making plans for your trip. Whether you are a competent driver or a newbie, here are some things to consider while driving.

Daylight driving ensures better visibility, less eye strain and is less fatiguing. Driving at night - especially on windy roads at high speeds can take a while to get used to. Mixing that with your loud car music and friends chatting, animals crossing and cars overtaking you, can make for quite a stressful situation. Reduce all distractions and drive at a safe speed - even if it's slower than the speed limit.
Congested traffic may be frustrating but it’s important to get there and back in one piece. Consider reducing your speed and keeping an eye out for other drivers on the road. One handy rule to remember is the ‘Four Second Rule’. Pick a marker on the road and count four seconds after the car in front passes. If you’re too close, reduce your speed. You don’t want to be liable if the car in front of you suddenly stops.
Take turns. If you’re driving others who have their licence, consider breaking up the journey and taking turns driving. Make sure to stay hydrated, take rests, eat, and have your GPS set up safely for your journey.
● Bad weather is common and if this summer is anything like our last, you may need to be more vigilant. Take note of the weather forecast, road closures, and road conditions before driving. If the road is wet or has loose gravel, reduce speed and enact the ‘Four Second Rule’.
● Sun strike can impair your vision and is rather scary if you’re unfamiliar with it. Bring Sunglasses - especially polarised ones as these take the glare out of the sun, reflections of other cars and water on the road. Use sun visors, have a clean windshield and if in doubt, pull over. It's better to be late than in a car crash.
● The day after driving, make sure to rest. If you know you have a long journey, consider arriving the day before so you get enough rest before the festival so you can make the most of your time there.

For more information, check out our in-depth guide to Road Safety.

Drug and Alcohol Safety

You may have heard of drugs such as MDMA being laced with ‘bath salts’ (synthetic cathinone), or perhaps the fentanyl overdose cases. These examples are cropping up more regularly in Aotearoa and can lead to very unpleasant outcomes… including death. We want you, your whānau and friends to stay safe! The best way to do this is to get your drugs checked.

In November 2021 the Drug and Substance Checking Legislation Act was passed, meaning there are services that check the composition of your drugs and their potency. This is a free and confidential service that you can access at various locations and at some festivals this summer. We’ve provided a brief summary of services and information below.

Get your drugs checked. In the case that your festival does not have drug checking services available, you can get it checked out ahead of time. Find out when and where the next service is through the Drug checking clinics - you can narrow down the search option to ‘Festivals’, or to ‘region’ to find out the nearest clinic to you.

Check Alerts for dangerous drugs with HighAlert, a service that provides up-to-date notices on dangerous drugs circulated in Aotearoa and their harm.

Consider Alcohol risk at festivals. You may be battling the elements, dehydration, crowds, fatigue, sunstroke and so on, therefore it’s incredibly important to mitigate this by drinking water, taking breaks in the shade, and refrain from mixing substances for the best time.

Be knowledgeable and understand the risks related to drug and alcohol use.

● KnowYourStuff has science-based information available, drug checking and a ‘Pill Library’ with their image and descriptions side by side - however this is not a substitute for drug checking.

Drug information - The Level has an in-depth guide on the main drugs and alcohol.

● NZ Drug Foundation has advice on policy, harm-reduction, and an A-Z on drug and alcohol information.

Check out: Reducing alcohol and drug harm for more.

Looking out for your Wellbeing

Part of having a really good time is looking out for you and your friends. Just as you would buy your mate a drink, you would also offer them a glass of water if you felt they needed it. Let’s consider some of the preparation and tips to make the most of your festival.

1) Plan ahead: Bring your medication, consider temperature changes, bring a battery pack for your phone, look at the festival map and save it to your phone so you don’t get lost. Pack all the essentials: don’t forget condoms if you need them. Consider ear plugs to protect your hearing.

2) Go with your friends, or people you trust. No one likes being ditched, especially if you’re in need of real help. Having someone you trust - especially over longer festivals is important. You can organise a buddy system so you don’t get lost in crowds alone, and aren’t having to rely on your phone battery a little too much.

3) Do the essentials, hydrate, eat, rest in the shade, wear a hat and apply sunblock, stay cool/ or warm in the evenings, and sleep. Enough said.

4) Drinking alcohol? Start earlier in the day and use the one drink, one water method to stay hydrated. Keep an eye on you and your friends’ drinks to avoid nasty people spiking your drink.

5) Slip, slop, slap and wrap. See here for more: Be sun smart

6) Take breaks - festivals, especially multi-day festivals, tend to have chill out areas. These should be outlined on the festival maps. They’re a great place to escape, re-group, and do the essentials before heading to the next act on your agenda.

7) Consent. Safe sex begins with consent. Someone cannot give their informed consent to sexual activity if they are too drunk, high or out of it. We recommend that you become familiar with Alcohol, other drugs and consent.

8) Safe sex - The only thing that protects from STIs are condoms. Ensure you have some if you need them. If you’re on contraception don’t forget to bring it. On the chance you have unprotected sex, get an STI check up or visit your local GP or family planning. For more information see Contraception and sexual health.

9) Beach safety - Swim between the flags, wear a hat and sunblock, and hydrate. See here for more Water Safety tips.

10) Covid-19 - If you’re wanting to stay safer at a festival, you’ve made it quite the challenge. Consider wearing a mask or bandana - which can also protect against dust. Stay hydrated and stand in less populated or dense areas.

Crowd Crushing and Suspicious Activity

Festivals amass huge crowds of people and it’s especially important to stay vigilant. The mixture of heat, dehydration, loud noises and whatever substances you may have decided to take - crowds add to the overwhelm.

Crowd crushing occurs when, as the name suggests, the crowd becomes so densely packed there is no room to move and you are crushed against others. You may remember the Astroworld crowd crush in 2021, where thousands of people were injured and 10 people died of compressive asphyxiation (external forces compressing the lungs and chest so that one is unable to breathe) - the most common cause of death from crowd crushing. There’s also the concern of being trampled on if you’re pushed to the ground - so let’s be careful.

Although festivals take measures to avoid this, where artists and security keep an eye on densely populated areas, being trapped in crowds in the blaring heat may still cause significant distress. Here are a few things to consider before entering large crowds and practical advice to prevent injury.

All prior recommendations we’ve suggested. Such as and not limited to: keeping hydrated, having a buddy system, bringing your drink bottle; having your phone charged, and so on.

● Consider where to stand. As exciting as it is to stand at the front of the moshpit, most festival and concert-goers know that the front can be pure chaos. The speakers right in your ear, people pushing you into the railings, that one person - or two - who spill their drinks all over you or elbows you in the face… it’s not for the faint of heart. To avoid being trapped, consider the back, the sides or any area that feels less congested. It enables freedom of movement, space to dance, and less pushing.

● How To Stay Safe in a Crowd Crush:

Video tips summarised here:

1) Don’t panic - stay on feet - communicate with hand gestures to friends

2) Don’t fight the crowd and try to get out of the crowd

3) Keep your arms up to your chest in a boxer’s stance, feet apart - keep your eyes open

4) If you do fall - curl up into a ball with your arms over your head to protect it - but try to get back up.

Suspicious Activity

It is such a concern that we have to consider violence and terrorism at large scale events. Aotearoa isn’t known for terrorist attacks like some larger countries we know as our gun control is fairly robust. In saying that, the March 15th attack still hangs in the air, so having some common sense, preparation and a keen eye for suspicious activity will do a lot of good in the instance that it does show up.

Although some of these points are repetitive, we hope to get across the importance of preparation:

1) Have a fully charged phone, and bring a portable charger

2) Have a buddy system

3) Study the venue in advance

4) Know escape routes/ fire exists

5) “See something, say something” - report suspicious activity / assault

6) Be aware, be alert - look after yourself

7) Flee

In the Case of a Distressing Event

You made it home but something doesn’t feel right? If you experienced a distressing event at a festival and would like to discuss it with someone, you can reach out to a range of services at the University of Auckland to get the support you need.

Te Papa Manaaki campus care - is “a safe, confidential and free service that supports the health, wellbeing and safety of everyone at the University.”

Te Papa Manaaki | Campus Care - The University of Auckland




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