Whichever festival you’re attending, whether music or literature focused, abroad or in the UK, day-long or spanning a week, the safety risks remain the same…
Festivals are exhausting and the late nights, strange food and different living conditions can take their toll on people’s health.
Collapse is one of the most serious issues that can occur
This is most commonly due to dehydration, which is one of the biggest hazards of festivals due to all the exercise, heat and consumption of diuretics (alcohol or coffee). Always carry water and have sips often. Note that alcohol is a diuretic and will make you pee more – and dehydrate you more. Taking drugs also make it more likely you may suffer from serious dehydration. – LINK to dehydration article
Know where to go
The sites that festivals are on can be huge and confusing, especially with the crowds and loud music. Normally, there will be a map available – if not physical copies, there will should be an online version you can download on your phone.
If you’re camping, make sure you choose a spot you’ll be able to find later on (potentially in the dark). It’s worth making a note of where the toilets and first aid areas are too. Plus, you and your group should decide on a spot to meet at if you all get lost.
Re-charging your phone
Phone batteries will not last long when you are videoing and sharing the excitement. Take back up charging banks and re-charge your phone whenever you get a chance. It is worth paying for one of the lockers as they usually have charging points inside. If you use a back up charger, you can charge that and keep your phone on you.
The festival will have lit-up paths to guide you around the site in the safest way possible – this is of course most necessary in the dark. Sites are often on woodland areas and other uneven ground surfaces so sticking to well lit paths should reduce the chance you have a nasty fall!
Try to take a phone if you can – an older model into which you can put your SIM card may well have a longer battery life and is ideal for taking to a festival. Nowadays, nearly all festivals have phone charging points too – but there will be a hefty fee for these!
Take a personal safety alarm if possible.
Your personal stuff
The most common crime at festivals is theft. The best way to avoid this is by leaving any valuables at home (another reason to leave your up-to-date smartphones behind). It’s a good idea to take a small handbag or backpack with you that you can carry your bank card, cash and mobile with you at all times.
If you do lose something, don’t forget to go to the lost & found area. Things are easily lost at festivals and lots of attendees and stewards would sooner hand them in rather than take them.
If it’s a lost phone, don’t forget to ask a friend to ring the phone to see if someone answers. They might have accidentally found it or picked it up but not yet found the lost & found centre.
Drink and drugs
Alcohol and drugs are rife at festivals, what with the party atmosphere. You must remember that these substances can affect your judgement and ability to react in an emergency. They can also be extremely dangerous and unless there is a drug testing service, you have no idea what exactly you are taking.
Remember to drink water – remember the one-to-one ration of alcohol and water. This is where you match each alcoholic drink with the same amount of water.
If you do take drugs, be very careful about mixing them and taking them with alcohol. The combination of some of these could prove fatal.
If the festival you’re attending offers this service, and you are intending to take drugs, you should absolutely go to a drug testing area where chemists will test the content of recreational substances. This is a non-judgemental area where you are given the basic facts about your drugs, so that you make a fully informed decision about what to take and how much of it. This way, you’ll know what you’re putting into your body and be able to personally regulate it.
They can then tell you exactly what percentage of different drugs make up the powder or pill you’ve bought.
Interestingly, around half of users who were surveyed having had their drugs tested, disposed of their drugs after using this service, or took less of them than planned. As a result, there were far fewer hospitalisations.
Beware of anyone offering you drink – alcoholic or soft drink, or even water bottles which can also be spiked with substances. Carry your drink with you at all times. There are various innovations that can help you to check if your drink has been spiked, including some clever nail varnish that will detect unusual substances if you dip your finger in your drink.
Remember, the festival will always have adequate medical help on hand to help you in an emergency. If you become worried about a friend (or about yourself), go straight to the medical section where the staff will be ready to look after you.
Don’t worry about having consumed illegal substances, or being drunk. These staff are used to festival goers and are there to help anyone in need. It’s better to seek treatment before someone becomes at serious risk of injury or other crisis.
If you have a medical condition, try to wear a bracelet or tag that states your condition. You should also be extra wary of alcohol and drugs – particularly if you are taking medication.
Condoms are crucial to your safety if you are to have sexual relations at a festival.
Keep condoms away from oil-based products such as sun cream, wet wipes and hand gel.
Some festival medical centres also offer the Morning After Pill.
There will be police or festival security who need to be informed of any crime committed against you. The world of the festival may seem far away from reality but British law and order still apply.
Plus, you could prevent someone else from falling victim to the same crime.
Take the sensible precaution of writing down your bank’s telephone number so that you can quickly cancel your bank card in the event of it being stolen or lost.
Take a taxi number and a list of emergency contacts as well as festival friend’s mobile numbers.
Keep this list as a physical copy, otherwise you’ll be totally reliant on your mobile.
Even if you don’t think you suffer from claustrophobia, the intensity of the crowds at festivals could start to unsettle you, particularly as you become more tired and homesick.
Feelings of claustrophobia can lead to panic.
Choose spaces at the back of the tent or field so that you have more space when watching artists. The front of the crowds can get extremely rowdy and many injuries occur from people moshing.
Leaving before the last song will allow you to avoid the crowds.
If you are starting to feel overwhelmed and emotional, carve out some time for yourself. It can be incredibly intense being with a group of friends in such an energetic atmosphere, especially when lack of sleep and substances are involved. It’s not unusual to need some alone time.
If you find yourself in this situation, take yourself off for a walk or to a chill out zone, or to have a meal from a shack. Try and get away from the sound and crowds for a while. Taking a break will help you carry on enjoying the rest of the festival without suffering an anxiety attack.
If you do have feelings of panic, try long slow calming breaths.
Slips, trips and falls
You should find some ankle-protecting footwear so that you have the least chance of slipping, tripping or falling. These could be DMs, hiking boots or sturdy trainers. Don’t opt for wellies as these are not good for your feet. Many chiropodists have an influx of people with a form of trench foot, that can occur in just a few days of persistent wellie wearing without regular washing of feet and changing into dry socks.
Above all, enjoy your festival experience. Planning ahead makes a huge difference.
Understanding how to help in a medical emergency and recognising early signs of a problem, will also give you peace of mind. First Aid for Life arrange specific first aid for teenager’s courses for groups and individuals and we are always happy to address festival dangers and medical emergencies, along with many other topics.
Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life
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