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How Not to Die at an Underground Party in L.A.

12:30 PM PST on January 9, 2020

[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]n underground party in a Fashion District warehouse erupted into chaos late November after a man pulled out a gun and fired multiple rounds into the crowd during a fight. Six partygoers were injured in the shooting while more than 200 people fled into the street to escape the gunfire. The shooting is still under investigation, but questions regarding safety and security have arisen among Los Angeles’ nightlife community. 

Shootings may be a rarity in Los Angeles’ underground party scene; however, these spaces are less regulated and do have the potential to be less safe, said Nikola Hlady of the Los Angeles Nightlife Alliance

Underground parties at warehouses and other unlicensed venues have long been at the core of the electronic music scene in Los Angeles, helping launch the careers of world-renowned DJs like Doc Martin and Esteban Adame who circulated among the Latinx rave scene of the ‘90s. 

Attendance to these types of events and the frequency at which they happen show no signs of slowing, with groups like Late Night Laggers drawing large crowds with their lineups that feature big names in the global bass scene and Midnight Lovers which continues to dominate the underground house, techno, and disco scene in downtown since 2014. 

The limited hours of regulated nightlife in L.A., the sense of personal freedom underground events provide, and the ability for underground nightlife to cater to the specific sub-cultures of the city are what continue to draw people to underground events, Hlady said. 

To keep the underground nightlife community safe takes a level of awareness and self-policing from partygoers, so L.A. Taco gathered tips from the Los Angeles Nightlife Alliance and local law enforcement to help partygoers take their safety into their own hands at warehouse parties and other unlicensed events. 

A fire or natural disaster

Partygoers should make note of entrances and exits when they come into the space, says Nikola Hlady of the Los Angeles NIghtlife Alliance. “If the space does not have exit signs, make sure you stay sober enough to maneuver a venue safely in case of an emergency.” Watch out for overloaded sockets, open flames, and smoking inside of the venue, which can all create potential fire hazards. 

“Community policing and a shared responsibility of safe partying can foster a safer event.”

A shooting or other violent situation

RUN. It may seem like an obvious move in an instance of gun violence, but the authorities’ top recommendation to staying safe in an active shooting event is to leave your belongings behind and run. Once outside and out of the range of the shooter, prevent others from entering the venue and contact the police immediately.  

Drug or alcohol overdose

“With a nationwide increase in illicit drug use over the years and a recent rise in lethal overdose cases [...] community policing and a shared responsibility of safe partying can foster a safer event,” Hlady said. When using recreational drugs, know your limits, stay hydrated and test your drugs using at-home testing kits to avoid ingesting potentially dangerous adulterants found in MDMA and other street drugs. 

Watch out for events that may be overcrowded or lack proper air conditioning and ventilation which can cause the body to overheat. California’s good Samaritan laws protect those who provide assistance in an overdose-related emergency, so don’t hesitate to call emergency services if you suspect somebody may be suffering from an overdose. 

Park in a well lit and relatively busy area, walk to and from the car with two or more people and keep your head out of your phone.

Getting to and from an event in an isolated area

A lot of underground parties happen to be in marginalized and sometimes unsafe spaces given that they need to be clandestine and avoid noise impacts to nearby residents, Hlady said. Park in a well lit and relatively busy area, walk to and from the car with two or more people and keep your head out of your phone, recommends Officer Drake Madison, a spokesperson with the Los Angeles Police Department. Always be aware of your surroundings and have your keys ready once you reach your car, Madison said. 

Sexual harassment

Stay close to your friends and watch out for each other, Madison said. If you or another partygoer is being harassed, notify security immediately and demand they remove any and all perpetrators from the event, he added.

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