First, I would like to thank you all to your kind and thoughtful responses to last week’s blog entry about clown fear VS bullying. Some of you even went so far as to email the anchor woman.
I have yet to receive a response from her on my email. My guess is she didn’t take my concerns seriously. Yes, it is the battle we face, not being taken seriously, but it is worth the effort.
Moving on to another challenge: what to do when a clown has an accident!
Recently we have had a couple of accidents in Mooseburgerland. Two of our dear friends had accidents that required trips to the hospital with extensive care and recovery time.
An accident while in clown is no laughing matter.
Do you know what to do when you have a clown down?
Most of us a smart enough to dial 911, but as we learned there is more to it than a call to the proper authorities.
Today, it’s as simple as dialing 911.
Ever since 1968, with those three little numbers, you can reach the fire department, the police, or an ambulance — regardless of calling from a land-line or a mobile phone. When you call 911, an emergency operator — called a dispatcher — immediately connects you to the person you need. If you are entertaining in a large school or business, be sure to know how to get an outside line so you can dial 911.
Other countries may use another three numbers. In Great Britain, for instance, it’s 999. If you’re not sure which emergency number is used in your area, check your local phone book.
Not sure when to call 911? Review this handy guide from the United States Government.
Know what you will be asked. Don’t panic. Make sure that you are aware of each of the following:
- Where is the emergency? The emergency is not always located where you are calling from. Always be aware of your surroundings and where you are. Try to keep a watch out for the road signs, business names and intersections whenever you may travel. If you are calling from a mobile phone, tell them your location as soon as possible, as you may need to be transferred to the appropriate call center and have to start over with a new operator.
- Nature of the emergency: Do you require assistance from law enforcement, medical professionals, and/or fire fighters? In certain areas, the dispatcher or a computer will tell you to dial certain numbers to help them know which department to connect you with and whom you should talk to.
- A detailed, yet concise, description: What happened? How many details do you know? What should have the most importance? In general, the most important thing is why you need assistance (a gunshot wound, for example), followed by what caused you to need assistance (say, a school shooting).
- Your contact info. Know the number of your phone, your name, and any other contact information needed. The dispatcher will need instructions on how to get to where you are, and may need to call back for more information.
- Listen to the dispatcher and follow his/her orders. Know that even as he/she is still talking to you, help is already on the way.
- Don’t hang up yet! Anything can happen before first responders arrive, so it is important to stay on the line until the dispatcher tells you it is okay to hang up. Stay calm and communicate everything to the people around you.
Call the family
When we are out clowning around, do we have the contact information for the spouses or loved ones of our clown friends in our phones?
We discovered quite quickly how important it is to have this information handy. At the very least have a detailed contact list tucked into your car. Without this information you will not be able to notify the family of the clown in trouble.
If you have clowns in your club with health issues it would be good to discuss what to do in case they have trouble. Don’t assume everyone knows you are a diabetic! Or that they know what to do in case you have a problem.
Put this on your agenda to discuss at the next clown club meeting. Besides having the emergency contacts and health info on a sheet of paper, also send it in an email to the club members and program it into your cell phone’s address book so it can be accessed quickly.
The next issue, while not as urgent but still important, is finding a clown replacement.
The most important thing to have is a PLAN! We have a great clown club here in my local area. There is a lot of enthusiasm and the meetings are filled with laughter and learning. Many of our clowns are busy all summer with various parades, shows, and special events. With a clown down during a busy summer schedule there can be problems keeping all your performance obligations covered.
Who do you call for face painting, balloons, walk arounds, or skits? This is another excellent topic for a clown club meeting. Have your members list what they are willing and able to do. Put it on a call list with everyone’s cell phone number. That way if a clown goes down and you need a substitute, you don’t waste time calling folks who don’t have the skill needed to do the job.
Don’t worry; you don’t have to be the best face painter or juggler or whatever to step in and help out. Be honest and let them know you are a beginner! The kids will get a big kick out of it and most folks will understand that you are a stand-in!
Keep in mind this advice is for volunteer performances.
Clowns-for-hire should follow a different set of rules for this type of clown emergency:
Be professional. If a client is expecting an experienced face painter or clown magician, this is NOT the time to wing it with a beginner. It is better to call your client and explain your situation than try to just get by with a substitute. Honesty is the best policy! Especially for clowns!
Okay, so maybe you or your fellow clown got a cut, an allergy attack, or a burn, or a migraine while on the job. Let’s say something happens that is NOT worthy of a 911 call. But it’s still a show-stopper. Have a first-aid kit packed with your props. These are easily available at any drug store.
Include things specific to your club’s needs. Maybe a few ice packs for your knees after a long parade? How about extra bandages for your blisters, when you decided to wear those ill-fitting shoes? Don’t forget spare safety pins and bobby pins to fix costume malfunctions or a loose wig on windy days.
Prepare for fun, and prevent injury. Click here to read my advice to keep yourself ready for a clown emergency this summer. It has a stretching chart, packing list, parade tips, and ways to stay comfy and cool while on-the-go!
Send in the Clowns!
So what if a disaster happens to someone outside of your act and emergency professionals are already taking care of the situation? Let’s say this might be an accident at the circus, carnival, grand opening, or business expo. It sounds trite and even callous to say “the show must go on” while bodies are lying broken and being attended to by first responders.
But the truth is in the event of an emergency the clown is a powerful tool.
When I was a clown on Ringling Bros. we knew in an event of an emergency we would be called to come on a second’s notice to entertain the crowds in time of need. The clown is a needed distraction in the event of a real emergency. I remember clowning after several aerial falls, and a clown stilt walker falling. A member of my circus family was hurt and we needed to put on a happy face. The crowd if filled with families and this is not the time to let them down.
If this happens to you at an event, be ready to stand tall and be a welcomed distraction.
Keep your head. Get someone out of make-up to make the 911 call if you can. Stay on hand to divert or distract the crowds away from the scene. Be calm and fun, not overly wacky. Yes it is okay to say everything is going to be alright. Do NOT give details. It is not your place. Do not draw attention to the accident. Guide people away from it. Be a fun distraction.
Most folks will not even know what is going on if you do your job right.
More articles for clowns dealing with not-so-funny issues:
- How to cope with grief and keep clowning
- When “funny” isn’t enough – Dealing with depression and suicide
- How to say “no” when you are overwhelmed
- Dealing with transitions in your life
- You never know who will be touched by your presence
- How should clowns react when tragedy strikes?
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Be inspired! Read more “how-to” blog posts about clown clubs:
- Facebook for Clowns – Protect your brand, build your clown business, and secure your online privacy
- 5 Ways to improve communication – Get your clown alley back to business
- What keeps a clown club thriving? – The answer may surprise you
- Everybody wins! – A Kazoo Band is the perfect clown unit activity
- How to travel as a clown – How well do you pack for your clown?
- Plan Ahead – Is your clown alley prepared for success?
- Clowning with Kids – Adding children to your parade unit is fun!
- How to wash off clown makeup – Do it the right way?
- Surviving the Summer – Tips for staying cool, looking fresh, and beating the heat