The fire in Oakland is a terrible, tragedy. A number of young lives have been lost needlessly and many families and friends are going through the fear and worry of waiting to hear if their loved one is okay or hear the news that they are fearing that their loved one has died. Unfortunately, this was a tragedy that was waiting to occur and could happen again.
These “underground parties” are very common with teenagers and college students. The place of the parties are usually posted on Facebook or other social media sites that teenagers use the day before the party. Typically these parties occur in warehouses in Oakland and San Francisco. The party organizers do not get permits nor do they consider safety. Typically at these parties there is a lot of alcohol and drugs such as ecstasy, pink, spice, wax, heroin etc. Therefore, the party organizers are looking for out of the way locations were they are unlikely to be detected by the police.
Many teenagers view these parties as fun because of the dancing and because typically these parties start late at night and go until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. Also since it is undergone if they want to drink or use any of the drugs they can. All they need is the money to buy it and no one will stop them.
Typically a teen will be looking on social media to find the underground parties for the weekend. Often while online they meet other people who are going and they often make plans to go with someone they just met online. Since the parties start usually after 10pm many parents don’t know if their teenager is going to an underground party. The teen usually says they are spending the night at a friends house and they sneak out of the friends house to go to the party.
I have had many teenagers tell me about these parties. When I point out the risk such as they don’t know anything about who set it up, the safety of the area or the warehouse, the safety of the people since they just met these people and the safety of the drugs since they have no idea about what they are really taking or drinking. Teenagers tend to say that I am over concerned and there is nothing to worry about because they have gone to these parties before.
However, the fire in Oakland shows there is something to worry about. The organizer had no concerns about safety nor is he taking responsibility for the fire and what happened. Furthermore, since it was done secretly no one knows for sure who was there and if they are safe or not. I saw a page on Facebook for people to check in as safe. However, this doesn’t help the families who are waiting to hear about a loved one or who lost a loved one.
Parents this is an excellent time to sit down with your teenager and talk about these “underground parties.” Discuss the dangers associated with these parties. Teenagers may argue about the fact that these parties are safe, but point to the Oakland party as an example that the parties are not safe. Discuss with your teen other places they can go to and hear the tech and dance music and where they can go and dance.
Parents we also need to put pressure on the authorities to hold the owner of these warehouses and party organizers responsible for what happens at these parties. This fire was a horrific event, but many kids overdose at these parties. Many of these teens die because no one wants to call the police or everyone is so busy dancing and using that they don’t notice if someone has overdosed. Again, the organizer is never held responsible.
One last point, parents when you discuss the “underground parties” with your teenagers use the Oakland fire as proof that bad things can and do happen. Many teenagers feel safe taking chances with their lives because they don’t believe anything will happen to them. The tragedy in Oakland proves something can happen.
My thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost a loved one in the fire or who are still waiting to hear. My thoughts and prayers are also with the first responders who are working day and night and also being traumatized by what they are seeing. This is a terrible tragedy that we hopefully will learn from and prevent another tragedy in the future.
Dr. Michael Rubino has over 19 years experience working with teenagers and learning about their online activities. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.