No matter how many times you’ve been tailgating in Baltimore, fans should always be prepared for the unexpected. Situations can change from uncomfortable to dangerous very quickly, but by following these 10 helpful guidelines, visitors can worry less and concentrate on having fun.
- Travel in groups – especially on a night game. Safety in numbers is always your best bet, and this holds true no matter the occasion. Just like in the wild, packs are intimidating to outsiders and less likely to be bothered. But as many have seen on the National Geographic channel, we all know what happens when a member strays too far from the herd.
- Park in a lot – when possible. While sometimes lots are full or street parking may be a closer option, tailgaters in lots are undoubtedly provided with some additional safety perks. Many lots have additional security in place. Whether cameras, full-time attendants or cops, all of these are a deterrent to unnecessary crime. If street parking is your only option, be extra aware of your surroundings, trust your gut feelings and consider returning to the car before the sun goes down, especially if traveling alone or as a duo.
- Remember where you park – and the quickest, safest way to get back there after the game. This seems like a no-brainer, but every seasoned tailgater has had one of these moments, or witnessed someone else desperately trying to find the car by walking around the lots hitting the car horn button. Save yourself some unnecessary stress and jot it down in a phone if memory tends to fail you (and then be sure your phone is well charged).
- Pack away and leave no trail – valuables should be hidden before heading over to the stadium. It’s easy to get excited and leave in a rush come game time, so plan some extra time to pack wisely. One of the number one reasons for breaking into a car is electronics on display in the front seats. Also, give a quick wipe down to remove the suction cup mark left on your windshield, which is a strong indicator that a GPS unit may be stored in the car.
- Know the route home – don’t get stuck in a bad neighborhood. Baltimore is famous for making one wrong turn and you’re in the “Blue Light District.” These crime-prone areas have security cameras that can be quickly identified by flashing blue lights on the street posts. If this happens to you, don’t panic and remember that you’re only a few turns away from getting back on track. Be sure your doors are locked and stay alert. Follow your gut instincts and call for the cops when needed. There’s a reason the saying goes: Better to be safe than sorry.
- Don’t drink and drive – no excuses. Baltimore cops are cracking down on drunk driving and are out on the prowl after game time. Find a reliable P.A.S.S. (Person Assigned to Stay Sober) and save everyone the trouble.
- Fire safety – Smokey the Bear’s wise adage applies even to football fans: Only you can prevent “tailgating” fires. Always be prepared to extinguish out-of-control flames and be cautious of nearby flammable items, particularly leaves in the fall. Perhaps most importantly for grilling tailgaters is using common sense, which seems to be less common as drinking gets going. So start cooking before you’re questioning why you’ve suddenly got two grills.
- Don’t wear the opposing team’s colors – or if you’re not for the home team, at least go neutral (especially for Steelers fans). Granted everyone wants to show their team spirit and there’s respect in that, but if the Ravens don’t win the game, be prepared for some heckling and possibly poor sportsmanship on the walk to the car. If you can remain levelheaded and take the jousting with a good temper, then all the power to you – just don’t say you weren’t warned.
- Know you’re drinking cup – while the majority of Ravens tailgaters are good, generous fans that are more than happy to invite a fellow purple jersey into their tent (girls especially) should always be cautious when offered a drink from a stranger. This safety tip is good for all occasions.
- Know when to call for help – drunken brawls are best handled by the pros. If you see a fight break out, opt to call for the police who are present in numbers around the stadium perimeter as well as inside the stadium for this very reason. Let them do their job and fans can instead devote all their energy into rallying the team.
If you’re tailgating at an away game, the most important rules to follow are being aware of your surroundings and knowing your route both back to the car and home. The best way to prevent dangerous situations from developing is by staying out of them altogether. It really is that easy.
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Keri Ann Beazell is a Baltimore writer following the latest developments in arts and culture, natural wonders, lifestyle and pets. Also, she loves Ravens football. Follow her on Twitter at @KtBlue16 and online at Examiner.com