Preparing to make events safe
ALPENA – When large events are held in Alpena with a lot of people in attendance, the likelihood of health and criminal emergencies increase. That is why including local police and fire departments in the planning and logistics process is important.
By having emergency personnel involved it helps to allow them to consider what measures to take to make sure staffing needs will be met and equipment ready and in place, should something unfortunate take place.
Fire Chief Bill Forbush said the fire department will work closely with agencies such as the Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Development Authority. He said when permits are issued to hold an event he reviews them and them signs off on them. Forbush said that is when the response planning begins.
“For the large events we are involved in the planning from the early stages. There is a lot involved and is not simple to plan and coordinate for thousands of people who are in pretty much the same place,” Forbush said. “Once the event is planned we do a realistic risk assessment and look into what a worse case scenario would be and how we would respond and what we would need. We look at how many people there may be at the event, traffic, access, how many people we would need and have the equipment ready. There is a lot that goes into it.”
Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Hahn said city police, the sheriff department and MSP pull together during large events with one taking the lead, depending on jurisdiction. He said his department is always prepared to assist when needed. He said for events in Alpena he has noticed that even when there are many people in town for an event, most of them behave and there are not as many problems as one would think. He said despite this, the MSP is prepared to deal with any situation that arrives.
“We always have to be ready for an emergency or criminal activity if it takes place. We need to be prepared for anything that might come up. If we need to put on more troopers we have an overtime budgeted for and even though we keep close tabs on it, if we need them to help during an event we will,” Hahn said. “I think overall the crowds that come to Alpena conduct themselves admirably. Of course when there are that many people in close proximity of each other there are going to be some issues, especially if there is alcohol involved, but I haven’t noticed added problems or overall bad behavior.”
Forbush said his department will have a presence at several of the events in Alpena this summer. He said the city’s mobile command unit will be set up at the Fourth of July fireworks, as well as the fireworks show during the Harley Owners Group Rally in late July. He said making sure the staffing levels are appropriate and having logistics involving traffic and access worked out before the event takes place is important. He said the quicker help can arrive to the scene, the better chance people have if they are hurt, or a victim of a crime.
“Cooperation and pre-planning between departments and organizers is a must,” Forbush said. “If we weren’t briefed ahead of time, we would be left in the dark. I think because we are so prepared it helps from there being any major problems. If there is something though, then we’re prepared to handle it.”
Hahn said every emergency scenario and response needs is considered and should something occur that is larger than what the area departments can handle alone, additional assistance can be provided by the MSP in a relatively short period of time.
“We are an agency that is always ready to mobilize to any location in the state for any emergency,” Hahn said. “If something were to happen in Alpena not only at an event, but at any time, and we needed help, we can provide hundreds of troopers very quickly to assist.”