Being prepared: Chief Harvey talks event planning at council meeting

By on July 5, 2017

Ephrata Police Chief William “Bill” Harvey often refers to “the Bubba factor” when discussing how to plan a public event.

No matter how meticulously planned, any type of event can go awry, and that’s why local police add “the Bubba factor” to their list of contingencies.

“The Bubba factor is stupid people doing stupid things at public events,” Harvey told borough council Monday evening.

Harvey’s presentation detailed the police department’s efforts behind the scenes of public events, including how they prepare for unexpected emergencies.

Ephrata Police Chief William Harvey

From criminal activity to a severe storm, a pickpocket or a bee sting, any number of natural or manmade problems can disrupt public gatherings.

Detailed planning and coordinating of events can increase safety for visitors and participants and lower the risk of injury, property damage or possible litigation, Harvey said.

“Good planning can also improve the borough’s image,” Harvey said. “They want to come here because they know it’s done right.”

The police department and emergency services play a big role in every community event, including fairs, public festivals, craft shows, running and bicycling events, parades, and more.

In the end, good planning prevents bad endings, Harvey said.

If traffic management becomes an afterthought, for example, it could dampen the atmosphere of an entire event.

When a promoter approaches the borough’s emergency services inquiring about an event, police should ask themselves two questions: “What do we really know? And, what do we need to know?” Harvey said.

Those questions can encompass anything from the type of event to who’s responsible for making sure the lighting is adequate, to where everything will be located, from the musical groups to the food trucks.

Promoters must be aware of all they need to stage events, like obtaining health certificates if they’re planning a petting zoo.

The promoter needs to have animal health certificates before the animals can make contact with the public.

Promoters need to go through a specific process, and make sure they stay within their time-line constraints. The first thing a promoter needs to do is contact the Borough and Emergency Management staffers, Harvey said.

The police department and emergency services play a big role in every community event, including fairs, public festivals, craft shows, running and bicycling events, parades, Photo at this year’s Ephrata Brewfest.

Council President Susan E. Rowe asked Harvey if it would help to have promoters contact the police chief and inform him of their upcoming event before the Council’s voting session, held the second Monday of each month.

“We’ll let them know that one condition of approval is they have to contact the police chief,” Rowe said.

Over the years, Harvey said he’s learned that surprises are never good in event management planning.

Harvey also presented “Incident Action Plans” to Council, saying they are the best way to “plan for planned events.”

If emergency shelter would be needed during a large outdoor event, police need to know what resources are available and where to direct people.

“The first 20 minutes of a response decides your destiny,” Harvey said.

Before any major event takes place, the police department will do a hazard evaluation and risk assessment, taking into account many different variables.

They will also consider how many personnel are available and what equipment is on hand.

If all the pre-event work seems excessive, Harvey reminded Council that good planning has been shown to save lives and increase everybody’s safety.

“We treat every event as a learning experience,” Harvey said.

Large events create their own type of logistic nightmares.

The Ephrata Fair is one of the most complex local events, Harvey said, and requires year-’round planning.

For an expected crowd of 10,000 or more people, an application to PEMA (Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency) / Homeland Security is needed one year in advance of the event, and for the 2017 fair, initial plans were submitted last August, Harvey said.

At the beginning of the meeting, Rowe asked for a moment of silence to remember William Hecker’s family. Hecker, a former council president, passed away recently and had been on borough council for 20 years, serving as borough president for 14 years.

He was on the boards of both the Ephrata Area Joint Authority and the Ephrata Economic Development Corporation, and also served as Chairman of both boards.

“He loved the town of Ephrata and it definitely shows,” Rowe said.

Councilman Ricky Ressler said Hecker had a big impact on the community.

“Bill Hecker served this community for many years and a lot of the things we see and enjoy in our community, he had a part in creating,” Ressler said.

In another matter, an area of Third Street, between Ephrata Avenue and Penn Avenue is in poor condition due to age and was adversely impacted by recent utility replacement construction. Cost of repair to the 2.5-block area, will be about $80,000, Council said.

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