MECHANICSBURG – When the Mechanicsburg Fire Department officials received notification that country music superstar Luke Bryan would be holding an outdoor concert on Sept. 16 within their venue, they knew that there would be some serious challenges that would have to be addressed.
The Mechanicsburg Fire & EMS Department was given the task of making sure that not only the general safety needs of the event would be addressed, but also, the greater task of assuring that the onsite emergency medical service needs of all patrons would be properly and adequately provided for.
All of these concerns would have to receive priority attention, along with also assuring that continued service to the general public would not be interrupted. In a community with a service population of approximately 7,500 residents, a sudden influx of 15,000 concert-goers creates a substantial challenge for rural public safety.
These tasks would require careful planning that would involve every intricate aspect of a number of any given scenarios. Assistant Fire Chief/EMS Coordinator Steve Castle stated that large entertainment events of this nature bring with it their very own unique culture along with a wide variety of individual people who view music entertainment with a unique perspective.
Fire department notification of the event occurred in early spring of 2022. That gave the fire department less than 6 months to prepare. Mechanicsburg Fire Chief Robert Keene immediately assumed a leadership role and began to formulate a plan to ensure a successful and safe event. Knowing that the magnitude of such an event would create a staffing hardship for his own local fire department, Chief Keene reached out to surrounding Fire Departments to ask for their assistance. Johnson St. Paris Fire Department, Madison County EMD, Jerome Twp. Fire Dept. and NECCFD all graciously committed to send an EMS crew along with a vehicle to the event to help ease staffing concerns.
General EMS oversight was delegated to Assistant Fire Chief/EMS Coordinator Steve Castle, who coordinated efforts with a group of local volunteer nurses from Mercy Health Systems. Collectively, the onsite medical staffing consisted of highly competent pre-hospital paramedics, nursing and EMT medical professionals.
Over the following months and up to the day of the event, Chief Keene and Mechanicsburg Fire Department Captain Jamie Adams along with other local public safety officials, established a written command structure that was finalized and prepared for implementation on event day. Substantial input from the concert organizers proved to be an invaluable resource in key decision strategies.
The final plan would include additional key players vital to the event. Contracted event security worked closely with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department to ensure orderly conduct and safety of all concert patrons. Public safety services from surrounding counties would also provide additional resources in terms of equipment and expanded communication capabilities.
Finally, event day arrived, and the Luke Bryan “Farm Tour” concert took place as scheduled. The concert proved to be a success for all involved. Thanks to the meticulous efforts of those charged with the task of onsite general safety, recordable incidents were kept at a minimal level. Fire Department officials kept a constant vigil of overseeing patron activity on the event grounds which allowed them to respond with no delay. Fire inspectors also assured structural integrity of all assembled platforms was never compromised.
Managing a rural fire department that typically employs a select staff of part-time employees presents with its own unique set of challenges. These challenges require their own individual approach, and nothing is redundant. Often, these day-to-day challenges, can prove to be overwhelming to the administrative staff, and likewise to the part-time and volunteer staff as well, who juggle with full-time employment and home life in their daily schedules.
When atypical large-scale events, such as these, are held that will attract several thousand people to the area, local public safety services are truly tested and tried. All of the local public safety services around the Mechanicsburg area demonstrated a level of competence that was unsurpassed. Residents of small communities such as Mechanicsburg are fortunate in having dedicated citizens who choose to accept the challenges and responsibilities of making sure the public enjoys a safe community to live in, regardless of any unforeseen circumstances.
This article expresses the perspectives of a small rural fire department administration.