For the second year in a row, Howard County REACT provided traffic and perimeter control services for the Catonsville 4th of July Celebration. This event is one of the oldest, continuously running parade and fireworks shows in the area. The event always draws a large crowd and given that it runs throughout the entire day, poses unique challenges to event organizers, local emergency services, and the community itself.
After a noon meeting with all event volunteers, our team headed out to our assignments for the parade portion. Our team was tasked with blocking side streets which lead to the staging area for the parade. In years past, event organizers have had issues with drivers trying to enter the staging area and creating gridlock.
David Perry, Howard County REACT Unit 687's vehicle set up behind a barricade to direct traffic into a u-turn pattern to keep drivers away from the Catonsville Firework's parade route
While our members were setting up their barricades, a situation arose with the assignments given to Baltimore County Police concerning a road closure leading up to the parade route itself. The ops plan called for two officers, however only one had a cruiser properly equipped with warning lights while another officer only had a POV (personally operated vehicle) with no warning lights. Given this situation, the officer approached team member David Perry who was at a nearby intersection and asked if he would be willing to assist since he had the proper lighting equipment on his vehicle. He happily obliged and setup his POV behind a barricade so that oncoming traffic had plenty of warning of the road block.
Brandon, HCR Unit 615 at his post, preparing to shut the street down to keep drivers away from the parade staging area.
Some of the incidents we encountered included a couple of teenagers riding up and down a street on untagged dirt bikes and four-wheelers extremely fast. Once observed, our members were directed to approach the teenagers and ask them to slow down so as to not harm anyone, otherwise the police would be contacted. They were not seen for the rest of the event.
Brandon, HCR Unit 615 checks out the WJZ,13 Mobile Weather Lab after he cleared his post
Another incident occurred when a vehicle charged at one of the barricaded streets. The driver stopped just short of the barricade and the driver exited; displaying what appeared to be a badge of some kind. However, the driver's behavior seemed to indicate the driver was not there in any official capacity and was simply trying to bully his way through the barricade. Thankfully, he gave up quickly and was never seen again.
The remainder of the parade went off without a hitch.
After a quick break, our team headed toward the lower field of Catonsville High School where the fireworks display was. For this event, our team was tasked with access control for the main road that runs parallel to the display and the second duty was perimeter control of various entry points onto the field where the fireworks were setup. This has been a constant issue for event organizers in the past and this night was no exception.
The security team for the event controls access into the VIP/vendor parking lot. The security team also includes Josh Tievy, HCR Unit 694 who also acted as liaison with our team as he was familiar with our procedures.
While there was plenty of coverage by our team members and event security teams, there were several incidents involving people getting onto the field while the display was actively firing. This was eventually traced to a little known footpath that led down to the field from a very distant trailhead on the opposite side of the property. Once discovered, our team was able to direct additional security to that area and it was no longer an issue. This especially made the fire marshall very happy and she made comments on several occasions just how smoothly everything went after these issues were addressed.
Josh Tievy (pictured) and David Perry (behind camera), control access to the road running parallel to the fireworks field.
Junior member, Anthony standing by to assist with perimeter monitoring
The remainder of the event went perfectly and the display was later called one of the best in recent memory. After it was all done, our team gathered for a quick debrief and we departed around midnight. This event is our biggest of the year and is certainly a favorite among many of our members. We would also like to acknowledge the Catonsville Celebration Committee for all their hard work and months of preparation for this event. While we only came in for a day to help, many on the committee volunteer so much time and effort to put on such a great show for the community. We are already looking forward to working this event again next year!
Joe Rehder, HCR Unit 625 monitors foot traffic through one of the entrances onto the fireworks field. This is just one of the many ways onto the field that must be constantly monitored throughout the event.