Anti-terror trucks keep craft show safe and secure

By on August 17, 2016

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Security tightened at Lititz Craft Show

By Patrick Burns

Just last month, following the deadly terrorist attack in France, Lititz Police Chief Kerry Nye noted the challenges of protecting the public at large gatherings.

“Not really a whole lot you can do if somebody were to decide to drive a large vehicle (into the crowd),” Nye said, referring to the tragedy in Nice.

He was thinking ahead about the big craft show and the elevated safety concerns he shared with Lititz Fire Chief Ron Oettel and other local first-responders.

The show, which typically draws 50,000 people and spreads across downtown Lititz, had what you might call soft security spots in previous years.

But that changed during this year’s event.

Rohrer’s Quarry donated dump trucks used to protect the attendees by blocking Main and Broad streets.

“The trucks looked brand new,” said Lititz Police Detective Sergeant John Schofield. “Most people didn’t realize they were there.”

Or, more specifically, “why they were there,” he said.

However, many people who did “get it” complimented police on the added security measures.

“Rohrer’s Quarry stepped up and delivered above and beyond what they had too,” Schofield said.
LR20160818_CraftShowSafety2Drivers delivered pristinely clean trucks a few hours before the official craft show start time of 8 a.m.

“A very generous donation by Rohrer’s Quarry,” Duane Ober, Warwick Emergency Services Commission administrator, said.

“Lititz is our home. We’re happy to help,” Travis Rohrer, company president, explained.

“When Ron (Oettel) called, he said ‘this is probably going to be the most bizarre request you’ve ever gotten.’ To date, it is,” Rohrer said. “You don’t ever think about using your trucks to stop other trucks from attacking a crowd. It’s a shame that this is the world we live in.”

Rohrer’s entire fleet includes 11 dump trucks and 30 concrete mixers. They donated three trucks to the craft show security effort. Rohrer’s also donated trucks to help the borough remove snow from the downtown streets during last winter’s blizzard.

“We’re a community-minded company,” Rohrer proudly said.

Use of the trucks represents a security mindset which has become a sophisticated process that considers not only keeping out dangers, Oettel said, but also how to bring in help if necessary.

The plan also requires a means for Lititz EMS to navigate personnel and equipment out of a small restricted city of up to 50,000 people in a few downtown blocks.

The process includes Lititz Fire Co.’s 24 water and concrete filled barriers, and another 20 rented barriers, placed strategically around the craft show. The overall effort requires about 200 volunteer hours just from firefighters.

It started decades ago when fire crews assembled at the fire station on craft show day, “because, basically, we got blocked out,” Oettel said.

“There’s really no way to get most of our responders from home to the station in a quick or convenient manner,” he said.

Not surprisingly, the fraternity of confined firefighters tried to stay busy and brainstormed on what they could do. It went beyond selling morning coffee and sugar cakes to vendors who then asked, “When is lunch served?”LR20160818_GretnaArtShow

Being there each year on craft show day took on a life of its own, he said. Gradually discussions gravitated to ideas about general preparation, something firefighters are prone to do.

“How do we move people? How do we protect people? How do we get to people outside downtown Lititz?” Oettel said. “Even how do we get ambulances and police cars involved in other incidences through if something is going on that we’re not even involved in?”

About eight years ago there was a significant change in the thought process of the coordinated security efforts, which by that time included Lititz police, fire and the Rotary Club. The concern was heightened when the craft show began closing Broad Street (Route 501).

Back then, security meant using simple saw-horse type trestles.

“(We thought) what happens if somebody comes to the intersection of Orange and Broad Street and suddenly has one of those moments where they go for the break and step on the accelerator?” Oettel said. “They’re in through that crowd, and God knows what the consequences may be.”

That type of imagined scenario started occurring more and more “out there in the big world” he said. That’s when the fire company purchased the barriers they use today, with the help of an anonymous donor who chipped in half the cost.

“They may not stop a larger vehicle, but they’re going to do a great job of slowing down or stopping an average car or pickup truck,” Oettel said.

Those barriers are sufficient for an “unintentional” mishap, but what about someone who intends on harming people?

“I hesitate to go there,” Oettel said in an interview Tuesday. “We really don’t believe deep in our hearts that we are in the crosshairs of some radical group out there. But they’re pretty much the famous last words of anybody who ends up behind the eight ball.”

With that mindset, following a discussion with Lititz Deputy Chief Mike Smith, Oettel made the call to Tim and Travis Rohrer to inquire about borrowing a few massive dump truck for crowd protection.

“I think the overwhelming response by the craft show crowd seeing the trucks was, ‘That’s a great idea’,” he said.

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

 

 

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