Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Like most in Berlin, I have mixed emotions about the town’s fire siren.

On the morning of the 4th of July, it was challenging not to be annoyed by the early morning siren malfunction that consisted of the alarm sounding non-stop for about 30 minutes. A quick call to the town’s non-emergency line revealed it was a malfunction and nothing to be concerned over. That was important on this particular day because Hurricane Arthur was influencing the weather – albeit in a minor fashion.

Generally speaking, most of the concerns I have heard expressed informally have to do with questions over if the fire alarm is even relevant or necessary at all from a notification standpoint.

Then there was the casual signature gathering effort following the Independence Day morning issue that called for the siren at town hall to be relocated after nearby lodging guests expressed concerns over it. The effort was quickly abandoned when the writer of the petition started catching some heat via a social media thread, which has since been removed.

The petition, a copy of which was shared with me this week, is irrelevant anyway, but it did bring to light some common concerns. Until this week, I believed the fire siren concept was more of a tradition thing than an actual means to let emergency responders know their attention was needed. I was under the impression firefighters and EMTs received a page or text or other notification prior to the siren. At the very least, I didn’t think the fire alarm sounding was how emergency responders received their first word about an incident.

Despite all the other technology options available, it turns out in some cases that’s exactly what happens because pages and texts cannot always be relied on. While acknowledging some research is being gathered about the possible relocation of the fire siren in Berlin’s downtown district, Berlin Fire Company President David Fitzgerald said this week technological advancements have not rendered the traditional alarm worthless. In fact, he said it’s an important tool from a notification standpoint and has proven more reliable than the other more high-tech options.

As it stands now, BFC officers will review siren locations for the next 30 days and then return with a recommendation on possible site changes. Obviously, the concern here is no change should be made that jeopardizes public safety, but it’s also understandable for area residents to question whether the siren is necessary in the first place. If the study finds it’s necessary to maintain public safety, the discussion should be over.

While it was a quiet June for the most part on the crime front, there was one statistic that stood out to me during a presentation this week by Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro to the Police Commission. There were 23 incidents that required a Taser to be either shown or fired during June. Ten of those situations required it to be deployed.

The incidents varied in severity with drugs being a common denominator through most of them.

One such case when a cop fired his Taser involved an alleged drug dealer trying to flee the scene of an undercover “buy-bust” and not adhering to orders to stop running. The deployment allowed the suspect to be apprehended.

Another situation took place when the Taser prevented a suspect, who was reportedly assaulting a female, from fleeing the scene. The man threw two trashcans at the officers, but one of them was able to deploy the Taser, allowing for an arrest to take place.

In another case, a Taser was deployed to prevent a man from throwing a bag of cocaine into the bay from the Route 50 Bridge after a drug transaction had been observed.

Another situation that did not result in an arrest was a bizarre one. On June 17 an officer was dispatched to a suspected drug violation involving the odor of marijuana emanating from a hotel room. The suspect fled the scene before the officer arrived. However, the officer still met with security in the manager’s office to document what happened. At one point, a male arrived on the property and after he saw the police bicycle on scene, the male ran up to the office and began smashing out windows with his head and shoulders. The officer immediately targeted the suspect with his Taser, but the suspect continued to flee on foot. The officer deployed his Taser, but the probes missed the suspect, who was never located.

Although it only attracted about 50 foreign workers, Ocean City could be on to something with its public safety workshop that was held this week.

This week’s “J-1 Safety Night On The Beach” was likely organized as a result of the federal dignitary who oversees the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program being in town during her nationwide tour of places that typically host a large number of foreign student workers.

The event featured public safety representatives and provided a wealth of information. It’s something Ocean City should do each year and make significant efforts to reach as many foreign students as possible. Of course, the problem is they work typically around the clock, but it’s worth the effort to try and get the attention of more students in future years.