(July 12, 2019) While most people enjoyed the beaches and fireworks during this year’s Fourth of July weekend, members of the Ocean City Police Department, Fire Marshal's Office and Beach Patrol found themselves working harder because of the holiday weekend population explosion.
“According to our records, there were approximately 284,018 in town on the Fourth of July,” OCPD Spokeswoman Ashley Miller said. “For the weekend, (Thursday through Sunday), there were approximately 1,198,307 people in town.”
To prepare for that, Ocean City Beach Patrol Capt. Butch Arbin said the seasonal force increased the number personnel it has watching the beach — a move that may have helped save a life.
Beach patrol surf rescue technicians helped save Benjamin Paepcke, 19, of Baltimore after he injured his neck after diving into shallow water.
Outside of this incident, Arbin said that this year’s Fourth of July was much tamer than previous years.
There were 18 rescues, 66 minor injuries and 1,593 general incident reports.
The most common ordeal that beach patrol has dealt with in the past is lost children.
Arbin said that the solution to this problem is for parents to introduce their children to lifeguards first. This way, children will have a point of reference in case they stray from their families.
If a child becomes lost, then both the parent and the child should go to a lifeguard to report the incident.
Doing so dramatically reduces the reunification process, he said.
The beach patrol also aided the fire marshal’s office with its campaign to prevent the use and possession of illegal fireworks.
“Every year on July 4, we notice an issue with the amount of illegal fireworks on the beach,” Deputy Fire Marshal Joe Sexauer said. “One of the big things we did this year was that we teamed up with the beach patrol as well as the police department.”
The fire marshal’s office increased signage around town, distributed flyers and even released a video reminding the public that firework use and possession was illegal in the resort.
In a press release, Ocean City Fire Marshal David Hartley said the power of fireworks should not be underestimated, and that they could cause injuries.
Fireworks cause around 18,500 fires per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
In 2018 alone, the Consumer Product Safety Commission found five fireworks-related deaths.
Sexauer said the campaign was a success, and that there were no serious incidents that occurred this weekend.
Meanwhile, Ocean City police focused on traffic and crowd control.
“OCPD prepares for the holiday weekend by establishing traffic details at both fireworks locations,” Miller said. “By creating the traffic details, you have a large number of police officers and public safety aides assigned to assist the flow of traffic and citizens in the immediate area of the firework event.”
During the weekend, OCPD mostly received calls about city ordinance violations and disorderly conduct.
Overall, thorough preparation by the beach patrol, the fire marshal’s office and the police managed to keep the resort out of troubled waters.
“Thankfully, it appears that this was a very smooth Fourth of July weekend,” Miller said. “There were no reports of anything that really stood out.”