Drawing on their experience at the Boston Marathon, a team from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) offered their advice at a Public Safety Subcommittee meeting of Concord250.
The message was clear: start planning now for the 2025 celebration that is expected to draw more than 100,000 people to Concord, said Kurt Schwartz, a MEMA official under former Gov. Charlie Baker.
Where will people park? How many porta-potties will be required? What will the communication structure look like? How will people be fed? What if there is a disaster?
“The 250th events across the four communities and the NPS will be major security events,” said Schwartz at a recent subcommittee meeting, referring to Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, Arlington and the National Park Service.
Schwartz proposed “a planning structure that will prepare us for major events that will take place in a complex threat and hazard environment that requires a robust safety and security plan.”
He focused on MEMA’s response to the 2013 Marathon bombing, in which the agency handled crowd control and security at the finish line in Copley Square minutes after two bombs went off.
Subcommittee Chairman Fred Ryan drew from Concord’s experience with the 1975 bicentennial, which saw then-President Gerald Ford and other dignitaries commemorate the battle at the North Bridge.
Ryan recalled that “getting Ford between Concord and Lexington was a logistical nightmare, causing gridlock along the historic Battle Road” between the two towns.
“And a lot has changed since 1975,” said Ryan.
The Marathon is a helpful comparison since the action takes place along a road. It’s similar to what will happen in Concord along the Battle Road that runs from the North Bridge to Massachusetts Avenue in Lexington; Thousands will line the four-mile route where the Revolutionary War began in 1775.
Assistant Fire Chief Walter Latta noted that restaurants will be unable to feed an estimated 1,000 law enforcement officers, not to mention thousands of tourists. He suggested the high school, with a student body of 1,200, could be called upon to provide box lunches.
Latta suggested various parking lots, such as Alcott School, the Baker Avenue Extension lot or the Valley Sports Arena could be used, “but moving that many people is going to be hard.”
“Hundreds of police cruisers have to go somewhere,” said Schwartz.
Ryan stressed the need for “unified coordination” among the four towns and the park “so we are not operating in our own silos.”
Citing the First Amendment, Latta said there will be an area designated for protestors and counter-protestors, but the location hasn’t been decided yet.
Police Chief Tom Mulcahy said satellite phones and a mobile cell tower will be deployed for emergency personnel since cell phone service is unavailable in Concord Center.
“The good news is that we still have 18 months to plan,” said Schwartz.
Ryan praised Concord’s dedication to planning the events. “The Select Board, chiefs and park service have come out early. We are regional leaders,” he said.
“We want to socialize the planning so that key players will be ready for game day.”