Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 4th Fireworks (or lack thereof!) lessons learned

What happened to our Fireworks? What are you doing to make sure it does not happen again?

For many Lakewood residents, our national holiday of July 4th is known as our nation’s birthday, yet we also like to think of it as “Lakewood’s Day”.  It is marked by pageantry, family fun, a day to reflect, and much like Thanksgiving, a simple day of celebration that does not require a great deal of preparation, decoration, or planning.

A traditional highlight is our Fireworks display at Lakewood park. This event is seen annually by more than ten thousand in the park, and thousands more from rooftops, porches, lawns and apartments all over Lakewood. 

Fireworks displays became increasingly regulated about 10 years ago. As a result, these displays are almost all ignited electronically. The sequence is controlled by a specialized computer processor that programs the timing of the various ignitions. The Fireworks themselves are packed into closely confined crates. A maze of wires connects everything to the processor board.
The Electronic match

This past July 4th Fire Chief Gilman and I were monitoring the advancing weather from the West.  We seemed to dodge the storm as it went South and then back East. We could see the lightening to the South.
fireworks rack- packed close- eliminating safe manual ignition

Our biggest threat, however, lay in the complexity of electronics and wires. The test launch worked. The wind was fine. Several shots were fired, with increasing delay between these, and then nothing.  Pytrotecnico, our licensed vendor who provided spectacular shows the previous two years, went into high gear. They swapped out the main lead with two sets of back up wires. They swapped out the main fire control processor with a preprogrammed back up. The lead operator was talking via cell phone, with intermittent service, to the programmer to trouble shoot the problem. All to no avail.
the culprit- firing sequence control board

The whole delay, from first recognition of the problem until I made the decision to cancel the show, lasted 45 minutes.

The biggest criticism heard from citizens was the lack of information throughout the 45 minutes as to the nature of the problem.  I think this is a valid criticism.

 I made an announcement over the pool PA system indicating electronic issues and requested  patience. This information system proved woefully inadequate. The bandstand microphones used by The Lakewood High Rock Orchestra had been all packed up.

As we have reviewed how we could have improved, we have identified several opportunities to get the word out to 10,000 people over 15 acres of park, plus those scattered throughout Lakewood.

1)      We should have tweeted the situation. This would automatically update our Facebook page.

2)      We should have put an immediate update on our website

3)      We should have installed a working PA system in the park.

We should have improved our communication between police and Fire Chiefs and me, as cell phone service proved to be unreliable.

4)      In order to perform the above, we will need to;

a.       Have immediate access to a hardwired internet workstation. The Board of Education has such a workstation in the Pool Pavilion. We will  have prearranged password and user access

b.      We need to upgrade our early warning siren system to include microphone access and speech broadcasting ability

c.       I will carry a public safety police/fire radio.

d.      Have access to the City’s Tweet and website from my cell Phone (already done)

e.      Any PA announcement should be repeated multiple times, with a request to  “pass the word”

f.        Encourage citizens to sign up for alerts and become a city tweet follower. on our website. Approximately 3000 have done so.

I am sure we will continue to think of other improvements. I am grateful we could learn all of the above in a non-emergency situation. Had it been an emergency, we would have triggered the early warning sirens. While this would have indicated an emergency, it would not have provided any information.

 I want to compliment the crowd on the orderly  exit from the park despite being very hot and disappointed. We are working with our vendor to get full credit for this year's costs, and apply them towards a great fireworks display on July 4th, 2013!

We know we can always do better, which is why we will.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What’s up with all of the activity on Detroit?

Our $13 million investment is beginning to pay off!

13 Million dollars?  How was it spent? The investment started in 2004 under Mayor Tom George. The first step was a $3.9 million dollar sewer replacement, paid for with bonds financed by our sewer fees. This was a very smart first step because it required tearing up the entire street. The second step was to resurface the torn up street. This was primarily paid for by the State of Ohio. (Detroit is a State Route). The next big step was the design phase for creating a sense of ‘place”, followed by the traffic signals we are now seeing. 
The pie chart shows the breakout of our investment.

How did we pay for all of this?

The local share of all of this was little more than half of the total. $3.9 million of the $6.7 million of local tax dollars was dedicated to the sewer work mentioned above. The remaining  $2.8 million was our required local participation to get more than $5.8 million of Federal and State grants. 
 The following pie chart shows the break down.

Who did the work?

All of this work took many, many partners. This included the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) which oversees federal transportation money, several private contractors and engineering firms, Baily Building owners, our staff at City Hall, and many dedicated citizens.
What do we have to show for this investment?

We have a structurally sound, upgraded street ready for its 2nd century. We have traffic signals that will use less energy, allow us to manage and adjust for changing traffic patterns, and will require less maintenance. These signals should be good for 30 years, perhaps more.  

Most importantly, we have a dynamic, revitalized sense of  “‘place” that continues to attract millions in private investment. In fact, there is in excess of $20 million of private investment up and down Detroit.

Was this a good investment? Time will be our best judge- but all of the indicators point to it being superb investment.