, Salem, MA

June 7, 2013

Our view: Boston lessons applied locally

The Salem News

---- — Anyone looking for evidence that the Boston Marathon bombings on Patriots Day were going to change how North Shore residents lived their lives need only look at the news over the past few weeks.

First there was the full-scale drill at the Salem MBTA station Sunday morning, where more than 120 volunteers, some in Halloween costumes, helped emergency officials train for a disaster. (Halloween is the single largest event each year involving the commuter railroad.)

Although planned months ago, the drill had special import this year, coming just after the Boston bombings. In this case, the drill was meant to simulate what might happen if someone tossed lighted fireworks on a commuter train while it was in a tunnel on Halloween afternoon.

“This is the real deal,” Salem police Chief Paul Tucker told reporter Tom Dalton last month. “And they’re making it as realistic as possible.”

No doubt the lessons learned during the drill will be applied this fall, when tens of thousands of revelers flock to Salem.

However, local residents won’t have to wait until then to see tighter security at large local events. Organizers of the Danvers Family Festival outlined a series of changes at the town’s Independence Day fireworks display at Plains Park, scheduled for July 3 this year.

Residents can no longer secure a large spot in the park the night before the event, or early that morning. No personal items like blankets or chairs will be allowed in the park before 4 p.m. The customary ban on backpacks and coolers will be strictly enforced.

Organizers also plan to erect perimeter fencing, and those wanting to enter the park will be screened, said Gardner Trask, a town selectman and member of the festival’s organizing committee. Anyone leaving the park hoping to return later will be screened again, he said.

The new procedures may create longer lines for those wanting to get into the park — the event often attracts as many as 40,000 revelers. It’s a small price to pay for the added security.

The festival committee’s plan, worked out with the help of the town’s public safety officials, seems like a sensible response to current events, balancing the very real lessons learned in Boston with a desire to provide Danvers residents and their neighbors with the best evening possible come July 3.