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Posted March 2, 2011 | Leave a comment
Sirens allowed in Apple Blossom Firefighters Parade
Sirens will be allowed in this year's Firefighters Parade, according to a press release issued today by the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival.
The rule change allows trucks at the end of the parade to use their sirens, and fire companies that had been suspended due to using sirens in earlier parades will be welcomed back in this year's parade.
Here's the press release:
SIREN USE, WITH RESTRICTIONS, RETURNS TO 2011 FIREFIGHTERS' PARADE
The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival's® two signature parades are massive enterprises. Although Festival Staff at Apple Blossom Headquarters handles much of the paperwork for the two parades, it was decided long ago that each parade also needed a major source of outside direction and manpower. For generations, the major source of outside direction for the Grand Feature Parade has been the Winchester Host Lions Club. For those same generations, the major source of outside direction for the Firefighters' Parade has been the Winchester-Frederick County Firefighters' Association. Within that Association a special committee was formed: the Firefighters' Festival Activities Committee, which was set up to handle all firefighter-connected activities held in conjunction with the Festival: the Firefighters' Parade; the now-defunct Field Muster Competition; the Fire Truck Rodeo; In-Town and Out-of-Town Honorary Fire Chief Contests; the Firefighters' Reception; Parade and Equipment Judging; and, Antique Fire and Rescue Equipment Activities. Within that Committee, it was deemed wise to create a Rules Committee [composed of all the Past Directors of the Firefighters' Festival Activities Committee] to create the handbook by which these complex activities would be run. For years, one of the most difficult areas for the Rules Committee to control was the use of sirens in the Firefighters' Parade as modern technology allowed those sirens to become louder, more directional and much more penetrating. As life became more fearful in the post-9/11 climate, concerns were raised about the interference of the sirens with emergency management. Interference issues were also raised concerning the television broadcast and the judging of the parade. High school bands that raised thousands of dollars to visit Winchester complained about the interference of sirens with their playing.
The issue was never simple. It was always very complicated. About 25 years ago, it was decided that the issue was a difficult one to compromise on; and, a ban on all sirens was put in place by the Rules Committee. But, it has always been obvious that many people enjoy the sirens and see the festive noise as being the signature of a firefighters' parade and a call to the present from Festivals past when sirens were still allowed. Since the Festival of 2010, the Rules Committee has studied the situation at some length; met; and, conferred with experts in many fields. This past week, the Rules Committee announced to the Firefighters' Festival Activities Committee and to Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival® Officials that a new compromise solution to the issue would be tried on a one-year trial basis at the 2011 Festival. This year, a special "Post-Parade Division" will be added to the end of the regular Firefighters' Parade; and, within this Division, sirens will be allowed from start to finish. It was also announced at this same time that all past parade suspensions due to siren sounding would be lifted. The regular Pre-Parade of antique fire and rescue apparatus will lead the Parade. Then, a series of familiar divisions of fire and rescue equipment, bands, special units and celebrities will proceed as usual. After this, a 10 to 15 minute "warning" break will ensue during which special units of motorcycles, military equipment, et cetera, will be featured. It will be recommended that during this break, those who do not wish to hear the sirens should leave the Parade Route. After the break, the new "Post-Parade Division" or "Final Division" will pass through made up entirely of fire and rescue apparatus with full siren privileges. There will still be incentives in place for fire companies that do not care to sound their sirens: earlier placement in the Parade; appearing while the Judges are still on the Parade Route and being eligible for awards; and, appearing while the television broadcast is guaranteed to still be in live production.
At this time, some of the paperwork details of the change are still being worked out. More than likely, all fire companies [including suspended companies] on the Festival's mailing list will be re-notified of the changes. Methods for notifying the public, Parade Marshals and local emergency management teams as to the timing and the extent of the sirens will also have to be worked out. Festival Organizers congratulate the Rules Committee of the Firefighters' Festival Activities Committee for taking the time to study the situation so intensely this year; and, for showing the courage to be willing to modify a long-standing rule for the sake of reaching a more equitable compromise. It is hoped that the public and the firefighters themselves will join in this spirit of compromise; will embrace this new opportunity in moderation; and, that this will be just the first step toward a new, completely unified, community-wide Firefighters' Parade.
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