Pa. responders prepare for opening of new arena
EMS, fire and police presented empergency response plans to handle the thousands of visitors expected to attend events at the facility
By Emily Opilo
The Morning Call
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — With the opening of Allentown's new PPL Center Arena just six weeks away, plans are beginning to take shape for a emergency response strategy during events at the new venue.
Leaders from Allentown's fire, police and EMS departments appeared before City Council's Public Safety committee Wednesday to give an update on plans to accommodate the thousands of visitors that are expected to attend events at the arena and other new businesses surrounding the facility.
Deputy Fire Chief Lee Laubach said his department has been working with the arena daily to test sprinklers and familiarize members with the facility as opening day approaches. The building at Seventh and Hamilton streets will be divided into zones for the arena, the Renaissance Hotel and the office space housed there, Laubach said.
Fire responses will be targeted to the specific zone where the problem is reported, Laubach said.
"If someone burns popcorn on the fourth floor of the Renaissance, we don't want to dump 10,000 people onto Seventh Street," he said.
Mike Hilbert, superintendent of communications, said he has also been working with arena officials to ensure that Allentown's emergency radio system will work throughout the new facility. Last week, crews did a walk-through to test the system and identified several deficiencies. Those will be corrected, and further testing will be done, Hilbert said.
Brian Fritz, EMS operations manager, said additional discussions must still be held to create an EMS strategy for the arena. While Allentown EMS regularly staffs games for the IronPigs at Coca Cola Park, arena managers have not yet approached EMS for dedicated services at the arena, Fritz said.
Councilman Daryl Hendricks said there has been discussion about Lehigh Valley Health Network handling EMS service for the building. LVHN recently opened a fitness center inside the facility.
Fritz said LVHN currently runs two ambulances, but he has not been informed about whether they plan to conduct EMS operations at the arena. If the city's 911 center is called about an emergency at the facility, Allentown ambulances will still respond, he said.
"I believe it's up to [arena managers] to decide how things are handled inside the building," Fritz said.
Council members urged Fritz to reach out to arena managers to try to facilitate some kind of agreement. Councilman Ray O'Connell said the EMS presence has worked well at IronPigs games.
"I was there the other night, some guy got clocked by a baseball, and boom, you guys are there," O'Connell said. "So it almost seems like why aren't you guys on staff at the arena?"
Laubach said the arena will have a dedicated medical command room staffed during any kind of arena event.
Committee discussion also touched upon staffing levels necessary for arena events. Officials couldn't give specific numbers, but Fire Chief Bob Kudlak said his fire marshal will inspect the arena prior to each event, and staff will man hose stations during all pyrotechnic events. Otherwise, staffing levels will remain the same, he said.
Fritz said EMS currently has four trucks running at 7 p.m., the most common time for events at the arena, but several will go offline later in the evenings. Shift supervisors will have the ability to keep trucks online for additional hours as needed, Fritz said.
Police Capt. Glen Dorney said additional police officers will be hired at the arena's expense to assist with events. The number of officers will depend on the nature of the event, he said.
Officials said additional plans will be put in place after Sept. 1 when arena manager Global Spectrum takes control of the arena.
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