New London command center keeps watch over Sailfest

New London — On Saturday morning, festival-goers were visiting vendors, sipping lemonades and getting ready for the busiest day of Sailfest that culminates in a fireworks show over the Thames River.

At New London's unified area command center at the fire headquarters on Bank Street, a team also was preparing for the day by coordinating the behind-the-scenes details to ensure the event runs as smoothly and safely as possible. 

Representatives from local, state and federal departments typed on laptops and looked over binders of prepared materials. 

Flat-screen TVs around the room showed weather reports and security camera footage from City Pier and locations around the city.

Outside, first responders from the city and region were stationed across the city, along with three first aid stations, and a mass casualty van in case of an emergency. 

"We plan for everything and hope we need nothing," Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said at the command center.

The first meeting for the 38th annual Sailfest was held in January, with efforts ramping up in the past three months — and even more so in the last two weeks, Finizio said.

During planning meetings, New London Fire Chief Henry E. Kydd Jr. said he always asks: "Is there anything we might have missed?"

The team at the command center on Saturday included local police and fire departments, the U.S. Coast Guard, state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Connecticut Intelligence Center, state police and the FBI.

"Incident action plans," compiled in a binder, are in place for local departments and agencies — including the New London fire and police departments and the U.S. Coast Guard.  

Kydd said Saturday that he continues to fine-tune plans for Sailfest and, as far as a checklist goes, he said, "We know it by heart."

Mutual aid from around the region helps at Sailfest, as well. For example, on Saturday, Essex Ambulance was at a first aid station and Mystic Ambulance was at Fort Trumbull, said New London Police Sgt. Gregory Moreau.

In addition to New London's entire police force, three Coast Guard, 10 state police and four Waterford officers were helping with traffic during the day, said Moreau.

At the time of bar closings around 1 a.m., there will also be 12 Waterford officers, two from the Coast Guard and two from East Lyme.

Amtrak also maintains its own police presence during the event.

To prepare for the festival, officials work with Michael Caplet, the Region 4 coordinator for the state's Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security to determine what regional assets and equipment are available for the event, Kydd said.

Stations for Neff Productions and Tammy Daugherty, the director of the city's Office of Development and Planning, also are set up at the command center.

The city's Information Technology Department arrived at the command center around 8 a.m. Saturday to prepare. All of the city's Public Works crews — Sailfest's "unsung heroes" — are called in to work around the clock and clear the streets of trash, Finizio said.

"This is a very experienced team, and I have every confidence in them," the mayor added.  

New London, however, was not the only spot preparing for a major influx of visitors to watch the fireworks display.

The City of Groton set up its own unified command center at the city's fire station. City of Groton police joined with the city fire department, Groton Town police, emergency medical services and several mutual aid police departments, including state, Ledyard, East Lyme, Norwich and Groton Long Point police, according to City of Groton Deputy Police Chief Michael Guillot.

The city expected to deal with an influx of 50,000 people on Saturday. Calls for service were being simulcast to all mutual aid departments.

"For major events like this, it's common for law enforcement to work together," Groton Town Police Lt. John Varone said.

The U.S. Coast Guard was organizing members of the local port security group on the water. Boats from Norwich, Stonington, Groton Town and Waterford/East Lyme were expected to maintain patrols.

Day Staff Writer Greg Smith contributed to this report.

k.drelich@theday.com

Twitter: @KimberlyDrelich

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