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Fire Departments Opt To Not Sound Alarms for Newtown Victims Friday

Some fire departments, further west, will ring alarm 26 times at 9:45 a.m., but East Hampton officials afraid it will cause panic.

On the one week anniversary of the Newtown school shooting, vigils and various acts of remembrance for the victims will take place, such as the ringing of church bells, in communities around the nation.

However, there is one national commemoration that local fire departments have opted not to do out of fear it will cause more alarm during a week that already has many on edge after last week's violent attack. In addition, Friday marks the day the Mayans predicted the world would end.

The Suffolk County Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services sent out a memo to all county fire departments on Thursday noting that they could, if they chose to, sound their alarms 26 times on Friday morning at 9:45 in honor of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy and as a way to honor fellow firefighters and EMS personnel.

East Hampton Village Police Chief Jerry Larsen, who also heads up the village's communications department that dispatches for five of the fire departments in town, said he was opposed to the exercise because he felt it would cause panic and overwhelm the 911 system.

"I understand where the fire departments are coming from. It's honorable that they want to pay respect," Larsen said on Thursday afternoon. "If they were going to do something like this, they needed a lot more public notice than one day."

"People are already on edge," he said, noting that he has received numerous calls this week about school security.

Larsen said he spoke to East Hampton Town Chiefs' Association president Ben Miller about his concerns. Miller is recommending to the area chiefs that they not take part.

Meanwhile, Larsen also voiced his concern with County Executive Steve Bellone's office, the county police commissioner, the town police department, and Suffolk County FRES, which dispatches calls for nearly all the fire departments further west.

Joe Williams, the commissioner of Suffolk FRES, said his department is not advocating for the commemoration, but that the memo was sent out on behalf of fire departments that said they wanted to do it. "We're not telling them to do it. We have no authority to tell them do it," Williams said.

"Naturally everybody is concerned," he said that people won't know what the sirens are for exactly. He hoped the departments will spread the word. "I know for a fact that not every department is participating."

East Hampton Fire Department Chief Thomas Bono said he considered sounding the alarms after receiving the memo from FRES on Thursday, but then thought better of it. "We decided not to because dispatch is going to get flooded with calls, especially because it's supposed to be 'the end of the world,'" Bono said. "I think it's just going to cause mass confusion. People wouldn't know what it's for."

Sag Harbor Fire Chief Pete Garypie agreed. "If we start blowing the sirens 26 times, 911 isn't going to be able to take all the calls they'll be getting," he said.

There was also some concern that the equipment would get burnt out from sounded so many times right in a row, Bono said.

"I understand where they're coming from," Bono said of other departments that might chose to sound the alarms on Friday.

Meanwhile, a vigil will be held by the temporary memorial at the Hook Mill in East Hampton Village on Friday at 4:30 p.m.

Taylor K. Vecsey December 21, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Via East Hampton Patch Facebook page, Ray Card said, "Then at least blow the sirens ten times just out of respect, I sure think that the 26 people that were murdered would like to here that siren 26 times........" Amanda Borsack Jones said, "why not have churches ring their bells 26 times?? much less scary" TwentySeven Inn said, "Let the bells and sirens ring...!!!"
captjohntm December 21, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Why create more chaos ? The bad weather is difficult enough People panic like Chicken Little

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