June 25, 2024
Annapolis, US 77 F

EDITORIAL: How Screwed Are Residents of Annapolis in an Emergency?

In a word–totally!

And if you needed to see the ineptitude of the City of Annapolis in handling an emergency, you only need to look at the house fire this morning on Tyler Avenue. Of course, the fire department needed to operate, and a road closure was required. But then what? If you are in the City of Annapolis–not much. Toss out a few random social media messages that make no sense and convey no instruction. Do not even think about putting employees in service to direct traffic. If you live on the Annapolis Neck peninsula, it reminds me of a t-shirt I used to see along the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore as a kid.

An emergency can come at any time, and no one is ever prepared for it. The City of Annapolis, however, seems to be particularly ill-equipped to handle any crisis, especially when it comes to managing traffic. The lack of police direction, confusing communication systems, and the absence of a comprehensive plan have made it clear that the City of Annapolis is far from ready to take on such situations.

Take this Annapolis Police Department Facebook post. Zero information and the link leads to the developer of the Prepare Me app asking people to download the app from the Apple or Google store.

Here’s another alert from the police department. This message did not come with a translator.

The incident this morning was near Tyler and Forest Drive. The messaging should have been very simple. “Forest Drive is closed between Hilltop and Forest Hills. Outbound traffic should go to Bay Ridge to Tyler/Hilltop to Forest. Inbound traffic should go to HIlltop to Bay Ridge to Forest.” Was that so hard?

Clear messaging should be a minimum. Perhaps the City of Annapolis might want to take it a bit further and assist the stranded motorists. Again, in this particular instance, the solution is simple. Put a police officer or public works employee at the key intersections, place the signals on flash, and direct traffic. BLASHPHEMY! For outbound, had there been an officer at Hillsmere, Tyler/Hilltop, and Hilltop and Forest, traffic could flow out. But there were none. There never are any. Mr. Rogers tells us when there is trouble to “always look for the helpers.” Fred Rogers must never have been to Annapolis because we are a self-serve City.

I get it; traffic control is probably the worst part of a police officer’s job, but it is part of the job. We all dislike aspects of our jobs, but we do them. Life can’t all be ribbon cuttings and photo ops unless you are the Mayor of Annapolis.

The city has failed to heed calls to action in this regard despite a study that was conducted more than SEVEN years ago. It’s time for the City of Annapolis to wake up and start taking emergency management seriously.

Today was a fire. What if it were a hurricane? Tornado? Conflagaration? Plane crash? Or maybe something simpler as when a tree or telephone pole falls across the road? The fact is clear– there is no plan!

Today at 2:20 p.m., all of our cell phones will go off in a test of a nationwide alert. This is just a test, but recalling how the City of Annapolis handled a house fire this morning, can you imagine how the City would respond if the message read “incoming foreign missle” instead of “this is a test?”

In times of crisis, people look to the authorities for guidance and orders, but chaos can ensue when there is no one to provide that guidance. Too often, police officers are nowhere to be found when emergencies occur, and their absence contributes to traffic jams, accidents, and general pandemonium on the roads. The City of Annapolis needs to ensure that there is a clear plan in place for emergency response and that the police are part of that plan from the outset. There should be a manual detailing the detours, choke points, and manual traffic direction points all along all arterial roads so that the City knows what to do if there is a road closure at ANY point!

The second issue is the confusing communications. When an emergency occurs, people are left scrambling for information, but if the information they receive is confusing or contradictory, then it’s no use. During times of crisis, the City of Annapolis needs to ensure that all the relevant information is identified and disseminated to the public instantly, clearly and understandably. NOT like this:

Traffic is shut down from Forest Drive to Janwell Street and all traffic is shut down from Forest Hills Avenue. Inbound Forest Hills is being rerouted to Bricin Court. Outbound traffic is shut down at Bricin. Outbound traffic is rerouted to Forest Hills Avenue. Indound Forest Drive is open. Please use caution and mind all traffic directions.

Annapolis Police Department

Let’s break it down: “Forest to Janwall” there are three streets that meet the criteria: Tyler, Barbud, and Marda. Which one? “Inbound Forest Hills is being rerouted to Bricin Court.” Bricin Court is a small cul de sac. “And then this, “outbound traffic is shut down at Bricin.” Bricin (court or street) does not intersect Forest Drive. (which does not intersect Forest Drive).



The third and perhaps most egregious issue is the lack of preparation by the City of Annapolis for crisis situations. It’s hard to believe, but although a study was done more than seven years ago on how to handle emergency traffic, the City of Annapolis has done nothing to implement any changes. This is absolutely unacceptable. The city needs to be proactive in its emergency planning because someone’s life can (and will) depend on it.

While bike lanes and electric ferries are nice, the primary responsibility of our City leaders is providing public safety. And in most aspects of that, it appears they are failing miserably. Violence across the City has increased considerably. Murders are up. Shootings are looking to surpass previous records. Rapes are up. A brand new public housing community just had more than 5% of its apartments condemned due to black mold. And today, due to a house fire, the City could not find a way to get people around a simple road closure.

God help us if the S^%t really hits the fan! But hey, we have a nice garage!

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