Firefly now Kent’s busiest ‘EMS event’ of the year

DOVER — Though Kent County’s Emergency Management offers support for other large events like the Dover International Speedway’s NASCAR races, the agency’s director Chief Colin Faulkner notes that Firefly Music Festival, which runs through this evening, has become their busiest in terms of EMS (emergency medical services) activity.

“Firefly basically becomes Delaware’s third largest city when it comes in,” he said. “In order to keep the rest of the county running smoothly, we deploy a lot of manpower and equipment there to address their needs while sort of isolating the operation so we can respond quickly. We’ve been really successful with it year after year and have continually improved our ability to manage it.

“In terms of activity, Firefly is more busy than any other event or mass gathering we do in Kent County. It’s really for a number of reasons, but mostly it comes down to the heat, dehydration and alcohol.”

For Jerry Voss, 38, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the knowledge that medical staff is never far away is comforting.

“If you here going for days straight, drinking and not getting too much sleep, heat exhaustion can sneak up on you really quick,” he said. “I think most of us are being smart and taking care of ourselves, but there are some college kids out here drinking and partying as if dying is something that only happens to other people.”

Kent County’s Emergency Management department has provided support for the event for all of its eight years. This year, Chief Faulkner says about two dozen emergency management staff members, a 911 call center and paramedics are at the site nearly “around the clock.”

There are four medical tents distributed throughout the festival and campgrounds along with a “fan care” center adjacent to the racetrack that has Bayhealth Medical Center doctors and nurses on hand to address more serious cases.

Over the eight years, Chief Faulkner says his staff has become well-versed on their average patient. Despite the numerous water vendors, “refilling” stations and posted warning for fans to “stay hydrated,” he says nine out of ten cases his staff deals with is a standard dehydration.

“Some people just overdo it,” said Chief Faulkner. “Most of the time it’s simple. We can get them some water and have them relax in the air conditioned tent for a bit, and they’re ready to go back out and enjoy themselves after awhile. But it’s no uncommon that we actually have to rehydrate someone with IV fluids. A lot of dehydration is potentiated by alcohol consumption though and in those cases we have to be a bit more mindful of the side effects of that. The cases we have to watch particularly close are with older patrons who may have existing medical conditions that may be potentiating by alcohol, heat and sunlight or fatigue.”

Many times, it’s band aid care that festival-goers need, says Chief Faulkner.

“A lot of people show up without any skin protection which can be serious if it’s really sunny,” he said. “Some folks don’t bring the appropriate footwear because they don’t realize how much walking there will be and they develop blisters. That can really hurt after awhile, so our staff actually hands out a lot of band aids. They hand out a lot of Advil for headaches too.”

The emergency services personnel at Firefly.

As to be expected though, there is occasionally a more serious health concern to address.
“We do get outlier cases though — such as people using more serious drugs,” said Chief Faulkner. “It’s along the lines of something you’d see in any city of 60-70,000 people, which is probably close to how many we have here. There’s a lot of activity in the campgrounds though and we did have a bad outcome at lot 18 last year.”

Last year it was widely reported that a 20-year-old woman from Philadelphia was found dead in the campground — the first fatality in the event’s history. The official causes of her death weren’t released, but authorities noted that foul play was not suspected.
“While we can make sure they’re safe coming into the festival, and we do everything we can, when they are in their tent, it’s the same as being inside their home, what they do is their business,” the Speedway’s Director of Public Safety Jim Hostfelt said last year of incident. “It was very unfortunate.”

As of Saturday, Chief Faulkner said there hadn’t been many “drastic” cases this year.
“We stay busy, but it’s important to say that the vast majority of people are enjoying themselves responsibly,” he said. “They really have a great time.”

Though the event sucks up an large amount of county man hours, Chief Faulkner notes that the Festival promoters are billed for the entire support operation.

“This doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything,” he said. “And by getting as seamless as we have with the whole process, we’re able to offer the same level of service to everyone in the county as we always do even while Firefly is in town.”

Tips and tricks
Over eight years, county staff have put together a list of recommendations based on many of the hard-won lessons festival-goers have exemplified.

They’ve posted it on their Facebook religiously over the past few years to the benefit of first-time attendees:
• Beer is not water. You must drink water with your beer! Alternate if need be, but drink plenty of water.
• Wear shoes you have worn before that will not give you blisters. Many people are surprised at how far they have to walk. This is a very large venue.
• Guys, bring powder. You know why. I see the duck walk every year.
• Take a break now and then and chill. Don’t miss your favorite act because you overdid it.
• Take care of your friends. Keep an eye on your buddies, if one of them is having trouble, get help and call medical staff.
• Dover can be hot in the summer, bring sunscreen (non aerosol) pack a hat and wear cool clothing.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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