Safe and sound: Security tightened at Firefly this year

Event security stand guard in front of the Backyard stage at the Firefly Music Festival. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Safety and fun are two words that Hope Martin lives by when she attends the Firefly Music Festival each year.

‘”I know you can’t control what’s going on, but for the most part I always feel safe at Firefly knowing that security is always doing their jobs to make sure everyone has a good time,” said the Pennsylvania resident.

The joy of attending festivals might never be the same after the deadly attack at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas last year when 58 concertgoers were gunned down, or the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, which was attacked by a suicide bomber.

These concerns have caused Firefly’s head of security Jim Hosfelt Jr. to increase the security procedures during this year’s festival to prevent those types of incidents from happening.

“No particular event has created this need for increased security, but instead it has been an accumulation of deadly incidents throughout the country,” Mr. Hosfelt said.

“Due to these events, which have occurred in recent months, we have taken extra precautions to keep our Firefly Musical Festival fans and the community around our event safe.

“It is our goal to make sure this event is a safe and enjoyable environment for everyone in and around the festival.”

The Public Safety Team for the festival includes security officers employed by four different security organizations. These include Dover Police Department, Delaware State Police, Kent County Department of Public Safety, DelDOT, and members of the Delaware Volunteer Fire Service, which includes ambulance crews and firefighters from throughout the state.

Security guard Richard Testa uses a magnetic wand at the Back of the House gate at the Firefly Music Festival. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“All included, it takes nearly 1,000 members each day to make Firefly safe each year,” Mr. Hosfelt said. “This year we implemented new search procedures at Firefly for those entering the music festival.”

As fans enter they are required to remove all items from their bags and pass through a screening process similar to that of TSA at airports.

Vehicles entering the venue are stopped and all those traveling inside the vehicle must display proper credentials. The occupants must step out of the vehicle while security officers and bomb detection dogs search it.

“We also employ strategies to keep vehicles away from the event itself, using heavy equipment to block and or slow vehicle access,” Mr. Hosfelt said.

Even though it’s Andrew Falconi’s first time attending the festival this year he appreciates the security taking precautions to ensure that everyone remains safe.

“From what I was reading or heard they were searching everyone’s cars and bags,” Mr. Falconi said. “I did see that during the first day, but I didn’t see it quite as much the next day.

State troopers at the main entrance before the Thursday opening of the 2018 Firefly Music Festival.

“I think that’s a good thing because they’re not overdoing it. I think they’re doing it the right way. Even after the checkpoints there are a lot of security roaming around making sure everyone is safe. It is a festival, so of course some crazy things are going to happen, but they seem to be doing a great job of controlling it.”

Mr. Hosfelt said Dover International Speedway worked in conjunction with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency and the Olsen Group to conduct a large-scale tabletop exercise to prepare for this year’s event.

“The exercise centered on a mass casualty incident at the entrance to Firefly Music Festival and it tested the response procedures of each agency and further solidified the teamwork we have here at Dover International Speedway with our Public Safety partners,”Mr. Hosfelt said.

Participants in the exercise included partners at Red Frog Events, Kent County Department of Public Safety, Dover Police, Delaware State Police, DelDOT, City of Dover Emergency Management, Dover Fire and Little Creek Fire Departments.

“Also, all Dover International Speedway security employees hired for this event are required to attend training programs specifically related to the festival. The program gives the security employee information on what their job entails and the people they are to notify if something out of the norm occurs.”

Security guards use an under carriage mirror on a car at the Back of the House gate.

Mr. Hosfelt said if an incident were to occur they already have a few plans in place.

“The Joint Operations Center (JOC) manages the public safety needs of the festival,” Mr. Hosfelt said. The JOC is staffed by “decision makers” from each of the agencies that participated in the exercises.

‘All incidents, large and small are effectively managed through the JOC. This is possible because of the long-standing relationships we have developed here at the Dover International Speedway with our public safety partners.”

Firefly has successfully avoided any serious incidents since it’s existence began in 2012.

“Any criminal activity at Firefly is usually misdemeanor in nature and relatively low compared to the number of people we have in attendance.” Mr. Hosfelt said.

“The busiest group of employees at the festival includes those related to the EMS field, to include our ambulance crews, paramedics, nurses and doctors.”

Ms. Martin said that she has noticed that security and EMS have been more attentive to everyone’s needs during this year’s festival.

“My friends and I hurt our ankles and EMS drove us straight home,” Ms. Martin said. “That was amazing. They’ve really been kind to everyone here at the festival.”

Ms. Martin said it’s a great feeling enjoying the festival knowing that security has taken the precautions to keep everyone safe.

“I appreciate everything that they’re doing,” Ms. Martin said. “I’m great with it. The security has taken care of it than more than before.

“They’re taking in account what’s going on in the world and they’re making sure that we’re good. I appreciate it lot and it makes the experience even better knowing that we will be safe.”

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