by Robert Milner and Greg Smith

Photo Courtesy of Mike Hugg Media

On Monday, January 24, 202,  three Baltimore City Firefighters – Lt. Paul Butrim, Firefighter/Paramedic Kenny Lacayo, and Lt. Kelsey Sadler – lost their lives in a structural collapse while fighting a fire in a vacant rowhouse in Southwest Baltimore. For the Baltimore City Fire Department, this was one of the largest loss of life in decades. Immediately, the state emergency response team was involved with multiple jurisdictions to coordinate and prepare for a funeral that had yet to be scheduled.

The expected response for the funeral services was going to involve personnel from throughout the United States and for the first time ever, the entire Baltimore City Fire Department.  Their stations were backfilled with apparatus from throughout the state of Maryland so they could attend. The logistics of this large scale incident were coordinated in less than a week, involving many facets  to present a dignified memorial.

The first communication for parking logistics arrived Saturday morning, January 29. University of Maryland, Baltimore received the request below from our University’s Executive Director of Emergency Management, Jonathan Bratt:

Baltimore City Emergency Management is requesting support from Maryland jurisdictions through the Maryland Intrastate Emergency Management Assistance Compact (MIEMAC) for a Parking Supervisor on 28 Jan. 2022 till 2 Feb 22  in support of funeral activities.

Through a series of phone calls and texts from Jonathan Bratt, Sergeant Travis Nelson (liaison officer, Maryland Department of State Police, Maryland Dept. of Emergency Management), and Robert Milner, executive director of auxiliary services at UMB, a thought process evolved and a webinar was set up for the next day, Sunday afternoon. Sergeant Nelson was deployed as part of the Maryland Incident Management Team (IMT). This team is composed of local and state employees from various backgrounds that have specialized training in specific areas to assist a jurisdiction when they become overwhelmed with an event.

As of Saturday night, four parking professionals from different jurisdictions had agreed to participate in assisting with the event. There was also an agreement for a walkthrough on Monday of the Baltimore Convention Center where the ceremony for the three firefighters was being held and the Baltimore Stadium facilities where the parking operations would take place. There existed many questions on expected attendance and traffic closures, plus an unknown schedule of events.

The Plan Comes Together

Sunday evening and Monday morning brought many requests sent to parking colleagues requesting their assistance. This also included a request being sent out by the Middle Atlantic Parking Association’s (MAPA) President Angela Hall to her contacts.

Monday’s 1:00 pm Walkthrough Event

Incredibly (with a little help from above) nine parking professionals were present to offer shuttle/labor resources with more resources being offered for Wednesday, February 2, the scheduled day of the event.

During the situational briefing (which included the Incident Command Team) and before actual walkthrough of the stadium facilities took place, Greg Smith, director of transportation services for John Hopkins University, answered the call to be the volunteer parking lead. This position reported directly to the Incident Command Operations Section Chief Dave McGill, Lt. Annapolis Fire Department Training/Special Operations. Different individuals were assigned to separate parking areas, as well as organizing them in an orderly fashion to release vehicles in the correct order and in an efficient manner for a procession through the city and out to the cemetery for burial. With attendance being an unknown entity, estimates placed numbers in the thousands.

The walkthrough took place and the team developed a plan. This plan included having each participating parking professional entity  be responsible for a specific area/parking group. Each group needed a specified parking area, personnel to manage the area, and flow of traffic to keep the procession moving. This included the following areas:

  • Honor Guard/Bus Parking – more than 75 vehicles and 10 buses in the procession.
  • Fire Apparatus – more than 100 fire trucks, ambulances, etc. in the procession.
  • Other vehicles in the procession, which included another 75 non-BCFD fire vehicles, 10 buses, and more than400 personal vehicles.
  • VIP parking consisting of approximately 100 vehicles for family and dignitaries in attendance.
  • Vehicles attending the ceremony but not in the procession.

The Day of the Event

Photo Courtesy of Mike Hugg Media.

A briefing was held at 6:00 am on Wednesday, February 2nd and the parking labor resources were dispatched to the various parking areas. In addition to the parking pros, approximately 30 Howard County fire cadets assisted in the parking lots. Apparatus and guests began arriving early, and some city streets were set to be closed for the duration of the day. There were multiple staged events in different areas of the city. Coordination of parking and staff was essential for everything to run smoothly.

Christopher Caisse, assistant fire chief of the Baltimore City Fire Department, served as the Maryland Incident Management Team Incident Commander. After watching the events unfold, Caisse stated, “Every one of the parking and transportation employees provided invaluable leadership in their roles as parking supervisors during our memorial service. They worked through the logistics of strategically parking everything from private vehicles to large fire apparatus in order to release them in a pre-determined order to have a successful procession from the memorial service to Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.”

Managing the Procession and Exiting of Lots

All parking teams were put in place to organize the priority of vehicles in the various lots for exiting procedures. Once all personal vehicles were parked, staff had only an 1.5 hours of downtime before beginning the procession. Other pieces of apparatus that were not parked in designated spaces needed to be coordinated in the procession, relying on quick thinking and immediate reaction.

Photo courtesy of Carin Morrell.

Though an exact attendance was not taken, it is estimated that more than 6,000 attendees came to pay their respects. After the procession was complete, we thanked each other for participating.

Marcus Bedford, from University of Maryland Medical Center spoke the words that expressed all our feelings, “We gave a few hours of our time, for a lifetime of theirs.”

As we are all part of associations and industries, this brings up the question – How can your organization help when tragedy strikes? How can we step up?

This would not have been possible, without the unprecedented combined efforts of the following institutions:

  • University of Maryland, Baltimore
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Towson University
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • Baltimore City Parking Authority
  • University of Maryland Medical Center
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • SP+ – Stadiums facilities manager
  • Maryland Intrastate Emergency Management Assistance Compact (MIEMAC)

We realized through many conversations throughout the day that a lot of us and our staff have members in the first responder community for which we are grateful,  and that we wish to thank. This includes Jennifer Coolahan and the UMB Auxiliary Services who assisted with this article.

Robert Milner, MS, CAPP,  is director of auxiliary services at University of Maryland, Baltimore. Greg Smith is director of transportation services at Johns Hopkins University.