Protecting the Life and Property of Ocean City
By Arielle Patterson
It’s summertime in Ocean City, which means more visitors to Maryland’s coastline ready to enjoy some fun in the sun. As you walk the boardwalk, lounge on the beach, experience local attractions and unwind in your hotel or rental home, the Ocean City Fire Department wants you to have a safe visit while you’re here.
The Ocean City Fire Department (OCFD) is an all-hazards response department. “We handle any type of emergency,” says Ryan Whittington, firefighter, medic and bomb tech for the OCFD. “From a medical emergency to any type of incident on our roadways, at a hotel and also on our waterways.”
OCFD is made up of volunteer and career personnel. There are over 200 members in the Volunteer Division and over 100 in the Career Division. OCFD covers the 10-and-a-half mile stretch of beach area and West Ocean City, while also providing aid to Worcester County and Sussex County, Delaware. The department receives about 6,000 calls each year, with many during the busy summer season.
When people think of any fire department, a group of first responders putting out fires first comes to mind. In addition to fire and rescue protection, the OCFD also oversees medical care, fire prevention, fire safety education and a marine unit that performs water rescues.
When you visit Ocean City you may have a chance to interact with members of the department, in emergency and non-emergency matters. According to Whittington, one of the most common non-emergencies the department responds to is people getting locked out on their balconies. The department urges visitors staying in a hotel or rental property with a balcony understand the locking mechanism on the door and to not sit on or lean over the balcony.
Other common summer calls to the OCFD include people not using the crosswalks across Coastal Highway, unattended cooking and grilling, texting and driving, and walking and texting on the streets. However, not all of people’s interaction with department personnel is grim.
“We’re not only there during someone’s bad day or their worst day, but we also interact with them on more positive things,” Whittington says.
The department does a lot of public service and community engagement. It’s not uncommon for children and their parents to take a tour of the fire station. The firefighters will even let kids hop in the driver’s seat of a firetruck and get their pictures taken.
“We’re so welcoming. We want kids to learn some fire safety tips while they’re here. Firefighters are your friends,” Whittington advises. “There’s never a reason for you to be scared. If you ever see a firefighter and know that you need help, feel free to ask us. We try to build that relationship and foster that.”
It’s not just kids who are welcome to visit the station and ask questions, locals and visitors alike are also encouraged to do the same. OCFD has a number of resources for people to take advantage of, including simply stopping by a firehouse and speaking to the firefighters. The department shares fire safety and emergency tips on their social media channels, including informative videos that are light and made to educate all ages.
For travelers to Ocean City, Whittington suggests knowing where smoke alarms and the exits are in your hotel or rental property. It is also incredibly important to know the address of your accommodation at all times. It’s not uncommon for the department to receive a call from someone who is visiting and doesn’t know their address, making it challenging for the first responders to assist them.
Learn what you can do to keep yourself and others safe when you visit Ocean City. Don’t be afraid to seek out knowledge and advice from the friendly members of the Ocean City Fire Department.