Construction gives birth to doomsday device use

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer

NAPLES — An antiquated emergency siren soon will become a commonplace sound in downtown Naples.

Don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world.

Instead, the “doomsday device” located atop of one of the Village Green’s historical structures will experience its rebirth for a few months.

In April and May, the siren will be used in an effort to facilitate quick emergency-response times, especially during ramped up construction and lane closures on the Causeway and along Route 302, according to an elected official who also serves with the local fire department.

The town-wide siren will go off, emitting a hard-to-miss noise and letting flaggers know that Naples Fire and Rescue Department volunteers will be trying to make their way through traffic to the fire station, Selectman Rick Paraschak said recently.

“The Causeway is going to be plugged up. It’s not an issue when you are leaving the fire station because you have sirens on the trucks,” Paraschak told members of the Naples Board of Selectmen on April 4.

Paraschak said typically 12 people respond to fire emergencies and traffic accidents. However, for Emergency Medical Service calls, the station is staffed with people trained to respond to those calls.

“It will be for an event like traffic accidents or structure fires during the day — during construction to let people know that responders need to get to the fire station,” Paraschak said.

“It won’t be activated on Sunday obviously, because there is no construction on Sundays,” he said.

Earlier this month, Naples Fire Department Captain Andy Burnham was able to get the cobwebs out of the alert device, and now the town is planning to use it during springtime construction.

“It hadn’t been fired up for 15 years. He got it going. There was a little bit of rust, and a little bit of smoke,” Paraschak said.

The selectman said he and Burnham stopped by to visit Merry Watson, the museum curator. They walked over to the small brick building overlooking Route 302. On the roof, the rusty siren faced toward Long Lake.

Burnham, Paraschak and Watson spent a few hours tinkering with the siren to see if that vintage bell could be the solution to allowing rescuers to go around traffic and to get to the station during an emergency call.

Paraschak said work was being done to wire the town emergency siren so it can be activated from any location. It would be set up so someone at the town’s dispatch could turn on the town-wide siren, he said.

Selectman Christine Powers said a communications campaign was in order.

“I like the idea,” Powers said, “but we should acknowledge that people would have to be informed about what the sirens would mean.”

Paraschak agreed.

“Yes, so that people realize what’s happening when the old emergency siren goes off,” he said.

Assistant Fire Chief Jason Pond wanted to make sure construction crews and flaggers were aware of the plan to use the siren.

“So, the sign guy knows what that siren means: To let responders through to the fire station,” Pond said.

Already, the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) holds bi-monthly meetings attended by the Bay of Naples Bridge project crew managers, town officials and business owners along the stretch of Route 302 being affected by the construction.

The topic of how to get responders through traffic during heavy construction did come up at one of the March MDOT meetings.

Town Manager Derik Goodine and some of the selectmen get almost daily updates on how construction is proceeding, and what issues might need to be addressed.

On Tuesday, Paraschak said MDOT Resident Project Manager Craig Hurd has already been made aware of the town’s intent to use the siren.

Hurd will pass on the information to crew supervisors so, when the town-wide siren is in operation, everyone is on the same wavelength, Paraschak said.

Or, in this case, responding to the same siren tone.

The siren looks like a feasible solution for next few months of lane closures along the town’s thoroughfare. The siren functions fine, but work needs to be done so it can be activated remotely, Paraschak said.

“But, we don’t believe it will take too much to get it activated,” he said.

At the April 4 meeting, Selectman Robert “Bob” Caron Sr., got momentarily excited about the prospect of using the siren, and found it hard to believe that anyone was able to get it started. He asked Captain Burnham how many birds flew out of the siren’s location when the device was finally turned on.

“I think having that (siren) will be a great touch,” Caron said.

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