First responders preparing to maintain safe St. Patrick’s weekend in Holyoke

The city of Holyoke will be hosting thousands of people attending the St. Patrick’s parade and road race this weekend, agencies look to make safety a priority.
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 1:52 PM EDT
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HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The city of Holyoke will soon be hosting tens of thousands of people attending the annual St. Patrick’s parade and road race this weekend. Behind the scenes, multiple agencies are looking to make sure everyone stays safe.

An antenna was placed inside the emergency operations center (EOC) on Friday at Holyoke Fire Department headquarters. Why? It’s so that local and state emergency responders can keep an eye on the city as it fills up for the St. Patrick’s road race on Saturday and parade on Sunday.

“We plan for the worst and hope for the best…We have to plan for the worst-case scenario so, that way, everything’s in place and we’re not trying to play catch-up,” said Holyoke Fire Capt. David Rex.

Rex told Western Mass News that safety preparations began in January with safety meetings occurring over time with the city’s St. Patrick’s Committee. Between 200 and 300 first responders and volunteers are expected to assist during this weekend-long operation and Rex said there will be multiple vehicles on standby across both routes.

“We will be directing our crews around the parade and around the road race. We try to keep it intact as much as we can and we also don’t want to cut through those areas because there’s a lot of pedestrians around. We do our work diligently to keep our responses quick,” Rex added.

Representatives at the EOC will be able to listen to radio communications and watch footage from security cameras along the routes of both events. The Holyoke Fire Department will also be fully staffed.

“Our normal staffing will handle the normal emergencies that come in, anything from medical calls to fires to, God forbid, a hazmat. The only thing extra is usually what we do is on Sunday, because we are splitting the city in half, is we actually bring in a standby hazmat team,” Rex explained.

Between 40,000 to 50,000 people are expected to attend the road race, while the parade crowd will be five times that size. Should anything bad happen while you look to have a fun time, Rex said everyone will be ready.

“We bring the [incident support unit] in, so that way if an incident does happen, we have a command post already established down there, so we’ll roll down to that command post and start working from there,” Rex noted.

Rex also said you should alert a nearby first responder or call 911 should you see something out of the ordinary, while he also advised you to act responsibly throughout the festivities.