“Code Red” fireworks announcement sparks new friction


The Oak Bluffs Police Department used Dukes County’s “Code Red” automated phone messaging system on Thursday, August 17, to broadcast an Island-wide non-emergency announcement one day before the annual fireworks display in Ocean Park.

The recorded announcement included information about parking, times, and public transportation. Kathy Burton, Oak Bluffs chairman of the board of selectmen, authorized the message and use of the system.

Police Chief Erik Blake said the Code Red announcement dramatically reduced the number of phone calls to the police department. He said police handled only four phone calls to the police station about fireworks information this year, compared to hundreds of calls in previous years.

“Our phones ring non-stop from mid-day Thursday, right up until fireworks,” Chief Blake said. “It ties up all our phone lines, and it ties up all my internal people power. They call the police department, they call the fire department, they call the ambulance, they even call 911.”

While Chief Blake termed the announcement a major success, the use of the Code Red system caused friction with selectmen in Chilmark, West Tisbury, and Tisbury.

“There were a bunch of people, me included, who thought it was inappropriate,” Tisbury selectman Jeff Kristal said. “I’m not going to Monday morning quarterback what happened, but I think we need to set up a protocol.”