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The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Homecoming raises safety concerns each year

In light of the increase in activity and events during the upcoming Homecoming weekend, Safety and Security will work with the Hanover Police Department and Green Mountain Security to dispatch additional patrol officers. Safety and Security will also collaborate with the College’s Emergency Medical Services, who will be on call at Dick’s House, Safety and Security director Harry Kinne said.

Considering the high number of events occurring throughout the weekend, Safety and Security expects to receive twice as many calls during Homecoming than any other given weekend, Kinne said. Despite the implementation of the hard alcohol ban last spring, Homecoming safety procedures and expectations have not changed significantly, both Hanover Police and Safety and Security said.

Kinne said three additional Safety and Security officers will be added to the usual daily patrol units. Hanover Police will also provide additional officers for security patrolling throughout the weekend, Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis said.

“Hard alcohol is prohibited, so if we find it, we will confiscate it, and if it’s at a party, we’ll shut the party down, but we haven’t really changed our operating procedures except for the fact that it’s no longer an acceptable beverage on campus,” Kinne said.

The annual bonfire on Friday is also a significant concern for Safety and Security, Hanover Police and the Hanover Fire Department.

“People try to touch the bonfire, which is extremely dangerous because if they fall in, we aren’t sure we can get them out,” Kinne said. “That’s a real concern, and we have that ring [around the bonfire] because we’re so concerned about people getting too close to the fire. We’re very fortunate in that the fire is designed to fall inwards, but you never know what can happen. We want to keep people as far away as we possibly can, for their own safety.”

Kinne said security at the bonfire will pair Green Mountain Security officers with Safety and Security officers to patrol the area. Green Mountain Security is a private organization that provides additional security for large events.

Hanover Police will also be present in a trailer borrowed from Grafton County, which will be the command center during the bonfire in the case of any significant issues, Kinne said. The fire department will be on site with a ladder truck in case of any emergencies, he added.

“Most people have worked the bonfire so they all have a very good idea of what their responsibilities are,” Kinne said. “We’ve done it many times, and while there are some tweaks here and there every [year], we pretty much have a good process down.”

Dennis said the police have met with the College in three separate meetings to discuss the bonfire, among other security issues. Collis Center director Eric Ramsey said the bonfire is also a crucial element of the safety discussion that occurs during the Homecoming administrative coordination committee meetings. Safety and Security staff, Hanover fire chief Martin McMillan and Dennis were all present at these meetings, he said.

Ramsey said the bonfire’s structural design does not change from year to year, though how students build the bonfire can vary with each incoming class.

“The bonfire has a long history at Dartmouth, and we’ve been building it for a long time,” Ramsey said. “We take the safety regulations really seriously, and part of this committee’s role is to evaluate any changes to the bonfire and associating parts to the fire. So all departments that may be impacted by the change have the opportunity to weigh in, and it’s carefully considered by engineers from [the Thayer School of Engineering].”

Safety is also a concern the afternoon before the Bonfire event, Mallory Byrd ’19, a bonfire build chair, said. Dartmouth Mountaineering Club members will help students climb to the top of the structure to take pictures on Friday, she said.

While weather reports predict rainfall this Friday, Kinne said he does not believe there will be any significant problem in the long-standing safety procedures for Homecoming.

“We’re supposed to get rain, which always presents its complications, but just as long as the students respect one another and the committee around them, I don’t see why the event won’t be as fun and safe as we’re hoping it will be,” Kinne said.