June 27, 2024 | Karl’s Korner

USS Midway Museum's 20th Anniversary Series: Safety Department

Welcome back to Midway's 20th-anniversary blog series, where we highlight a specific Museum department every month, looking back at the department’s early days and the developments it has experienced over the last 20 years.

Our fourth department in this series is one of the most high-profile departments in the USS Midway Museum – the Safety Department.

Originally formed by Midway veteran Vic Vydra, the Safety Department has only had two other directors, Bill McClurg, and current director Dominick Boccia. Presently, Dominick leads a team of 267 volunteers and staff, from which 10 members are still active after 20 years.

Always wearing red-colored hats and shirts, the Safety personnel are on hand to open the museum 363 days out of the year and cover a range of responsibilities. These include parking issues, ID card administration, school group onboarding, crowd control, internal investigations, intelligence sharing, and military training. Daily, they conduct a carefully orchestrated sweep at closing to ensure all visitors are ashore, while some even uphold an overnight watch for any disturbances during our Youth Overnight program events. The team also maintains some 300 fire extinguishers, an array of portable defibrillators, and 150 First Aid packs throughout the ship.

As the Museum has become more successful and prominent since its doors opened in 2004, one aspect of the Safety role has magnified – threat protection. Shortly after COVID lockdowns were lifted, the Safety Department pioneered the use of the EVOLV personnel screening system in San Diego to swiftly and accurately scan all people coming aboard the ship. Occasionally, individuals with hidden weapons are indeed discovered and turned away.

Beyond these dangers, Safety volunteers often perform similarly to first responders in any community, acting on reports of suspicious objects or people, locating missing guests, handling disturbance calls, and cooperating with responding medical and police. Safety routinely works with an array of Federal and local agencies to ensure the dissemination of timely information on threats or potential disruptions to the ship and those aboard. This coverage also extends to after-hour events, alarm calls, and reports of trespassing.

Internal investigations begin with the Safety Department, and often, Safety can be found at relevant public hearings in town. Special tours for former Midway crewmen are also overseen by Safety, and the Department actively reviews and updates the Museum’s Emergency Action Plan, Standard Operating Procedures, and the Injury and Illness Prevention Program. This is all made possible by drawing on the generosity of individuals who typically bring in a lifetime of experience from any of our armed forces, or from the medical and public safety professions, as well as private industry.

Midway is also a unique training site for specialists in the active military as well as rescue and law enforcement entities. Members of the Safety Department work closely with these individuals to ensure their training commitment is realistic, up-to-date, and worthwhile. Such training has evolved to include K-9 and SWAT units, active shooter drills, diving operations, explosive and drug detection, confined space rescues, hazmat responses, rope rescues, and shipboard firefighting.

To date, the USS Midway Museum has enjoyed an enviable safety record, and it is largely maintained by the professionalism of our red shirts. The museum is a challenging venue to entertain thousands of visitors of all ages, and while accidents do happen, Safety is always ready to respond, administer aid, call for medics, and document any incident.

Over the years, lives have been saved thanks to the timely arrival of Safety– we all owe a debt to these volunteers and staff.

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