One day into a weeklong camping trip, 17-year-old Michael Shellenberger and his buddy, Steve Rosenberry, 18, found themselves stranded at the boardwalk -- victims of car trouble.
Although it wasn't a serious problem, Michael's mother, Shirley, became worried. After all, it was 12:30 a.m., and the boys were 20 miles from their Delaware camp site. But there was little she could do to help because she was five hours away in Chambersburg, Pa.
Had they called the police? Yes, they had talked to an officer on the boardwalk, but Ocean City police do not offer assistance to disabled motorists unless they are stuck in traffic.
Skeptical, Mrs. Shellenberger phoned the police herself. She received the same response, but she also was given the phone number of the Parent Network, a volunteer organization that helps parents and youth.
Through the Parent Network, Mrs. Shellenberger found a volunteer who drove Michael and Steve back to the campground.
"Most of the things the network deals with are much more in-depth than that," Mrs. Shellenberger said. "But as a parent, I was worried. We were five hours away and we couldn't help."
The Parent Network, in its second summer season, serves as a referral system for young people while they're visiting or working in Ocean City. The network also helps parents check on their kids, who often live in apartments without phones.
The Parent Network has 38 trained volunteers. The phone is staffed 24 hours a day and the network's services are free. The number is (410) 723-3700.
Mrs. Shellenberger's predicament illustrates just one of the unexpected problems that can occur during a vacation at the shore. No matter what the circumstance, help can be found.
hTC Ocean City Police do respond to emergency and other situations, such as excessive noise, throughout the resort, including the boardwalk. Police walk the boardwalk and maintain a station at the boardwalk and Caroline Street.
The town's well-known noise ordinance prohibits excessive noise. Lease holders can be held responsible for maintaining peace and order. If you need to make a complaint about noisemakers, call (410) 289-5459.
Police do not respond to keys in locked vehicles or disabled cars parked in motel or condo lots, said Jay Hancock, a police spokesman.
For emergencies, call 911 or (410) 289-5454; a non-emergency number is (410) 289-5459.
For help on the beach, approach one of the lifeguards, now called surf rescue technicians, or call the Ocean City Beach Patrol at (410) 289-7556.
Although Ocean City has several medical centers, none of them is open 24 hours, according to Clay Stamp, assistant director of emergency medical services.
The nearest hospital, Peninsula Regional Medical Center, is in Salisbury, about 30 miles away.
Paramedics are available in Ocean City 24 hours a day. For a medical emergency, dial 911. The town has nine paramedic units that operate out of four fire stations. The town employs 30 full-time and 12 part-time paramedics, Mr. Stamp said.
The most common medical problems among beach-goers, Mr. Stamp said, are sunburn, surf injuries, alcohol abuse and something he called the "Ocean City Syndrome," in which people sunning at the beach forgo food and liquid and later suffer dizziness and fainting.
In all activities, including crossing the Coastal Highway, vacationers need to exercise common sense, Mr. Stamp said.
"Something like sunburn seems like a minor thing," he said. "But it's an agonizing thing. It's very painful but there is little we can do to help."
Here's a list of medical centers in Ocean City:
L * 75th Street Medical, 7408 Coastal Highway, (410) 524-0075.
* 93rd Street Medical Center, 9300 Coastal Highway, (410) 524-9300.
* Coastal Medical Center, 6300 Coastal Highway, (410) 524-3200.
* Ocean City Medical Center, 10th Street and North Philadelphia Avenue, (410) 289-6241.
Hours vary at the centers. Most accept major credit cards.
Also, at the Ocean City Youth Health Center, 4 Caroline St., (410) 289-4044, a physician is on duty four hours a day. Registered nurses are on duty other hours. The center is open Tuesday through Saturday until June 22; Monday through Saturday afterward.
Besides attending to minor illnesses, the center also offers pregnancy testing and STD testing. Counselors are available 16
hours a day.
If you need emergency dental work, the following centers offer services:
* Atlantic Dental Associates, 105 58th St., (410) 524-0500.
* Dennis Alban, 139th St. and Coastal Highway, (410) 250-1559.
* 43rd Street Dental Center, 4306 Coastal Highway, (410) 289-8828.
C7 * Armand Hall, 12714 Ocean Gateway, (410) 213-1010.
Getting a prescription filled also can be a problem for vacationers.
Pharmacists suggest beachgoers come prepared: bring the prescription or the name and phone number of the prescriping doctor and information about the medication.