Guest Commentary: Thank you to families and employers of THFD and rescue squad
By: From Mark Schlangen, Chief, Two Harbors Fire Department, Lake County News Chronicle
Over the years I have often been surprised by the number of people who don’t understand how volunteer emergency services work. I’ve also met people who are surprised that Two Harbors is a volunteer fire department - even people who live in Two Harbors! We also get a fair number of citizens who show up to the fire hall expecting someone to be there. The truth of the matter is that Two Harbors is served by a volunteer fire department and a volunteer rescue squad. Trained individuals carry a pager and when someone calls 911, the pager alerts them to the emergency. The responders then have to be sure that they can leave whatever they are doing in order to respond.
This decision could impact leaving family functions, work, play, or sleep. Most families understand that the commitment to serve on a volunteer emergency service goes beyond the individual and is a commitment of the family as well. To this end, families of emergency responders are truly the unsung heroes. Leaving play or sleep is something that emergency responders take as part of the commitment they made. Leaving work to go on an emergency call is where employers become an important part of the equation.
Providing emergency services comes at a cost, even if the responders are volunteers. Not just the cost of equipment and training, but also the impact on employers. Two Harbors is extremely fortunate to have a supportive business climate that allows our responders to volunteer their time and provide a high level of service. This high level of service has recently been reinforced by the Insurance Services Office (ISO) survey. To be able to offer this level of response with volunteers is very commendable. Attempting to offer the same level of service with full time staff would come at an astronomical cost and would not be feasible given the tax base of the area.
When the issue of employers supporting responders arises, I’m reminded of a real story from a small town fire department. The father of a friend owned an appliance store in the town and three of the employees served on the local volunteer fire department. One day, the pagers went off, the three employees stopped what they were doing and headed out the door to respond. At that moment the owner of the store stopped the employees and said: “Do all three of you have to go?”
The three responders stopped for a moment, looked at each other and thought maybe one of them could stay back. As the other two left and the one returned to work, the owner asked: “What was the call anyway?”
The responder that stayed back said it was a grass fire in the field across from the owner’s house. To which the owner of the store instructed his employee to hurry up and join the other two! Ever since that time the owner of the store has made it clear that the responders were to leave whenever the pager went off. Sometimes it takes something close to home to realize the importance of a response.
Everyone has a role to play when it comes to emergency services. The family, the employers, and of course, the responder all need to support each other to be sure a timely and adequate response can be provided at the time of the emergency. People don’t call 911 because things are good, they call because there is some trouble and someone’s day is going bad or getting worse. This is what it’s like to live in a community where people support each other.
The following is a list of employers that support our local volunteer firefighters, encouraging them to respond while at work. Without their cooperation and permission for personnel to leave work, there would not be a way to offer the same emergency response - without a huge price tag.
Thanks to our strong business/employment community for supporting our department!
Bud Nosen Models
Canadian National Railway
City of Two Harbors
Coop Light and Power
Department of Natural Resources
Lake Superior School District
Lake County Highway Dept.
Lake County Sheriff Dept
Silver Creek Electric
St. Germain’s Cabinets
The fire department would also like to thank all past employers of firefighters for their support. Two Harbors has a long tradition of supporting volunteer emergency services.
THFD will be updating the hiring pool for new firefighters in the fall of 2013. Fill out an application at City Hall if you are interested in serving.