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Helping in emergencies not just for men

Fri, Sep 7th, 2012
Posted in All Features

Fillmore County has hundreds of people that assist others in emergency situations. The fire departments, police officers, and ambulance crews are there to assist whenever and wherever they are needed, and are staffed with dedicated men and women who work hard and make sacrifices in order to help others.

Women are taking on these roles more than ever before, showing they can be as strong and work as hard as their male counterparts.

Julie Scudeiro of Winona has been Director of the Rushford Ambulance since 2000. Not only does she run the ambulance department, she is an instructor, helping Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) keep their certifications. She sets up training for the Rushford Fire Department as well.

“We work so closely with the fire department, which is outstanding,” said Scudeiro. “They are a great group of people. It’s such a big plus for here in Rushford.”

Working on an ambulance crew can take a toll on a person physically, as well as emotionally. Sometimes they see things that are difficult to deal with, and sometimes, despite everything they do, there are fatalities. Scudeiro also works as a grief counselor for people in emergency services who are dealing with those kinds of issues.

“It’s difficult for everybody,” shared Scudeiro. “It’s hard to see somebody die and try to deal with the emotions.”

Scudeiro is also involved in a program called Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) run by the state of Minnesota. “I’m a firm believer in using seatbelts, and no texting while driving,” she said. She attends conferences where she meets with county engineers, state patrol, the Department of Transportation, EMS Services, and fire services, and they talk about different ways to make roads safer for everyone, and to promote safe driving.

Scudeiro is busy, but she says it’s a good busy, and she really enjoys what she does.

“It’s not just what we do for other people, it’s what it does to you when you can help others,” she said.

Last year, there were 240 ambulance runs in Rushford. There are three EMTs and a first responder on call 24 hours a day.

“We have people that are so dedicated to giving and sharing their time,” said Scudeiro. “You couldn’t ask for a better group of people. They all volunteer their time. That’s a lot of hours a year that people volunteer.”

It’s not only the EMTs that sacrifice for other people, it’s their families and employers that understand and support them when they must go out on a call to help someone.

“People that do this awesome amount of dedicated time and they never really ask anything of anybody in return. They just do it because it makes them feel good.”

There are 23 people on the ambulance crew in Rushford, and nine of them are women.

There are even fewer women working on the Police Department. Sam Keasling has been working for the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office for two and a half years. She started out in Anoka County. While she went to college, she worked as a community service officer. After college, she attended a police academy for one year.

Police work was nothing new to Keasling. “I wasn’t afraid of it,” she shared. “I grew up with it.”

Keasling’s dad is a police officer, and she also had uncles and cousins on the force. When deciding what to do with her life, she knew she didn’t want to be inside working in an office. With her family history, police work seemed to be a natural choice.

“Any time I am able to help people, I really enjoy it,” shared Keasling. “When they’re at their worst, if it’s an accident, or medical, any time I can just be there, I am happy to be that person for them.”

Keasling is the only girl among her co-workers, but she isn’t treated any differently.

“The guys I work with are great,” she said. “They know what I’m capable of. They treat me like one of them.”

The beginning years were more difficult for Keasling, as she was working hard to prove herself. She has gained more confidence over the years. One thing that has been a challenge is her small stature, especially in situations where she has had to chase down people much larger than her.

“Being a woman has its downfalls,” said Keasling. “But it also has its upsides. I think I am more approachable in general than some of my male partners, especially with other women. There are advantages, too.”

Keasling is happy with her job and living in the area, and is willing to take on whatever opportunities come her way. She has taken on jobs that were challenging and some that were scary, but all of them have helped her grow in life and in her job.

“Any time you put yourself in a position that you’re uncomfortable, you learn a lot and grow a lot as a person.”

The Fillmore County Sheriff’s office covers many areas in Fillmore County, especially the towns that do not have their own police department. Keasling plans to continue her work here.

“As long as this is a good thing, this is where I’m at.”

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