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To Protect and Serve


Fri, Sep 7th, 2012
Posted in All Features

There are 525,949 minutes in a year, and every single minute of the year your town and the collective region is covered by local law enforcement, ambulance and fire departments who take their responsibilities very seriously. These are your neighbors, friends, family, and even people you have never met before.

All of these departments partake in ongoing training to prepare themselves for whatever scenarios may arise. Whether veterans or rookies, everyone seeks to add to their knowledge and experience to better serve the public.

According to the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department, in 2011, this central command center providing support and communications to police, ambulance and fire departments throughout Fillmore County, dispatched 5,775 calls to emergency response departments. This number is pretty typical each year, but it can always fluctuate.

Any given day, night or weekend, any department could be called to the scene of a house fire, hay fire, car accident, car fire, heart attack, domestic disturbance, meth lab, gas leak, or whatever happens at that moment. Expect the unexpected.

Each cog in the wheel of emergency response does their part to protect and serve the people of our region, and that’s what this entire section is all about. We want to take a moment to recognize the people who literally put their lives on the line for all of us each and every year. This week, on Tuesday, September 11, 2012, we will be remembering where we were during the 9/11 attack, still fresh in our memories after just 11 years of healing for our nation. That event is a painful permanent reminder for all of us to honor those who protect and serve the public.

Collaboration

I have a unique perspective, because I work in the capacity of observing all emergency response activities as a reporter for the Fillmore County Journal, and then again I see how the departments work together in my capacity as a volunteer firefighter with the Fountain Fire Department.

Since I joined the Fountain Fire Department back in July 2009, I’ve seen our department going in a number of directions for mutual aid, such as Chatfield, Wykoff, Preston and Lanesboro.

And, that’s one of the incredible things about the network of departments working together. Everybody has support when they need it most.

As you look at the call logs for each department, you’ll notice that each department has more types of calls than others. For example, based on proximity, some departments respond to more vehicular accidents. Others will have more fires.

And, when a Mayo One helicopter gets called in to land somewhere in Fillmore County, everybody does their part to make that process run smoothly.

A Family Tradition

Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, cousins – you name it – ambulance, fire and police are full of families.

Throughout this section, you’ll probably notice a lot of the same last names in the same pictures.

And, there is a family heritage there. A tradition of public servance.

In some cases, three generations or more have served on a department over many decades. My grandfather, Bob Sethre, served on the Preston Fire Department many years ago. For me, it is an honor to follow in his footsteps of servitude.

Quality of Life

And, what may not be so transparent is how an effective emergency response network affects our quality of life in this area. Do you realize we haven’t had a murder in Fillmore County since September 30, 2006? Yes, in general we have a very low crime rate, which makes this is area a great place to raise a family.

While ‘Minnesota Nice’ could be a contributing factor, I have to believe that the prowess and prevalence of our local law enforcement keeps people on their best behavior. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my anecdotal observation.

And, did you also realize that when there is a fire call, response time and effectiveness contributes to your homeowner’s insurance premiums? Yes, your fire departments impact that, too.

A Lifestyle

Serving in the capacity of police, fire or ambulance almost becomes a lifestyle.

For police officers, neighbors and passers-by notice their squad cars in their driveways, which gives people a peace of mind to know that they have local law enforcement just down the road. I’m sure such a public presence attracts unwanted attention at times, but it does give people a sense of security to know an officer is just an earshot away.

For ambulance and fire, at any moment, day or night, a pager could go off and the wheels are set into motion. Most firefighters I know keep their pagers by the bedside. It’s amazing what clothes you end up throwing together in the dark as you rush to a fire call in the middle of the night.

Interestingly, my daughter and son think I have two jobs. Once upon a time, my children asked why I work at the newspaper if I already have a job with the fire department. I had to explain that the fire department job was a volunteer position. For some reason, I gathered that my children think my job with the newspaper is not as cool as my job with the fire department.

And, the lifestyle of anyone serving on an emergency response team doesn’t just impose on family time, it can also affect work.

I know many ambulance departments struggle to find employers who can afford to have someone serve on their local ambulance department, due to the possibilities of being short-staffed. Thank you to the employers who recognize this need and show their support by encouraging employees to participate in an emergency response team. That is a commitment for everyone involved.

I really have to especially commend anyone serving on an ambulance department, because they usually take many more calls than fire departments, and they contend with so many one-on-one personal tragedies.

None of these jobs are easy, but necessary.

Probably the greatest fear of anyone serving on a police, ambulance or fire department is the stark reality that they may some day be called to the scene of a loved one; someone they know. And, in our sparsely populated area, that is likely.

Your Community

As you walk around your town, you’ll probably see signs of your local emergency response teams leaving a permanent, everlasting mark on your community.

They subtly and quietly provide help where needed.

In Fountain, for example, this past Saturday, my wife and I took a walk with our children over to the park in Fountain for a game of one-on-one basketball. Now, I’d like to say I let her win, but I’d be lying. She won fair and square, but only by two points. I’m hoping for a rematch.

As usually, we had a great time at the park. And, as we were leaving, I looked down at the ground of the basketball court and noticed “F.F.D. 1990” etched in the cement right next to the base of the basketball hoop. It was a subtle reminder of who played a role in this park, then and now.

And, I am only referencing one community. The emergency response departments collectively throughout our area work closely with the city to assess community needs, and then they find a way to make good things happen.

You can even find these departments at any of the town festivals and events usually selling food and beverages as another fundraiser. In addition, members of these departments visit classrooms in our local schools to help students understand how they work to protect and serve the public. The kids always have interesting questions that keep us on our toes, which is good, too.

Many of your local police officers, firefighters and ambulance crew members also serve on city councils and school boards. As I read stories in our newspaper each week, I see many familiar names helping to shape and sculpt the decisions of our communities.

Somebody recently asked me why I volunteer for organizations like the fire department, and I didn’t know exactly what to say. I had never been asked that question before. My immediate response was, “Because somebody has to.” I believe that if everyone took the approach or mindset of “what do I get out of this,” we wouldn’t have the emergency response support that we have today. As you scan through the pages of this special section, please note that many departments are probably accepting applications. If you are interested in serving the public, stop by the city hall in your community. They will lead you in the right direction.

Your Support

Throughout the year, many of the ambulance and fire departments will hold fundraisers. Some departments manage pull tabs at your local restaurant and bar. At nearly every bar in Fillmore County, you’ll find bar bingo running once a week. Maybe you’ll hear about a raffle for prizes or an annual dance. All of these events are coordinated by volunteers serving on your local emergency response teams, and 100 percent of all of the funds generated go right back into serving your community. Those dollars are often spent on equipment or gear used to better serve the public.

So, as you travel the roadways of Fillmore County today and every day, offer a friendly steering-wheel-wave to an officer. I’m pretty sure he or she will wave back. These are your neighbors working hard to keep you and your family safe.

And, while an officer in a squad car will always be noticeable, volunteers for ambulance and fire departments may be a little under your radar. If you know of an individual serving on any emergency response team in the area, don’t hesitate to say thank you. They won’t be expecting it, since it’s not a common occurrence. But, they will appreciate it.

Thank you to the businesses, organizations and individuals who supported this special section in an effort to recognize those who protect and serve the public. Without your support, this recognition would not be possible.

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