Throughout the course of this year I have had the opportunity to meet many first-responders in the fire service, emergency medical services, law enforcement, and emergency management through the governor’s Capitol for a Day initiative. I continue to be humbled and awed by your service and commitment to you communities.
As 2018 ends, I would like to say thank you to responders and those who support them for all they do.
No one becomes an emergency responder to get rich. In fact, most responders are not paid for the time they spend responding to emergencies, nor for the countless hours they spend training for that purpose.
Most people know there are very few paid firefighters or emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in Vermont. Most departments are run by volunteer chiefs and staffed with volunteers who are willing to donate their time. Volunteer and career firefighters, police, EMTs and other professionals not only respond to emergencies, but go through hours upon hours of training to ensure their own safety and the safety of those they serve.
The same goes for the voices on the other end of the line when you call 911. Emergency communication dispatchers work in a high stress environment every day; and these highly trained professionals perform their duties with distinction.
The families of these responders also play an important role, holding down the fort at home during emergencies that sometimes happen at night, on weekends, or during holidays, often without much notice.
Others give their time in the name of public safety in other ways. Every municipality in Vermont has an emergency management director (EMD) or coordinator who is directly responsible for the organization, administration, and coordination of local emergency management. EMDs work to ensure disaster responses in their town are coordinated, and that the town has the physical tools it needs to respond to any number of emergencies.
The Department of Public Safety understands the sacrifices of responders and the importance of supporting them. Vermont Emergency Management and the Division of Fire Safety facilitate and conduct free trainings throughout the year and administer federal grants for response organizations. The Vermont State Police, through the state Homeland Security Unit, also provides funding so response agencies can equip themselves to protect the lives of the public.
Most firefighters and EMTs in Vermont are volunteers, and more are always needed. I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage anyone who has ever thought about finding a role in emergency response to reach out to her or his local fire department or ambulance squad. You could support the department administratively, work on vehicles, maintain equipment, or attend to other duties depending upon your department’s specific needs.
Once again, on behalf of the entire Department of Public Safety, I express my sincere gratitude to all emergency responders for the work you do and the sacrifices you make. We are all better off for your efforts.
Thomas Anderson, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Safety